Whisper it quietly...

Whisper it quietly...


...but it is only 10 weeks until Christmas. Where did 2014 go?

 Well, it isn't finished with yet. The best agents look forward to squeezing every bit of business out of the next 70 days, while some of their competitors take their foot off the gas.

 What are you going to do in that time to ensure that Quarter 4 is a winner and that Quarter 1 starts 2015 off with a bang?

 To start with, you might want to make yourself a coffee and take 15 minutes out of your busy schedule to read this month's newsletter as it outlines the best ways to make business happen in the latter stages of the year, which in turn will mean that your Christmas will be that much happier. Enjoy!



Quarter 4 is such a crucial period in the estate agency calendar year.

Whilst there are dozens of anecdotes about agents tying up sales on Christmas Eve, the reality is that the last few weeks of any year see a natural reduction in new business opportunities. However, such a diminishing of incoming workload does not prevent proactive agents from capitalising upon this highly valuable period. Those that remain focused and energetic right up to the festive season will inevitably benefit when the world reconvenes in January.

 During my years in the estate agency industry, and the countless Christmases within that time, I have witnessed some brilliant techniques and ideas which have been utilised by forward-thinking practitioners to ensure productivity is maximised right up to when the turkey is stuffed.

 One of my personal favourites is the “Do Not Disturb!” campaign which has proven highly effective for an estate agency client firm of mine over several years, and which is a perfectly timed approach for the last few weeks of the year.

 The principle is that when that agent encounters potential vendors during November and December who want to wait and instruct after Christmas, such clients have the merits of the “Do Not Disturb!” campaign explained to them and are thereby persuaded to take the step of instructing the agent sooner than they had originally intended.

 The central principle of the campaign is that if the clients instruct the agent before Christmas, they will benefit from the fact that the property particulars and marketing can be prepared in good time, advertising can be booked for the first week of the New Year, and the property can be uploaded onto the internet as early as practicable. This allows the property to be offered to all prospective purchasers throughout December, particularly taking advantage of the historically extraordinarily busy week of traffic on property portals between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

 While this marketing activity is bubbling away and ensuring that the property will hit the ground running in January, the agent guarantees not to “disturb” the clients with viewings or contact until Christmas is over. Other instructions that come on in January will take longer to attract interest as they will have missed out on interest generated during the “Do Not Disturb!” campaign.

 Leaflets, window cards and adverts to publicise the concept, along with personally addressed letters to all local applicants with properties to sell, ensure the scheme takes off. Old valuations should also be chased up to inform the owners about this option. Each time the firm in question have run this approach, they have experienced a highly successful sales period in the early weeks of the following year. It keeps the valuers busy in December and shows the local public that the agent is doing something different from their competitors, as well as considering the needs of clients during the festive period. Equally, it does not exclude those clients that would ideally like to generate interest before the break.

 Alongside this work, agents can use the quieter period in December to revisit existing stock and on occasions take the step to “relist” the properties at revised prices, with new photographs and descriptions, and a fresh advertising campaign. In certain cases, agents will secure an extended period of agency and genuinely treat the instructions as a new property to the market. Much of this approach can naturally be applied to landlords as well as vendors.

 Agents who have been diligent in making personal visits to all available stock during December have spoken favourably of the outcome. As well as the positives mentioned above, there is the immeasurable benefit to the agent of increased client loyalty in recognition of their visit – a hugely important plus point to safeguard stock in a climate where many agents are short of instructions and are therefore aggressively targeting longstanding stock on their competitors’ books.

 There is no doubt that the agent that makes things happen in the run up to the festive season rather than moaning that things are rather quiet (and wondering what to buy Auntie Ethel) will reap the rewards in the long run.

 



The best agents employ salespeople, not polite dispensers of information.

Here at TM training & development, we run courses on every aspect of sales and lettings. It is therefore an interesting barometer as to what the market is doing to see which courses are most in demand. For the first half of the year, it was all about stock. Getting through more doors, winning quality instructions, defeating the cheap fee merchants and the overvaluing amateurs were all much requested. Since July though, demand for sales and negotiation courses, as well as vendor care sessions have risen up the pecking order.

 One particular client for whom we had run training on instructions earlier in the year and who had increased market share and fees as a result, called with a new issue – they were not hitting sales targets.

 I spent two days reviewing the firm’s sales operation and a number of significant gaps and weaknesses were quickly revealed, which I suspect were not untypical among agents generally.

 All applicants were registered straight onto a computer screen and added into the database. The number of applicants grew daily and ran to over 2500 in total. The computer system then issued daily prompts to the staff as to which applicants should be contacted and when, leading to massive “to do” lists which were never completed. Staff were becoming demoralised, and when they did have an opportunity to catch up with calls to applicants, they were rushing them and achieving little; the only goal in reality being to try and reduce the size of the list!

 The owner was even considering recruiting evening staff to call applicants as the offices couldn’t cope. I advised that this business model of employing office staff to put a load of applicants onto a database and employing different staff to take them off again was not the best approach.

 The truth was that in this firm, any actual sales process had evaporated and the computer had become the master of all who worked there. Distribution of property particulars was carried out by mass email and there was little if any “selling” being done. Proactive telephone contact with hot buyers to generate viewings through accomplished and diligent selling skills was virtually non-existent. Similarly, calling local applicants with properties to sell to secure valuation appointments had also almost ground to a halt.

 A complete overhaul of the sales process was undertaken and subsequent training carried out – results are already very positive, both in terms of staff morale and sales figures.

 Firstly, an agreed qualification and categorisation was implemented. With better questioning and listening skills in place, far superior levels of information were gleaned from applicants, particularly in terms of their detailed motivation, ability and needs. Drilling down to get the real story on issues like detailed timeframes, financial capabilities, and the reasons and problems behind the move proved invaluable in assessing the quality of the prospect and the sales opportunity they represented (or failed to!). This led the negotiators to be able to carry out the essential task of accurately categorising their applicants (to keep it simple, customers were allocated a status of between 1 and 4 depending upon certain answers) and then to ensure all applicants received an appropriate level of follow-up and ongoing service.

 Brutal though it may sound, applicant “culling” rules were introduced and adhered to. These were long overdue, particularly given that there were a vast number of applicants who had been on the mailing list for over 6 months without viewing.

 The staff were reminded of the basic estate agency principles that customers can only ever go down one of two routes...they either make you money, or they cost you money. Typically, when agents assess the split of the former versus the latter, in excess of 90% fall into the “cost you money” category.

 I also pointed out to the team that the most important sale they make every day is not property, mortgage appointments, themselves nor the company. It is selling their time that is paramount.  The most effective agents trade their time with customers who are going to earn them income – less successful agents give too much of their time away to the wrong people for no return.

 These salutary lessons, and the principles covered in our training, have served to ensure that the staff in that company are now spotting and maximising opportunities far better than ever before and have positioned themselves to succeed in potentially slightly more challenging market conditions ahead.



Are your customers sufficiently disturbed?

The property market is relatively unchanged and has been for sometime in terms of many key performance measures. Earlier this year, the bank base rate of interest has celebrated its fifth birthday, transaction levels have been similar for the same sort of period and property prices, depending upon which report you read, have been broadly stable for a good long while in terms of the national averages. The Centre for Economics and Business Research predict house prices will fall by 0.8% next year – hardly anything to get uptight about.

The media will always seek out a story about house prices as it makes for reliable readership numbers – after all, everyone wants to know what the housing market is doing, don’t they? Problem is, the storytellers are sourcing their information from a wide base and ending up contradicting each other (and sometimes themselves!) due to the variances of data published. For those of us within the industry, these mixed messages may raise a wry smile or create a sense of irritation. For the wider public, they simply perpetuate confusion and uncertainty as to what the property market is doing.

Confusion can lead to lack of housing market activity. People tend not to act unless they are “disturbed” – thus there is a new and necessary skill for many estate agents to develop as the market has done the job of “disturbing” buyers and/or sellers in the past whereas currently we are in a market where many people can simply “wait and see”. In short, whereas historically the public were "disturbed into action" by market forces (particularly rapidly rising or falling prices), many are now sitting on the hands in a state of inertia fuelled by the aforementioned media-driven confusion - in other words, "I am waiting to be unconfused before I do anything"...or put simply, that no action is better than taking action they are unsure of.

When I look back on my own house moves over the past 30 years, it is patently clear that those moves that went the distance were driven by a state of “disturbance”. My first time buy was solely based on a fear of missing the boat, whilst a sale some years later was agreed with a smile despite the price being many thousands of pounds less than I paid for it prior to the early 1990’s price plummet. The smile was linked to the fact that another week or two and even more of my precious equity would have evaporated.

There is an old adage in selling – “Emotion creates motion” – in other words where there is an underlying emotion, people will move. Agents have to identify those clients and customers who are motivated and as importantly, what the true nature of that motivation is.

Customers act to achieve a goal and/or to avoid a penalty – for example, people are driven to move by the goal of giving their children a better lifestyle/safer environment or by fear of financial loss. Equally, house buyers may have a goal of making their life easier by living closer to work or to an ailing relative, or by the penalty of not seeing their grandchildren grow up or by continuing to live next door to noisy neighbours.

If a negotiator can establish the perceived penalties and/or goals behind the possible house move, he/she can use that information to “disturb” the customer to act.

“Disturbing” customers is a higher level skill and is built upon a strong foundation of broad industry knowledge. If a customer simply thinks you are trying to cajole them into increasing their offer, reducing their price, putting their property on the market now rather than next year or moving out into rented to break the chain, simply so that you secure a bit of business for yourself, your suggestions will fall on deaf ears.

However, if the customer is sufficiently convinced by your knowledge, authority and advice, you are far more likely to succeed.

A relationship of trust is essential – the use of an empathetic approach “If I were in your shoes, I’d probably do this…” works brilliantly if the customer trusts you, but fails dismally if they don’t!

Confident salespeople will use carefully worded questions to gently get the customer to think about the repercussions of not taking action.

“What will happen if you miss out on that property…?”

“As you’ll know, there is 10% less property for sale now than there was a year ago…”

“What will the implications be if house prices do fall next year…?”

“I would hate to see you reach a situation where…”

“Are you confident that you will secure a better offer than this one…?”

"What would be the impact if you were still unsold at the end of the year?"

“I’d hate you to miss out on the perfect property because you weren’t in a position to go ahead…”

 The market demands exceptional salespeople rather than order takers or polite dispensers of information. The skill of “disturbing” customers sets the best agents apart from their competition and gets results.

 

Do not disturb at your peril!



Tour Dates


Tuesday 28th October in Manchester

Excellence in Client Care (morning session)

With client loyalty and trust the absolute key to success in agency, this fantastic halfday session shows how to win and retain your clients, thereby driving down withdrawal rates and increasing income. Suitable for any staff who are responsible for communication with vendors and landlords. 

And

Selling in a Tougher Market (afternoon session)

For any staff who are responsible for dealing with applicants, securing viewings and offers, and maximising business opportunities in challenging market conditions. This course shows how to raise the bar in terms of selling skills and techniques and has proven a resounding success.

 Thursday 8th January 2015 in London

Winning Quality Instructions (morning session)

For sales and lettings valuers, this course covers a range of things an exceptional valuer needs to do before, during and after an appointment to win the business at the right price and on the right terms. The key objectives are improving conversion rates and maximising fees. It has received amazing feedback and positively influenced the performance of all who have attended it.

And

Selling in the 2015 Market (afternoon session)

For any staff who are responsible for dealing with applicants, securing viewings and offers, and maximising business opportunities in challenging market conditions. This course shows how to raise the bar in terms of selling skills and techniques and has proven a resounding success.

 

 

Wednesday 14th January 2015 in Nottingham

Winning Quality Instructions (morning session)

For sales and lettings valuers, this course covers a range of things an exceptional valuer needs to do before, during and after an appointment to win the business at the right price and on the right terms. The key objectives are improving conversion rates and maximising fees. It has received amazing feedback and positively influenced the performance of all who have attended it.

And

Selling in the 2015 Market (afternoon session)

For any staff who are responsible for dealing with applicants, securing viewings and offers, and maximising business opportunities in challenging market conditions. This course shows how to raise the bar in terms of selling skills and techniques and has proven a resounding success.

 

 

 Each session costs &99 plus VAT per delegate or you can book a full day at a cost of &170 plus Vat per delegate to include lunch.

To book or for more information contact us on 01480 405583, email us at admin@tm-traininganddevelopment.co.uk or visit our website http://www.tmtraininganddevelopment.co.uk/online-booking.php

 



Thought for the day...

"Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising." - Howard Schultz