2014...what a year it has been! 2015...what a year will it be?

2014...what a year it has been! 2015...what a year will it be?


With many of our estate agency client firms reporting record figures, income and profits, 2014 has been a kind year to many. However, here at TM training & development, we are seeing more and more evidence of the market tightening up.
 
"Christmas come early" say some. We think not.
 
The impact of MMR, arguably overheated prices, an impending election and suchlike lead us to the conclusion that 2015 will be a harder environment.
 
But...when the market gets tough, the tough get better.
 
This month's newsletter tackles the potential 2015 challenges head on by featuring articles geared to helping agents increase and protect income. Enjoy.



Are you ready for 2015?

It is always dangerous to rest on your laurels. I have always believed that in any business, you are only as good as your last month’s figures.

The estate agency firm of whom I am a Partner had its best three sales months in its 23 year history during the first half of 2014, but who really knows what 2015 will bring? Raising standards of knowledge, behaviour, skills and attitude is essential in any market conditions, but some firms lose sight of this when business is booming, leading to a massive problem as and when conditions take a turn for the worse. Plenty of agents made buckets of money in 2007 and then went out of business in 2008…

So, what to do? It won’t surprise you to know that as MD of a training company, there is a one word solution….training. It may however surprise you that I am not prospecting for business here. In fact, I am going to suggest a DIY option, hinged upon the age-old adage that “Practice makes perfect”.

David Beckham did not stumble upon the fact that his free-kicks were generally well above the standard of most other players of his era. These skills were the result of many years of practice.

Beckham himself said “I must have taken tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands [of free kicks]. I would go to the local park, place the ball on the ground and aim at the wire meshing over the window of a small community hut. When my dad got home from work, we would go over to the goalposts together. He would stand between me and the goal, forcing me to bend the ball around him. People looking on must have thought we were mad. We kept going even when the sun had gone down, playing by the light coming out of the windows of the houses that surrounded the park.

It seems fair to say that “Practice makes perfect” applied to one of England’s most successful footballers, so why shouldn’t it apply to the most successful estate agents?

Exceptional people have a drive to be better than their competitors, but willpower alone is not enough. It is the discipline of practicing constantly to reach higher standards that makes the real difference.

People who attend our training courses are often fearful of the dreaded “R” word when they first arrive. Role-play, however, is an essential element on the journey to higher standards. It allows the trying out of new techniques in a no-risk environment. A session I ran last week on closing and handling objections contained a huge chunk of time on practising how to overcome resistance from vendors. I had an email later from a valuer who had used two techniques he had had a chance to trial and hone during the session which won him an instruction that very afternoon. Without the training and practice, he would not have been aware of the techniques nor would he have had the confidence to apply them in the right way in the right circumstances.

So, what of that DIY option I mentioned earlier?

Set some time aside regularly for the team to get together and practice their techniques, with input and feedback from you. A fifteen minute session at the end of a couple of morning meetings a week when the team are all together and fresh works well for some firms. An hour at the end of one particular weekday may suit you better. Whatever suits – the key is to make it a regular part of your culture.

What type of role-plays work best? The ones that are as realistic as possible.

For example, ask a member of your team at random why a local vendor or landlord should use your agency to sell or let their property rather than any other local agent. This will show you how competent they are at promoting your services and in particular, how adept they are at selling your USPs.

Throw the classic line “Your fee is much higher than Bloggs and Co” and see how your negotiator fields it.

Apply a role-play scenario to a real life problem. How about the vendor who has been on nine months and won’t reduce their price? Why not play out that call with you as the vendor and let the negotiator try out a few angles to persuade you to reduce the price. This will give them much more confidence to use those techniques with the real client.

After each role-play, invite feedback from the person who had a go, but also from their colleagues present, so it becomes a real team event.

They (and even you) may feel self-conscious in the early stages of this new “role-play regime”, but stick with it – the improved skills of your team will be well worth the effort.

As the old saying goes…”The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle…”



Don’t be a clown…

I remember when I was being trained on making referrals many years ago, the trainer asked…”What is the most powerful question in selling?”

There was a debate and a discussion but ultimately the group failed to give the correct answer. The trainer then gave us a clue…the question came courtesy of a well-known clown…

Have you guessed it?

The question was “Would you like fries with that?” a question responsible for adding millions of dollars to McDonalds bottom line.

So how can that principle be applied to estate agency?

Well, just asking customers if they would like to speak to your mortgage adviser or get a quote from your approved conveyancer is better than not asking at all, but there are better ways of securing referrals.

There has been a lot of bad press about force and coercion being used by rogue agents to secure referrals to these other providers, however the reality is that scrupulous agents will make these referrals in the full knowledge that introducing clients to these other parties will massively influence the chances of the transaction successfully reaching completion rather than falling apart.

Competent focused mortgage advisers and conveyancers are worth their weight in gold – and assuming your contacts fall into that category, then your recommending them to clients and customers is something that is ethical, sensible and beneficial.

A skilled and expert mortgage adviser will help a customer source the most appropriate mortgage for their situation, help them with their application, source a lender running to reasonable deadlines, answer questions throughout the process and help nurse the transaction through to a successful conclusion.

The right conveyancer will progress the sale or purchase quickly and efficiently, steer the customer through any issues that crop up and significantly improve the odds of the transaction going the distance.

There is a recognised referral process called the SLICK process.

This is a five stage process which leads to successful referrals – each of the five letters of SLICK stands for a stage which you need to be exceptional at to be successful.

The S stands for

SPOT OPPORTUNITY

Whether applicants or vendors, many of your customers represent an opportunity for cross selling. However, not all applicants are the same and therefore not all techniques to try and secure a referral should be the same.

Key open questions will help you uncover the opportunity in front of you. For example, a vendor might need to move particularly quickly to start a new job or to secure the house of their dreams. In this case, timescale would be the “opportunity”.

A first time buyer by definition will never have had a mortgage before or used the services of a conveyancer and their need might be for advice as to how the whole process works.

Too many agents simply use the default setting of “Do you want to speak to our adviser as he/she can save you money?” which is likely to meet with resistance if the customer has heard it several times already.

Once the opportunity has been spotted, the next stage is

LINK

In other words, consider what the customer has revealed and “link” the need with the appropriate feature of your adviser’s or conveyancer’s service. For example, if speed is of the essence then the fact the adviser can pick a lender with a quick processing timeframe would be valid, or the fact that your approved conveyancer has a track record of pushing transactions through to exchange within tight time frames would be the correct links to make.

Once you have made the “link” in your head, you need to…

INTRODUCE

…the appropriate feature of the mortgage advisers’ or conveyancer’s service by way of a “Benefit Statement”.

A “Benefit Statement” has three elements: Need, Feature and Benefit.

For example…

“As you haven’t ever bought a property before” (NEED)

“I’ll introduce you to my colleague John who can run through the various costs involved in moving like stamp duty and searches” (FEATURE)

“Which will mean that you can budget accurately from day one and not getting any nasty surprises later on” (BENEFIT)

This technique is way more effective than asking the typical closed question…”Would you like to speak to our adviser?”

The C stands for

COMMITMENT

After the benefit statement, you need to secure the customer’s commitment. Simply ask whether they would prefer to speak to your adviser today or tomorrow, or whether they would prefer a written quote from the conveyancer or a phone call to discuss their services.

The final stage of the SLICK process is

KEEP TRYING

It is important to understand that securing mortgage and conveyancing referrals is not a one-hit approach.  If the first attempt fails, you can keep trying on future occasions.

Resistance on the first attempt needs to be handled correctly. There are a number of reasons why customers put up resistance including that they may not feel it is important yet to speak to an adviser or to select a conveyancer, they may wish to discuss the idea with their partner, or they may already have a potential mortgage source lined up.

Whatever the issue, uncover and address it. If you don’t succeed, try again at a later date.

So, there is the SLICK process. Train your staff, keep reminding them of the key principles and enjoy the results.



A stitch in time…

Firstly, it is sensible to answer the question “When is a sale a sale?” Too many agents book sales which don’t fit stringent criteria and therefore those spurious deals are always susceptible to failing to go the distance. A genuine sale should have a complete chain top and bottom. The chain beneath should be verified in detail before the vendor makes their decision as to whether to accept the offer or not. This is basic estate agency, but worryingly not part of the culture of every agent I have come across. Pressure on negotiators from bosses to achieve a monthly or weekly target of agreed sales can lead to corner-cutting and rushing to get the sale “in the figures”. One estate agency firm I know suffered a cancellation rate of hugely above the national average as a result of this culture. There is also an inherent danger in booking sales where the chain is incomplete above – in other words where the vendor has yet to find. Countless sales of this nature collapse when the client realises they can’t find or afford their ideal next home and thus decide to stay put and pull out of their sale.

Secondly, the diligence of gaining all key detail makes a massive difference to success. Whilst there is a natural adrenalin rush on the part of the agent as a new sale is being negotiated, this must be tempered by adhering to “best practise” principles of a few minutes reflection on the importance of being in possession of all the key information, ensuring that the sale is of an appropriate quality to justify the agents’ understandable excitement.

An hour’s effort and diligence in establishing chapter and verse on a potential sale in the first instance can avoid days of firefighting later in trying to hold it together. An interesting litmus test is to ask yourself whether you would be happy to agree this sale and remove the property from the market if it were your own home…

 Detail on what fixtures and fittings the buyer is expecting to be left, and which the vendors are happy to leave, is best dealt with at the earliest stages of negotiation – after all, at this point all parties are rather fond of each other and therefore more amenable and flexible. Those positive feelings tend to wane somewhat six weeks into the transaction when things are starting to get a little fraught.

 Timescales and target dates are also best nailed down as early as possible. So many sales have gone sour due to incompatible completion dates which in reality should have been spotted at the outset by a competent negotiator. It also strikes me as strange that when new homes are sold, there is an agreed deadline for exchange as a condition of the buyer’s offer being accepted, yet when agents agree resale sales, deadlines and target dates are often not even mentioned. This issue will only serve to come back and haunt the agent, when the vendor or purchaser runs out of patience because their desired timeframe is not achieved.

 Expectations must be managed very carefully with all parties, more so now than perhaps ever before, given that the sales process is grinding ever more slowly in many parts of the country – surveys, searches and mortgage offers taking an age to appear.

 With all these steps taken in the early stages, your sale will be ready to place into the hands of a conveyancer. And here is where your problems really can begin…

 However, although not all conveyancers work with the same sense of urgency and focus as estate agents, there are some really good ones out there. Build a relationship with a reliable and motivated firm. Agree service standards and referral mechanisms. There has been some bad press about agents forcibly recommending their own conveyancers so tread carefully. In my view, you would not be doing your job properly as an agent if you didn’t point out that using the right conveyancer can massively increase the chances of the transaction reaching completion within the desired timescales. Conversely, the wrong conveyancer can lead to heartache, stress and regret.

 It is difficult to assess the national average cancellation rate but 1 in 4 is often quoted as the benchmark. One major conveyancer cites a figure well below that.

 One thing is certain. There are plenty of agents suffering too higher rate, but a good many who perform way better than others. The aforementioned tips will ensure you fall into the latter category.



Tis the season…

On 4th November, Julian was invited to present at the Negotiator Conference at the Park Lane Hilton in London which was, as always, a fantastic event.

With a range of speakers throughout the day in three separate conference rooms, there was plenty of choice. Themes ranged from branding, marketing, technology and more.

Julian was thrilled to present to a full house, particularly given that he was the final presenter in his room and that the lure of the bar after lunch could have been a strong one for many!

“Dare to be Different” was a brand new presentation that Julian had written to help agents focus on raising standards in the key areas of attracting appraisal enquiries and converting those into instructions. 35 fast-paced minutes packed with ideas were very well-received. Julian was delighted that so many attendees stayed behind afterwards for a chat with him and to request certain items that he had referred to, including TM training & development’s  “magic letter” which has been responsible for massive increases in valuation appointment numbers for the agents that have used it (for example, 14 valuations as a result of 300 dropped letters is a great return by any standards).

This week is the turn of the Relocation Agent Network conference and awards at the Park Plaza Hotel overlooking the Thames. This is an event that is always a highlight of the calendar year, and one which TM training & development support by having an exhibition stand and through sponsorship.

Given that our ethos is all about helping sales and lettings agents reach exceptional standards of behaviour and business practice, TM training & development have been delighted for the last 5 years to sponsor the “Employee of the Year” award. This prestigious industry accolade goes to the most exceptional member of staff within the agency firms in the Relocation Agent Network.

Julian receives a shortlist of nominees, assesses the submissions and makes a call to each nominee to find out as much detail about their knowledge, skills and achievements and, perhaps most crucially, what makes them special compared to the other potential winners.

On the day, the winner is announced. The name of the winner is kept under wraps right up until the announcement when he/she is invited on stage to receive their award and &500 in retail vouchers courtesy of TM training & development.

Julian says “We are proud to support the Relocation Agent Network’s annual conference as it focuses on best practice ideas and achievements of the best agents in the industry. The winner of the “Employee of the Year” award should be immensely proud of their victory as it is one of the highest accolades an individual can win. We look forward to presenting the award on Friday to the deserved winner!”



Tour Dates

The courses will be

Winning Quality Instructions and Retaining Clients (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.

 

Being held in

London - 8th January 2015

Nottingham - 14th January 2015

Newcastle - 12th February 2015

Bristol - 24th February 2015

Fleet - 11th March 2015

Manchester - 25th March 2015

 

 

 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...

“Trials and adversities do come our way, as they are part of our journey; face them with courage. They will not only strengthen us but also polish our character.”

Med Fadriquela