New year, new challenges, new ideas?

New year, new challenges, new ideas?


As the final weeks of 2014 approach and our minds turn to 2015, it is a great time to assess how well your business is equipped for facing the challenges the new year is likely to bring. The articles in this edition of our newsletter focus on how to raise standards and implement great ideas to seize more than your current market share.
So pour yourself a mulled wine and...ahem...mull over our final newsletter of 2014.
Just before you do so, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our valued clients all over the UK a very happy Christmas and a healthy, prosperous New Year.



Making sales happen…

A reduction in the number of ready, willing and able purchasers can obviously lead to a downturn in sales activity and a reduction in banked income. This situation is clearly unpalatable and unsustainable.

 Some investment buyers start to sit on their hands and become unwilling to commit to imminent purchases until there is clarity as to future property price movement. Many first time buyers stall for similar reasons, while others are victims of financial institutions’ change in approach to lending. On top of these categories of customer are the ones who are simply unsure what to do in uncertain market conditions – their confusion typically leads to them doing nothing until certainty returns.

 However, that there are plenty of people still trying to move home. Many of them are looking to stay within the same area. The way an agent manages this key group can make the difference between success and failure.

 By doing the right things, sales can be made to happen. Diligent efforts to assist these local property-to-sell customers to find somewhere suitable from the selection of available properties (or previous instructions/valuations etc) ensures chains of transactions are formed. With subsequent careful negotiation from the top of the chain downwards, each vendor involved may reduce their ideal sale price, ultimately allowing the dependent property at the bottom to be offered at a sufficiently competitive figure to generate interest from first time or investment buyers. Once this base property is sold, the whole chain can progress.

 A Partner in one of our estate agency client companies has spent a lot of time visiting vendor clients to discuss this concept, encourage price flexibility to assist in building such chains. He took the decision to do this over a four week period after becoming increasingly frustrated at the number of subject-to-sale offers his office had agreed which could not proceed. At that time, his branch had a total of 18 potential sales that were going nowhere until the bottom property secured a purchaser. His vendor visits led to price reductions cascading down to these bottom links, making them more saleable and ultimately leading to the next two months being far better sales periods than would otherwise have been the case.

 One success story of this nature was an incomplete chain where Mr and Mrs A, the vendors at the top, were emigrating to Spain, and had a subject-to-sale offer from Mr and Mrs B of the asking price of &245,000. Mr and Mrs B in turn had a subject-to-sale offer of &192,500 from Mr and Mrs C who were attempting to find a buyer for their &155,000 property. Mr A had already moved across to Spain, therefore he and his wife were extremely keen to get their sale proceeding quickly, and had indicated to their selling agent that should a quality buyer be found, any offer over &220,000 would be considered. After a series of conversations with the various parties, Mr and Mrs B revised their offer to &225,000, allowing them without hesitation to reduce their own price to &182,500. Being equally keen to move themselves, they contributed a further &5,000, allowing them to accept &177,500 from Mr and Mrs C. The latter couple in turn immediately revised their asking price to &140,000 and a first time buyer was secured within two days at an agreed figure of &137,500. All parties were delighted with this outcome and with the subsequent swift exchange and completion. Had the agent been less creative in their approach, these transactions would probably only remain on the potential sale list to this day.

 Local applicants moving downmarket can also serve as a key to maintaining desired sales performance, as they can complete the chain in the same way as proceedable buyers.

 Our consultancy work with estate agency firms has included assisting them in creating and maintaining a manual or computerised “chainbuilding opportunities register”.

 Each local applicant who registers on the mailing list and has yet to sell is logged onto this register which contains details of the type of property they are selling, the approximate price they are hoping to achieve, as well as what they are looking to buy and to spend. A daily review is carried out by the office team to identify chainbuilding and swap opportunities – then targeted calls are made to the relevant individuals.

 Having set up their register and undertaken the appropriate staff training via ourselves, one client company reported back to me that in the subsequent few weeks they were successful in effecting two swap situations from within the register generating fees of almost &13,000, and one “circular” transaction (where client X bought from client Y who bought from client Z, with client Z moving downmarket to buy from client X) worth over &12,000.

 Such is the power of positive linking!



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

 



New Year, new challenge…

2015 could well be a challenging year for property-related businesses, with the continued impact of MMR, a possible glass ceiling being reached on property prices in some areas and an impending election. Although 2014 has been a good year for many agents, the fact remains that numbers of completed property transactions in England and Wales continue to be down on the heady “pre-downturn” days of 2007, meaning that there may simply be insufficient residential estate agency sales income within the UK to sustain anywhere near the numbers of branches and firms that exist at present.

 Every December, I reread my favourite non-fiction book “Moments of Truth” by Jan Carlzon – one that I first enjoyed many years ago and which has helped me improve the way I run my businesses more than any other.

 As I devoured for the sixth or seventh time the words of wisdom on each of the 135 pages, it struck me that every estate agency proprietor should do the same.

 Jan Carlzon took over Scandinavian Airlines in 1981 – a company on the verge of losing $20 million. One year later, it was making a profit of $54 million. That turnaround is quite extraordinary in both size and speed. Better still, the way he achieved it was simple and straightforward. It was all about understanding and maximising what he called the “moments of truth” – in other words, every single interaction that a customer has with a company, whether it lasts only a few seconds or more, needs to be a positive experience - better than they expected and better than the competition deliver.

 I have run dozens of seminars on the “Moments of Truth” principles and encouraged estate agency proprietors and managers to apply them to their own operation. Conveniently the initials of “Moments of Truth” are “M.O.T.” – and by giving your business an annual “M.O.T.” in the same way as you do a car, you can ensure that your business is operating as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Those owners that have done so frequently report back that having carried out the three key stages of listing, reviewing and perfecting the “moments” that customers experience, an upturn in business levels inevitably follows.

 Just listing the “moments” is a time-consuming task but an essential one. Think about sales and rental applicants and all the interactions they have with your firm from their first visit to your website, to contacting the branch, to receiving information from you, to arranging viewings and so on.

 Vendors and landlords have a vast list of experiences with you from their first awareness of your brand, to booking a valuation appointment, to the appointment itself, to the point of instruction, to feedback calls and many many more.

 Once these have all been listed, it is crucial to conduct a review to see exactly what your customer’s real experience is like (perhaps by way of “mystery shopper” exercises or customer feedback forms), and then to take steps to perfect each “moment”. The steps taken towards perfection need not cost any money – rather an investment of time, energy and diligence.

 Once you embrace this concept (and ideally read the book!), you will find yourself experiencing your own “moments of truth” when you are a customer. I experience them daily – many are far from positive.

 I remember well one standout customer experience when I visited a well-known High Street bookshop (which I imagine is not having their most profitable period given the competition from online suppliers) to look for a particular book. Failing to locate it, I approached an assistant behind a till and asked if she could help me. I gave her the title and author. Without explanation (nor eye contact nor smile), she tapped away on her keyboard for two minutes or so, asked me again for the name of the book and who wrote it (mildly irritating) and finally handed me a small printed ticket. She then explained that I might find the book in “a number of places” in the shop, all of which I had already looked in. Finally, when I asked her whether she could confirm that they had it in stock, she told me their “system can’t tell us that”. Genius!

 I went home and bought it online. In the most challenging of times for the retail sector, the shop has lost a transaction (and a future customer) in minutes. If only they stocked Jan Carlzon’s book and made their staff read it!



Morning glory or snoozefest?

One of the early exercises on our “Managing teams to success” course focuses on creating a list of the key responsibilities of an effective manager. It spawns a useful checklist for managers – including communication, motivation, planning, delegation and more - but its greater effect is that it often makes the attendees swallow hard as they start to recognise the full range of duties which they have to fulfil.

This potential workload, coupled with the fact that a high proportion of estate agency managers are also fee earners, thus having frontline work to undertake alongside leading the team, means a rude awakening for some. The morning team meeting is actually the answer to this challenge, as well as the most important event of the day, as it will allow the manager to tick off a number of their responsibilities in one hit. That is, at least, assuming it is a well-run and effectively structured meeting. Sadly, plenty aren’t…

So what tips are there for an effective morning meeting?

Firstly, pick and stick to a start time. 8.30am means that a lot of ground can be covered before the phones start ringing and customers start coming in. In practice, an 8.30am start time necessitates staff arriving by 8.15am at the latest to prepare mentally and physically (including the obligatory coffee!).

Secondly, an agreed agenda is important. Newly registered applicants, outstanding messages, yesterday’s diary (with emphasis on all key performance criteria), today’s diary (with a discussion about valuations and viewings – what do the team need to do to get the best out of every appointment?), applicants (new/hot/unsuited – checking the quality of qualification and service provided), potential sales, potential instructions, vendor care calls, sales check calls, mortgage opportunities should all be included.

 As each action point and/or objective for the day is agreed, make sure they are recorded in writing, either by you as the team leader (so you can monitor and check whether they are being completed successfully) and/or by way of a central communal system, such as a whiteboard which then serves as a constant reference point for all key tasks for the day. This can then be used in the following day’s meeting as the review mechanism.

 Towards the end of the meeting, a review of all key target areas for the week/month/quarter to date will allow for focus to be placed on any areas for concern, as well as providing an opportunity to praise over-achievement.

 An open question at the end of the meeting to invite any ideas to help create or increase business will potentially lead to a useful team discussion. Also invite any other business to be put forward which would benefit from collective input, such as a problem sale or an instruction that is sticking.

 Finally, reinforce all agreed individual and team objectives for the day ahead and check whether all staff have their day structured in such a way that each will be able to achieve their own tasks while contributing to the overall team function.

 As a manager, you may need to apply the principle of “protected time” when helping staff plan their day. This is a concept which means a slab of time (typically an hour or two) is allocated to an individual where they shut themselves away from phones and public view, allowing them to focus solely on achieving key tasks without interruption. Protected time means just that – the individual must stick to the agreed start and finish times, while their colleagues know not to put calls through to them or disturb them until the slot is over. It is a great technique to ensure staff cannot use the “I didn’t get time” excuse for unfinished priority tasks in the following day’s meeting.

 Keeping the morning meeting fresh is important. The aforementioned agenda can be tackled in a different order, as long as all the key points are covered. Vary the sequence without prior notice – it keeps the attendees alert. Further to this, give different team members different elements of the meeting each day, again without prior notice. As each agenda point comes up, select somebody to take the lead in that discussion…”OK. Time to review potential sales we are working on…Susan, can you talk us through those please?”

 Some more creative managers will use the occasional morning meeting as a mini training session. I produce a property market quiz every Monday covering some of the data, reports and news that have been published in the previous seven days. A number of business owners and managers use that quiz as a fun exercise to educate the team at the end of one of the morning meetings each week – do let me know if you’d like a copy. Alternatively, you could make your own quiz up or simply fire questions at the team such as “So what is so good about your agency?” or “Why do you charge more than Bloggs and Co?”

 Apply all these ideas and the morning meeting will prove to be the perfect start to the day, every day.



Thought for the day...

"Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude" Zig Ziglar