The times they are a-changing...

The times they are a-changing...

 Change is the watchword this month. The weather is turning milder, there are imminent reforms relating to pensions, the election and potential change of government is starting to take up more and more column inches and there has even been a change of ownership here at TM training & development.
What is less certain is how market conditions may change over the coming months. We are seeing a very patchy picture on our training travels around the country, with some of our client firms reporting a fantastic start to March, while others, particularly in London are telling a different tale.
Four recent major house price reports contradicted each other with two reporting recent rises and the other two detailing recent falls, creating mixed messages in the media.
Whatever the market brings during 2015, one thing that never changes is the need to stand out from the competition. Differentiation is the only surefire way of increasing market share. So, enjoy our latest newsletter which, as always, focuses on raising standards to ensure you are better than your rivals. After all, that is one change that you are in control of.

Does your business need an MOT?

A few months ago, 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 ninth or tenth time the words of wisdom on each of the 138 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.

 A while ago, I went into a well-known High Street bookshop 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 as I had already given her this information) 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 walked two hundred yards down the road and bought it elsewhere. In challenging times for the High Street retail sector (and in light of the above story, online shopping seems hugely appealing), the first 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!

Opportunity knocks...

With the imminent reforms to pensions and the growth of "granlords" (retirees wanting a better return on their savings and folk able cash in their pensions to invest in property), there is a huge opportunity for estate agents.
As the Daily Mail recently stated "Britain is in the middle of a buy-to-let boom as middle-income ‘amateur’ landlords invest in property. Thousands of middle-class families fed up with rock-bottom interest rates are making their first foray into the renting market." The full article is here
A few key words in that quoted sentence that should resonate with agents are "amateur" and "first foray" - suggesting these people will need professional advice and guidance. You need to ensure your agency becomes seen as the local buy-to-let specialists. Agents seeking to achieve this need to equip staff with the right knowledge on how best to advise a potential investor on how build a buy-to-let portfolio, supply and demand, local and regional yields and so forth.
Further to this, holding events for potential local property investors is a great way to prove your firm's expertise. Hosting a buy-to-let evening with experts present in residential property, mortgages, property management and suchlike, if marketed effectively, will reap rewards. And if you don't do this, you will find one of your rivals just might beat you to it.
If you require any advice on making the most of this business opportunity, get in touch.

A stitch in time…

On my training travels around the country this year, it has been evident that a growing number of estate agents are enjoying a bumper sales period – although not all those agreed sales are going the distance.

 One of our key areas of training requested by my client firms has been in bolstering negotiators’ ability to put quality sales together and to maintain a low cancellation rate. As a result, these clients are reporting considerably stronger performance in those disciplines and thereby a protection or increase of income levels.

 Cancellation rates (the percentage of agreed sales that fall through) vary massively around the country from single figures through to in excess of 40%. There are a number of reasons for this disparity, including how negotiators are targeted (putting staff under pressure to agree a certain amount of sales each week is bound to lead to a few spurious “deals” being booked). In addition, some agents more or less forget about a sale once it has been tied up, leading many to crash and burn further down the line.

 We have spent a great deal of training time devoted to arresting the number of sales falling through and failing to reach exchange – a problem which obviously leads to frustration and dented morale.

 One of the key areas many agents need to improve upon is the quality of the manner in which the sale is initially negotiated. This can often be compromised when negotiators are over eager to book a sale too quickly.

 Examples I have discovered include a cancelled sale that cost the firm in question &3800 in lost commission.

 The viewing on the property had been unaccompanied by the agent, and the purchaser had been left with the impression that the vendor would leave, amongst other items, the curtains.

 Upon receipt of the detail of fixtures and fittings via his solicitor, the purchaser was dismayed to discover that the vendor was actually planning to remove all the curtains from the property.

 When contacted by the agent on this matter, the vendors conceded that at the viewing, they had referred to the curtains staying but only “for the right price”. The accepted offer had been several thousands of pounds below the asking price, and as fixtures and fittings had not been discussed with either party by the negotiator, both vendor and purchaser incorrectly assumed the detail of the deal. Unfortunately, their two assumptions were entirely different from one another!

 The resultant fallout led to the classic “matter of principle” problem which the negotiator failed to resolve, leading to the two parties’ fixed unwillingness to proceed with the transaction on the other’s terms, and thus to an unnecessarily abortive sale.

 The simple principle of ensuring clarity of fixtures and fittings at the point of negotiation could have avoided this costly scenario.

 Indeed, a broader adoption of complete unambiguity of the quality of the potential sale at the outset has halved the cancellation rate for one of my clients.

 Previously, they had lost sales through irreconcilable timescale differences between parties, which should have been established far earlier in the process. Clearly, there is little point in booking a chain of three sales where two parties must complete before the end of March, whilst the first time buyer is unable to move until June.

 In another case, failure to identify the absence of probate being granted on the property at the top of a chain led to a delay that resulted in the buyer going elsewhere. Such basic lack of attention to important detail by an agent is inexcusable.

 There were yet more examples of failed transactions where insufficient qualification of the facts caused insoluble problems – lack of ability to buy due to the failure of the agent to introduce the buyer to a financial adviser, negligence in spotting the clues presented in a complicated matrimonial situation and the wrong assumption that a prospective buyer in rented accommodation had no related sale to name but three.

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 practice” 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 fire fighting later in trying to hold it together.

 The acid test is to consider this – if you were the owner of the property in question, would you be happy to agree a sale to this purchaser and to remove it from the open market with confidence that the deal will go through?

 It is doubtful whether a sale has ever crashed due to the negotiator gathering too much information at the outset, but it is certain that many sales have done so due to gathering too little.

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.


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

Manchester - 25th March 2015

 Coventry - 21st May 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.


 "How to be an Exceptional Lister"

This special training course is for sales and lettings valuers, and covers a huge 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, securing appropriate asking prices and maximising fees. It has been run for a number of our client firms as an in-house course but has never been run as an open event. The course has received amazing feedback and positively influenced the performance of all who have attended it.

The course will be a full day course being held in Cambridgeshire on the 24th April and London on the 28th April.

The course will cost &225 plus vat per delegate.

To book or for more information contact us on 01480 405583, email us at or visit our website


TM training & development

Julian and Peter are buying the other six directors' shares in TM training & development Ltd and will own the restructured business on a 50/50 basis.
Julian has been a Partner of Thomas Morris for 15 years during which time he helped set up the training business alongside his agency interests.  Peter joined the company in 2007 to help cope with demand for courses. TM training & development Ltd now provide training and consultancy services to countless sales and lettings agents across the UK, winning The Sunday Times "Estate Agency Supplier of the Year" award in 2010.
Julian says: "I am proud to have been a Partner of such a great estate agency as Thomas Morris, but the time was right to sell my share. My wife Caterina has also been a Partner of Thomas Morris since 1993 and has also sold her share. The transaction allows us to concentrate on her health and wellbeing as she is managing a serious illness. 
Alongside this, I am excited about taking TM training & development Ltd forward with Peter and continuing to help our client firms achieve exceptional results."

Thought for the day...

If winning isnt everything

.why do they keep score? - Vince Lombardi