Are you running a winning campaign?

Are you running a winning campaign?

With the country now just days away from deciding who governs over the coming years, everyone involved in the property industry is waiting to see the result and the subsequent actions of the new regime that may affect our businesses.
Whether it be a mansion tax, scrapping of tenants' fees, a review of stamp duty or rent capping, there will almost certainly be developments that will affect the property market. Housing has become a huge political issue and agents need to be ready for whatever changes are introduced.

But there are other lessons to be learnt from the election. Political parties have been campaigning hard to raise their profile locally and to secure votes. So what can agents learn from this activity?

One question we suggest to our client firms that they should ask themselves regularly (certainly more often than every 5 years!) is this – “If there were a vote taken locally as to who was the most active estate agent in your area, which agent would win?”

If the answer is not your agency, perhaps you need to rethink your “campaigning” in order to secure more votes in the future! Our first article gives some thoughts on the matter and the other articles all focus on helping your agency raise standards to ensure you emerge victorious. Enjoy.

You’ve got to be in it to win it…

It is important to raise your profile in the local area and ensure you are seen as a successful, proactive and above all better alternative to the competition. In short, you must be on every local vendor’s radar to ensure you are at least “in the frame” as their possible agent.

 It will not necessarily mean that you will take on everything you are offered –prudent agents will decline instructions unless they enhance their available register. However, it is crucial to have the opportunity to make that choice by being invited in!

Wanted ads on your website, the office window and in printed media give local customers the message that you want their business. Generic leaflets and specific letters to appropriate local addresses work if constantly employed – however, this canvassing must be planned and constant.

 Ensuring that the neighbouring community is made aware of every successful sale you agree locally by way of a regular newsletter or the delivery of “Sold in your area” leaflets will increase the chances of your firm being asked to future valuations. Currently, one client agent of ours even delivers “Another viewing on a property near you” leaflets after accompanied viewings to let the locals know they are active in that area.

Ramping up presence, profile and activity within social media has been a proven success for many of our client firms with instructions directly resulting from effort applied in that arena.

 “Farming” developments and villages is effective – displays in the village shop and on village websites, business cards left with hoteliers and publicans, support given to school events – these have all proven successful in building an agent’s business in those communities. Contact with previous customers who have bought and/or sold through your firm keeps your name in mind.

 Beyond this background work, agents with large market shares are unsurprisingly those who focus on the provision of excellent service. All the staff recognise the concept that every vendor is a potential recommender and repeat customer, every applicant a future vendor, every tenant a future buyer.

 Separating the local applicants with properties to sell from the rest of your database, and upping the level of service given to them in terms of telephone and email contact will help convince them that you are a more diligent and customer-focused agent than your competitors, leading to an increased chance of them employing you when the time is right. Tell them that you will make them a VIP applicant and that they will be first to know of suitable properties that they may be interested in. Most astute vendors know that any agent can probably sell their house – it is the agent that goes the extra mile in helping the client find a property that will get the instruction.

 Really outstanding firms also recognise that there are other “customers” to consider outside the obvious categories.

 Anyone who interacts with your company should be seen as a customer – some of these relationships are less obvious but equally important.

 How do you manage these “customers by association”? Firstly, it is important to identify who they are – the lady in the newsagents where you buy your paper, the tyre fitter who worked on your car last week, the board contractor, the office window cleaner to name but a few. These all represent future business and recommendations. In short, everyone you deal with should be viewed as potential business.

 Secondly, these “customers” merit great service in the way they are handled. How much effort do the team make in creating rapport with the aforementioned examples? How do we conduct ourselves with them? Do they have an impression of our firm that would lead to them recommending us? Have we suggested that we would recommend their services in return for them recommending ours?

 Poor service to less obvious “customers” loses business. An estate agency which sent staff on one of our seminars had not paid and were sent a polite reminder by email. Eventually, with payment still outstanding following a number of further reminders, a colleague of mine popped into the agent’s office with a copy of the invoice. It was finally paid the following week – over three months after the seminar.

 The company were unaware that during this saga, I was asked by a relative to recommend an agent who would be suited to selling three newly built homes in that area. The delay in payment of our invoice led me to only three possible conclusions about the agent in question – that they were disorganised, that they could not afford to pay the invoice (less than &300.00) or finally that they were simply avoiding payment. None of these conclusions made me feel comfortable in recommending them, so the business went elsewhere – I am not party to the detail of the terms the other agent agreed with the developer but the fees will amount conservatively to over &8000.

 The message for this market is simple – “Get your own house in order, in order to get houses…”

Are you well read?

Newsletters sent via email are a great way to get your brand in front of potential clients. Everybody that comes into contact with your business should be added to your database and kept in touch with by way of this cheap, fast and simple method of a regular communication.

But what should go into them to attract interest?

One of the most popular items that I designed for our estate agency some years ago and which I have shared with my estate agency client firms is a “Top Ten Investment Opportunities” feature. This always seems to be read more than many of the other features put together, so it strikes me as an important inclusion within any ongoing client communication.

To put it together is straightforward. Select the best ten investment properties that are currently up for sale and lay them out with a thumbnail alongside. State the address (without house number), quote the asking price, the likely monthly rent and the gross annual yield (annual rent divided by asking price, multiplied by 100).

Put the list in descending yield order (a recent one I put together for an agency started at 7.1% and ran down to 5.2%) and drop it into your newsletter with the tantalising headline “Don’t miss our top ten investment opportunities”.

Monitor response and update content each month. Let me know your results…It should be a winner!

 Alongside this feature, the most interesting content from the readers’ point of view seems to be around house prices – in a recent agency firm’s newsletter, the most read article by a distance was entitled “What is happening with house prices?”

 Therefore, a feature in each edition of your newsletter relating to recent house price reports and what the trends are would be a sensible inclusion.

 We can help put these together if you need any help – we digest and distil all the information from the main house price reports each month and provide a synopsis to our estate agency client firms so they can include such a feature in their newsletters.

 Get in touch if you would like us to help in that regard.

Are your customers suitably disturbed?

People tend not to act unless they are “disturbed” – with some people having one eye on the election in recent weeks, and whatever uncertainty may be created as a result of which party/parties come to power in the aftermath, agents may well need to revisit their abilities at disturbing people into action.

Post-election, we may find ourselves in a market where many people can simply “wait and see”. Interest rates, property prices and transaction numbers have been relatively steady for a while and whereas in the past, the public were "disturbed into action" by market forces (particularly rapidly rising or plummeting prices), many are now sitting on the hands in a state of inertia fuelled by media-driven confusion - in other words, "I am waiting to be unconfused"...

Inertia is our industry’s worst enemy – it leads to a lack of activity and urgency which in turn leads to a reduction in transaction numbers, which of course, are our lifeblood. You only need to look at the totals for 2008 through to 2014 compared to the pre-downturn years of 2007 and earlier to see the impact that uncertainty can have on market size.

There is an old adage in selling – “Emotion creates motion” – in other words where there is an underlying emotion, people will move!

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.

Things to say to “disturb” customers…

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

“What will the implications be if house prices do fall by 10% this year…?”

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

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

"How would you feel if…?”

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

Exceptional salespeople recognise and use the important skill of "disturbing" customers particularly in times where market conditions fail to do so...

We cover this principle in more detail and depth on our training courses. Call or email for more details.

Decisions, Decisions...

I am regularly called by estate agents seeking an objective view on decisions they need to make on a whole range of issues from whether they should close a branch to how to change their staff commission scheme for the better.

 One of my clients called me for some advice a while back when faced with an unusual decision he had to make, which might seem trivial but which was important to get right. One of his staff had requested that he be allowed to leave the office 40 minutes early every Wednesday evening to watch his son play football. My client was uncertain whether to grant his wish. We had a conversation around this challenge and talked through how he might deal with it.

 Like most issues in business, if one has a clear process to follow, one tends to reach an acceptable end result.

 Help is at hand in the form of a recognised process – the 5 Cs of decision making – which ensures valid choices are made and problems with erroneous decisions are avoided.

 Firstly, it is important to CONSIDER. This is a time for reflection and contemplation on a whole raft of elements pertaining to the scenario upon which a decision needs to be taken. Full knowledge of all the facts relating to the decision must be researched and deliberated. Consideration must be given to all the options that could be taken and critically all the potential implications and outcomes of these options. Previous decisions made within similar situations (and the success or failure thereof) should be referred to, as should the parameters of one’s authority and indeed any legal implications, company policies and procedures.

 The second stage is to CONSULT. Anybody potentially affected by the imminent decision may see an angle that the manager himself/herself has missed. An element of consultation with fellow managers/directors who have found themselves with similar dilemmas could prove invaluable as they will be able to advise on the result of previous experience. Running certain decisions by legal and technical experts may also be valid.

 The third stage is the CRUNCH. This is the point at which a decision needs to be made. It is possible here that a manager may have to decide that he/she is unable to make a decision and therefore has to resort to further CONSIDERATION and CONSULTATION before doing so.

 Fourthly, the manager must COMMUNICATE the decision. All parties that are likely to be affected must have the decision clearly explained with an element of rationale attached. Anybody else who may hear about the decision through a company grapevine should also receive the decision through a more reliable medium be it a meeting, email, letter or telephone call. Language used must be unambiguous to ensure clarity of understanding. Lastly, out of courtesy, those who were consulted earlier in the process should benefit from the knowledge of the ultimate conclusion.

 Finally, as with many key areas in management, there needs to be a CHECK. At an appropriate, prescheduled future point, the validity of the decision must be verified. What was the outcome? Had all consequences been foreseen and positive? Was it the right decision? If the answer to that final question is in the affirmative, then it is time to draw a line and move on…if not, then it is back to stage one and another trip through the 5 Cs.

 Out of interest in the case above, following the call, the manager considered everything involved, consulted several parties including myself, crunched the decision (in fairness, taking probably the less easy option- he had declined his member of staff’s request to leave early, citing the potential disruption to the office and the dangerous precedent that would be set, potentially encouraging other staff to raise similar issues. He had however, agreed that his team should structure the diary each Wednesday to allow the member of staff in question to leave bang on time and watch the second half of his son’s football matches), communicated it (the employee, whilst not overjoyed, seemed to respect and understand the decision) and will no doubt check the outcome in the future, although I understand that it is so far, so good.

Thought for the day...

Two Wolves – A Cherokee Parable


An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…
‘A fight is going on inside me,’ he said to the boy.
‘It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed,
arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies,
false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope,
serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy,
generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you
and inside every other person, too.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute
and then asked his grandfather,
‘Which wolf will win?’
The old chief simply replied,
‘The one you feed.”

~ Author Unknown