Preparing for the final push...

Preparing for the final push...


The last quarter of the year is always so significant. Dual key objectives are to drive out income to ensure the calendar year as a whole hits target while simultaneously putting new sales together to ensure the starting pipeline for the new year is healthy.  

Historically, some agents have been guilty of talking and thinking themselves into a quieter market as the end of the year approaches. Some are already doing so! Meanwhile agents who keep their foot on the gas right through until Christmas will reap the rewards in 2016.
 
This edition of our newsletter focuses on how to give your agency the edge over your competition during this critical period.
 
And remember, staff training to raise standards in all you do needs to play a part in your strategy for success. Our most forward thinking firms are already booking training with us for 2016 - some as far ahead as twelve months. Quarter 4 is the best time to plan your staff training programme for the following year. Give us a call and we can discuss yours!




Take care of tomorrow, today…

With stock at an all-time low according to many industry experts, and “online agents” arguably gaining momentum,  the final quarter of 2015 may well prove challenging for many traditional estate agents.

It seems to make sense therefore, that estate agents would be raising standards of behaviour and skill to ensure they win enough market share to succeed. However, according to a number of friends and relatives, it would appear that the concept of customer service and the desire to create fans of their businesses have passed some businesses by.

I remember a few years ago witnessing a negotiator taking the details from an applicant in a very cursory fashion. The negotiator seemed to lose interest at the point the applicant disclosed their ideal price range and brusquely informed the customer that there was nothing available. After the applicant left the office, the negotiator turned to a colleague and proclaimed “He’ll be lucky” before getting on with other things.

That applicant needed to move to that area due to a change of jobs, so would have ended up buying something in the vicinity, albeit having adjusted their finances or compromised on their requirements. At some point now or in the future, they will sell that property. I would put money on the fact that it won’t be with the aforementioned agent.

That was a past example. To bring things right up to the present, here is the September tale of an investment buyer, personally known to me. Having seen a potential property to purchase on one of the portals, the buyer called the agent at 9.05am on Saturday morning. An answerphone advised that the agency did not open until 10.00am. There was no facility to leave a message. The buyer called again at 10.05am to be greeted with the same answerphone message. The same thing happened at 10.20am and 10.30am. At 10.40am the phone was answered by a miserable sounding male who responded by saying they had been too busy to turn off the answerphone.

When asked about the property in question, the agent stated that he hadn’t seen it as it had just come on the market. He couldn’t advise on likely rent and actually seemed confused by the word “yield”. He couldn’t confirm what other interest there had been on the property. He couldn’t arrange viewings as the customer would need to speak to his colleague “Steve” to do that. Steve wasn’t in but would call the buyer back. The buyer was keen to view that day due to it being the only window of opportunity over the coming week or so.

Steve didn’t call. The buyer called the agent back and finally spoke to Steve at just before 1.00pm. No more viewings were possible that day.

So, a catalogue of substandard service elements from an experience just a few weeks ago. What are the consequences?

The investment buyer has since bought two flats in the same area via a different agent. Sales fees conservatively &18,000.

The investment buyer will be renting both of those flats out and needing them to be managed over a minimum of a few years. Fee income conservatively &20,000.

The investment buyer will sell the properties at some point in the future. Fee income conservatively… well who knows, but certainly another five figure total.

So, a grand total of a huge amount of money. We don’t know the specific amount, but we do know one thing. None of it will go to the agent outlined in the case above.

I wonder how many firms have had the age-old mantra “today’s applicants are tomorrow’s vendors” at the forefront of their minds in recent years. If they had their time over again, would they have treated those potential house hunters with more care, respect and professionalism?

Raising your game when dealing with customers during their search for a new property is an essential approach. Training staff in qualifying and registering applicants, in telephone techniques and accompanied viewings helps create raving fans of your business – even the ones who don’t buy through your agency will make a note to come back to you when they need help in the future.



May the best team win – they usually do…

Managers of professional sports teams are well paid to achieve exceptional teamwork. Estate agency managers may not earn quite so well, but their responsibility is much the same.  

A team can been defined as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.

Managers who wish to get the best possible level of sustained performance from their teams must first recognise that this is unlikely to be achieved overnight. It is widely accepted that teams go through various evolutionary stages before reaching peak performance.

Firstly, the “forming” stage is when the team initially comes together and everyone is very polite and reserved. There is an initial lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities. Conflict can exist beneath the surface but remains unspoken in these early days. Discussion is limited since no one wishes to be seen as foolish. Watch the early days of the reality show “Big Brother” to see this stage in evidence!

Then, typically, “storming” within the team occurs: alliances form and difficulties arise through differences of opinion and “muscle-flexing”. The team is ineffective and results are unsatisfactory. This is a stage which sees conflict and problems arise. Oneupmanship and point-scoring at the expense of colleagues is typical.

Slowly, as confidence and trust begin to grow, the team enters the “norming” stage in which working processes, team and individual objectives are agreed and understanding of all members’ roles is clarified. Co-operation and the valuing of each other’s opinions and contributions begin to be seen. The effectiveness of the team begins to increase. Discussions and contributions are more open and honest.

Eventually, the team enters the “performing” stage where they are firing on all cylinders. There is recognition and allowance of each other’s weaknesses and identification of how to employ the individual team members’ strengths to achieve optimum results. There is a high degree of flexibility, compromise and support. As a “performing” team, they become far more effective than the sum of their individual efforts.

Many estate agency managers are team-orientated leaders who recognise the importance of maintaining team spirit and blending individuals with the appropriate mix of strengths and skills. However, on occasions, this team ethos can go too far, whereby a blurring of relationships between manager and team members can lead to a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere without defined leadership. This situation is particularly prevalent where a manager has been promoted from within the team. These environments often fail to deliver results because there is more focus on fun than on the tasks that need to be fulfilled to drive out results. What the manager says is no longer respected. In football, it is often known as “losing the dressing room”.

An effective manager will be one who identifies the above principles and works hard to accelerate his or her team through the four team development stages to reach “perform” as quickly and smoothly as possible.

The following managerial functions will assist in achieving this goal:

  1. Planning – Define clear team and individual objectives, targets and behavioural standards. Identify specific roles and responsibilities for all individuals. Ensure that all team members are clear on all these factors (for both themselves and their colleagues) through effective communication in team briefings supported by unambiguous (preferably written) guidelines. 
  1. Monitoring – Pay particular attention to early activity and results. Reinforce any of the principles covered in the “planning” stage which appear to have been misinterpreted or ignored. Seek ongoing feedback from team members on how they feel their own and the team’s performance are progressing. Spot and record examples of good and poor teamwork. Encourage and support the team and individuals, recognise and reconcile disagreements. Create opportunities for the team to meet away from the workplace to build relationships and team spirit. 
  1. Checking – After a predetermined period of time, review all team-related results, particularly considering the four stages of team development. Revisit the planning stage to assess success or failure of objectives – revise any elements within the initial planning stage as necessary.

The life of an estate agency manager is a challenging one – however, with an effective team, the rewards can be fantastic. Let us hope that whoever is England Rugby Head Coach at the next World Cup applies all the key teambuilding principles, gets England to “perform” and leads them to glory!

 



Trust me…I’m an estate agent!

It may seem an elusive quality that convinces clients to trust us over our competitor but we know that there are many key factors that influence customers to be drawn towards one “advisor “over another. Here are three that should be borne in mind…

The first is Knowledge:

In the age of the internet it is easy for clients to feel they know more than their local estate agent. That is why we have to convince them that “we know something they don’t know”. In all our conversations with clients we should be consciously demonstrating our knowledge of the market particularly informing them of changes in the property world that they don’t know about. Of course we should never do this without finding out our starting point: We should be requalifying all our applicants and vendors at present by asking them: “What do you know about the market at present?” or “How do you feel about the market at the moment?” or “What will you do if you haven’t found a property /sold your property by Christmas?” This then gives us the opportunity to tell them things they do not know, and thereby disturb them to be more motivated.

The second is Competence:

Estate agents do not have the best reputation amongst the public in this area, particularly our reputation for timely communication. Often this boils down to good diary management and setting aside protected time to ensure what we have promised is carried out effectively, rather than just reacting to the next opportunity or interruption. Recently I have seen more and more agents diarise the time and date of their first marketing review with vendors on the day the property is taken on. This creates an added air of competence in the marketing plan agents are promising to “test the market” for their client. Beyond this, every promise made should be fulfilled and in fact the “UPOD” approach is best…in other words, Under Promise and Over Deliver when looking after clients and customers.

The third key area that builds trust is our air of Authority:

There are thousands of “nice” estate agents across the UK who work very hard, but are constantly pushed around by their clients because they surrender all power in the relationship with their customers in order to not “upset” them.

We always need to check that we are setting the right “tone” in our relationships with clients. How do we do this? There are many factors but perhaps one of the most important is setting effective agendas with customers. Look at the thousands of customers who register with estate agents who are never really informed about what needs to happen before we can expect them to be at the front of the queue when it comes to buying property.

Often this is because we are afraid or forget to tell them that they need to be in a position to be able to give a “fully funded offer” if they want to be first in the race for the best properties

We will always benefit from being conscious of our own strengths and weaknesses in these three key areas and trying to form new habits and skills that are more likely to draw customers to us for advice and build their long term commitment.



Tour Dates

The courses will be

 

 "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

  Bristol on the 28th October and

Manchester on the 17th November.

The course will cost &225 plus vat per delegate.

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...

 “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins; not through strength, but through persistence.” ~ Buddha