Are you ready for the challenges of 2016?

Are you ready for the challenges of 2016?

So we are six weeks into the new year and on our training travels around the country since Christmas, we continue to see "internet only" agents gaining momentum, stock generally in short supply and fees under massive pressure.
We have trained firms already this year in Milton Keynes, Cirencester, Stoke on Trent, Lincoln, Cobham, King's Langley, Leamington Spa, St Neots, Leeds, Brighton, Stevenage, Maidstone, Newark, Pinner, Shrewsbury, Hemel Hempstead, London, Weybridge, Stratford upon Avon, Gatwick, Newcastle, Taunton, Monmouth and elsewhere, with the general picture emerging that things are good but not easy.
Those firms invested in training to give themselves an edge. Thankfully they then look to reinvest with us still further due to the results the initial training achieves. The premise is simply that the training more than pays for itself.
As a result, we have bookings through until January 2017, but we are always keen to talk to more potential client firms. As one of our regular clients stated "It is the best investment we will make this year".
We look forward to talking to you. In the meantime, our newsletter will give you a taste of how we roll. Enjoy.

Keep your eyes peeled…

There is a massive subsection of the estate agency sales market which tends to go unnoticed and unpoliced, namely those completed transactions where the agent morally deserving of a commission is not paid one. Such situations are usually down to one of two scenarios – either the vendor secretly selling “privately” to a viewer introduced by the agent or a buyer and/or seller being persuaded to conduct the transaction via a different agent from the one who set up the viewing.

 These situations may not be familiar to many agents, but sadly that does not mean for a moment that those agents have not suffered lost commission from such occurrences. It is frightening to reflect upon how many of those “missed sales” remain undetected forever.

 So how can your agency ensure you get what you deserve? As with all challenges in business, there are two main ways to defeat this one – “prevention” and “cure”.

 “Prevention” includes having a watertight agency agreement signed by your clients. This will stand you in good stead if and when disputes arise over your commission. I see a number of agents’ agency agreements which have more holes than Swiss cheese. I have seen some recently that still fail to cover the 14 day cooling off period correctly. I was advised a couple of years ago that 50% of agency agreements are potentially unenforceable as a result of shortcomings or failings such as this one or similar.

 Competitor agents are less likely to try and snatch one of your sales if they know you will have a sound platform to fight the case from so look hard at your agency agreement and check it is robust.

 Other preventative measures to help avoid missing out on justified commission include detailed record keeping and follow up procedures, as well as relationship building and maintenance with vendors and applicants. Those parties who are tempted to do “under the counter” transactions and cut the agent out will be less likely to do so if they recognise the fact that you have your house in order and are likely to discover their shenanigans as a result. Keeping in touch with all parties, recording all activity and conversations and making sure customers are happy in their dealings with you, all serve as practical ways of stopping unscrupulous activity.

 So what of the “cure” approach? If a property does “withdraw” from the market, a letter should be sent thanking the client for their business, expressing the hope that you will be able to help them move in the future and explaining politely that as per your agreement, should any of the people introduced by your agency proceed to buy the property within the timeframe in your signed agreement, then commission will be payable. Include a list of all viewers in the letter. This simple approach will often flush out an underhand sale at the outset.

 Furthermore, the best agents I work with have a system in place to marry up all their withdrawals with completed sales. A quarterly check on the Land Registry and a little further subsequent research soon reveals which “withdrawals” went on to become sales, and as importantly, who the buyers were. Dovetail that information with your precise record keeping and you may strike gold! One small independent firm secured almost &20,000 in lost commission as a result of their last round of checks.

 As someone who believes strongly in a sense of fair play, I have to admit that the discovery of an agent or client who has tried to do the dirty on me is a wonderful experience. I hand-delivered an invoice to such an individual and will always remember watching her face turn an unusual shade of grey as she realised she had been caught out! Marvellous.

When the going gets tough, the tough get better…

On my travels around the country, the market seems better than for a long while pretty much everywhere – the only difference from one area to another seems to be the degree to which lack of stock is an issue. One office literally ran out of sales stock a few weeks ago, while another has circa 20 when the norm is between 60 and 70. While these situations are partly as a consequence of great sales figures, it is patently obvious that such results cannot be sustained without available stock of the right quantity and quality.

The “Instruction Process” is worth revisiting whatever the market conditions as your performance as an company within that process will shed some light on where your future focus should be. The process comprises ten key stages for winning and retaining stock –

   Opportunities and Connections

   Generating Appraisals

   Booking Appraisals

   Preparation for Appraisals

   The Appraisal Appointment itself

   Immediate Follow Up

   Ongoing Contact

   Point of Instruction

   Client Management

   Future Customer Relationship Management

These ten stages are all critical to success and every agency will have different approaches, procedures and challenges at each.  However, the fact remains year in year out, that the agent who performs differently to and better than their competitors at each of the ten stages will win the lion’s share of instructions available in their area.

The first step is to analyse objectively where your agency sits in terms of calibre and differentiation at each of those stages. It is impossible to formulate an action plan to help you get to where you want to go without knowing where your starting point is.

I have just carried this exercise out with a couple of agents and the issues that needed addressing were different for each. One was simply not getting through enough doors while the other had issues over converting appointments into instructions. Subsequently the planned course of action for each agent was geared to their specific shortcomings. There is no “one size fits all” approach…

Having said that, most of the hundreds of valuers I have trained in recent years are now doing an exceptional job when they are given the opportunity to do so. It is the lack of opportunity that is the main battle. Therefore, the first two stages of the “Instruction Process” may well be the two to pay special attention to at present.

The first stage of the process – “Opportunities and Connections” – relates to how successful your firm is at being in the hearts and minds of the local property owning public. Are you on their radar? If a poll was taken among your local residents as to who was the most active agent or which agents’ names they could quote, would your name come up first? Are you active in the community, on social media, in the local press? Brand awareness gets the phone ringing so be brutally objective about your own performance in this area.

Are you making the best of all your local connections and ensuring that everyone you know is aware of what your business offers? Think of all the people you interact with on a regular basis – the postman, the pizza delivery person, your hairdresser, the guy you buy your Sunday paper from or who services your car. How about setting yourself a target of talking to a specified number of connections every day or every week?

Are your family and friends actively linking your business to their connections? Daft as it may sound, do your family and friends really know enough about your business to be able to promote or recommend you?

Tell them what you do and the type of opportunities they might come across where they could recommend you and why they should – but make sure you make this 100% reciprocal. Nobody I know has reported negative feedback to sharing their professional life with their personal contacts.

Furthermore, there are so many opportunities for random connections to be made every day and you just might be surprised where they lead. Strike up a conversation with people you encounter, rather than assuming they have no relevance to you or you to them. I remember listing and selling a house a few years back as a result of passing the time with a fellow parent outside my son’s school – That piece of business may never have come my way without that conversation taking place.

The second stage – “Generating Appraisals” – is all about the effort and focus of the agency staff at the coalface so to speak. The best agents I work with place huge emphasis on the number of appraisals they need to do. Having scientifically worked out the necessary total, they are then aware of the minimum required and will set a target accordingly. That target is then shared amongst the team with each individual knowing their own essential contribution to the overall figure, even down to what each attended appraisal will ultimately mean in terms of income.

Each team member is then coached and trained on how to secure appraisal appointments from the opportunities that present themselves. The key ingredient to success is to understand in detail your own firm’s service proposition and those of your competitors to ensure every employee in every case can demonstrate to a potential client that their agency is significantly better equipped to secure the result the client is seeking – whether that be the best possible price, the shortest possible time, a committed and capable buyer, a lack of stress or all four of the aforementioned.

Creating, targeting and converting appraisal opportunities and appointments really will make a massive difference to your success in 2016. Don’t leave it too late.

A view on viewings…

I have been on a good many viewings with a range of different estate agents in recent months. There have been one or two excellent agents. However, frustratingly and disappointingly, it seems commonplace for the agents’ representatives to be utterly untrained and to have extremely limited knowledge of the property they are showing.

It would seem to be that “How old is the property?” is a reasonable question for me to ask. The answer “As you can see Mr O’Dell, it is fairly old…” was not an answer I was over-impressed with. “Is the loft boarded?”, “How much is the council tax?”, “Where is the boundary?” “Which of the parking spaces goes with this property?” and “What are the vendor’s onward plans?” also strike me as unsurprising queries. All resulted in vague responses if they got a response at all…”I don’t know” being the default setting. This is arguably a better response than the one we got about a right of way which turned out to be the polar opposite of the truth.

Staff conducting accompanied viewings sometimes hid behind the excuse “I’m only part-time” or “I only work Saturdays” as if that justified their ignorance. One simply unlocked the door, waved me inside and stood in the garden making calls on his mobile. Clearly it is not their fault that they are in that position – business owners and managers need to accept responsibility for the lack of training and of minimum standards.

It is ironic that training on conducting effective and professional accompanied viewings is often lacking, when the task of showing potential buyers around properties should be right up there on the list of priorities. It is what one might refer to as the “point of sale” - and if that is not important enough, how about all the instructions that are lost by a member of staff carrying out an inept viewing for an applicant with a local property to sell, who silently decides to go nowhere near that agent when they are choosing which one to instruct to sell their own? The resultant thousands of pounds of lost revenue as a direct result of failure to train the team properly is terrifying to contemplate.

I found it insightful recently to run a training session for “accompanied viewers” on how to carry their roles out to a better standard than the local competition. Early in the session, I split the group into twos/threes and asked them to answer a series of questions to get them thinking about the subject of viewings. One question was “What is the definition of selling?” – after a couple of minutes, one of the group raised his hand and asked “Why are you asking us that? We aren’t salespeople…” I smiled and explained, whilst inwardly despairing…

Obviously we continue to train the essential skills and techniques for exceptional viewings, but if you don’t want to employ us to do that, please, as a man who is fiercely proud of our profession, please undertake a training programme with your troops to avoid them falling into the traps above. Thanks.

Tour Dates

The courses will be


 "Listing & Selling Skills for 2016"

We all need to sharpen up our listing on selling skills to deal with the challenges of 2016

Suitable for staff who list or, sell/arrange rentals on properties 

  • Getting through more doors - speaking to more people
  • Setting effective agendas
  • Exceptional Customer Service and interaction at all stages of the listing and sales process
  • Motivating clients
  • Effective presentation of services and property to create differentiation to defend fees
  • Dealing with objections
  • Trial closing and gaining commitment
The course will be a full day course being held in

Brands Hatch on the 2nd March

Cardiff on the 9th March


"Management Skills"

Suitable for staff who manage a Branch or Department (Lettings or Sales) within an Estate Agency. 


  • The role of a Manager
  • Planning and time management
  • Holding effective team meetings
  • Building your team
  • Setting standards and objectives
  • Coaching and training staff
  • Staff review and one to ones
  • Creating Focus and Discipline
The course will be a full day course being held in

London on the 21st April


"An Introduction to Exceptional estate Agency"

Suitable to all new staff with less than a years experience or returnees to the industry.

  • Compliance
  • Personal time management
  • Selling skills for Estate Agents
  • Qualifying and understanding  buyers and Vendors/ Landlords
  • Generating viewings and offers
  • Processing deals

The course will be a full day course being held in

London on the22nd 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


Thought for the day...

"Don't make excuses, make improvements" - Tyra Banks