Are you ready to "Spring" into action?

Are you ready to "Spring" into action?

With a backdrop of uncertainty created by Brexit, the short term distraction of a General Election, reduced numbers of transactions and increased competition, there has never been a more important time to raise standards of customer service and improve selling skills. Adding value to the customer experience is essential to ensure you are perceived as different from and superior to your competition. Our Spring newsletter focuses on defeating the challenges agents face in 2017 and possibly beyond. Enjoy!

Listen and learn...

Many new ideas on selling techniques have come and gone over the last thirty years, but one technique that has always been around and still requires great skill to perform consistently to a high standard is listening.

We have all heard the buzz phrase “two ears, one mouth, use in the same proportion” but sadly many agents seem to forget that mantra and get it the wrong way round. “The gift of the gab” should have died out long ago but some agents still seem to rely on it to get them through the day.

The genius observation by Stephen R Covey that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” is one which a good many agents should take on board.

But how can you learn to become a better listener?

The first lesson is to recognise that listening is not a passive activity. There is also a degree of confusion between hearing and listening. Research suggests that people listen to only 30% of what they hear.

Effective active listening requires hearing, understanding and interpreting. The best listeners give their undivided attention to the “speaker” and think of questions that can be asked in order to clarify understanding.

Using acknowledgement techniques like eye contact, smiling, nodding or saying “I see” as you listen confirm that you are paying attention.

Summarising and paraphrasing what has been said confirms your interest in the speaker and helps understanding.

A quick checklist on improving the standard of your listening would include:

  • Resist the urge to interrupt

  • Don’t be distracted by other events around you

  • Avoid allowing your mind to formulate what you want to say next

  • Allow people who are less articulate time to say what they want to say

  • Encourage the speaker – nods, smiles etc

  • Summarise what you think you have heard

Adopt the tips above and your listening will improve. As a result, you will understand your customers far better, while they will enjoy speaking to you and may well disclose more than they intended. Good luck!

Know Your Onions!

The training course included a checklist of 22 elements that needed to be covered during that first point of contact, and we were advised that the company regularly “mystery shopped” its offices to gauge the quality to which this key part of the job was being carried out. Having committed these checklist points to memory, I then ensured I dealt with every applicant every day on the premise that they might be the mystery shopper. After all, I was keen to do the job to the best possible standard and ensure that I made my mark on the company’s sales figures.

Nowadays, my training company conduct mystery shopper exercises for estate agency firms around the UK and the results are never less than fascinating. The original list of 22 key points, although many years old and slightly revised, still broadly forms the benchmark of how well these calls are handled, and the standard of follow up service delivered. The difference in quality between the best and worst is extraordinary. Feedback from proprietors, whether the calls and follow up are poor, fair, good or exceptional, is that the exercises are worth their weight in gold for illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the sales/letting operation within their businesses.

Most (but by no means all) agents will establish key contact information (names, initials and titles of all parties plus all telephone numbers and email addresses) and a general idea of what the applicant is looking for.

However, the real areas for concern are the depth of information gleaned and the lack of testing of the answers provided by the customer.

Assuming that an agent is striving for exceptional standards of selling techniques to maximise results, it is alarming that many areas of key information are missed – the reason for and specific timescale of the proposed move, for example.

Much of the facts established are not clarified – “I’m looking up to around &200,000 for a three bedroom property” is not good enough! These points must be tested with probing questions like “So if I found you a property that had everything you are looking for, but only had two bedrooms, you wouldn’t consider it?” and “If I found you the perfect property, what is the very maximum you would be prepared to pay for it?”. It is incredibly rare to hear these questions asked during our mystery shopper calls.

Similarly, when the applicant states that they have sold their property, the negotiators seldom dig deeply enough to find out the quality of that “sale”. The avoidance of establishing an applicant’s financial capability is also a regular shortcoming. This failure to check the detailed ability of the applicant will inevitably lead to missed opportunities by agents spending the wrong amount of time with the wrong people, or equally worryingly, failing to spot the real “money making” customers.

The above represent just a few of the criteria that are measured by the mystery shoppers. The most recent mystery shopper exercise saw a top score of 12 out of the possible 22 – the other offices involved scored less and in one case, only 5! This is not a level of acceptable performance. Fortunately, the proprietor in question has now invested in training with us to ensure we help address these problems on his behalf.

Qualifying applicants is a little like peeling onions...each layer of information you peel away reveals a bit more information to help you form a judgement as to how much time ought to be invested in them. Sadly, our mystery shopper exercises seem to prove that too many agents fail to peel away enough layers and therefore leave themselves reliant upon guesswork.

For further information or if you’d like the checklist, please contact me us on 01480 405583, email or follow me on Twitter @agencytrainer

Mind the gap…

The vast majority of attendees come to our courses with an appetite to learn and enhance their skills in what is undoubtedly a hotly competitive market place at present. Every now and then however, we encounter a delegate who really doesn’t want to be there. These people represent our greatest challenge, but nonetheless it is one we relish.

Some years ago, a gentleman arrived five minutes late for the start of the course (a classic sign of treating the event with disdain) and sat with his arms folded for the first hour. I invited responses from him now and then, which resulted in the odd grunt or monosyllabic answer. Just as the hour ticked past, I noticed him picking up the pen we had supplied him (having checked whether he had brought one with him – he hadn’t) and he made a short note on the paper in front of him. He was of course forced to unfold his arms to do so. They remained unfolded for a few minutes before he made another more detailed note. We then broke for coffee.

He approached me during the break, apologised for his late arrival and then explained that he had been in the business 39 years and had not understood why he was being “sent” on our course. He then almost floored me with the comment…”but I have to say that if the first hour is anything to go by, I wish I had been on this course 39 years ago.” An extraordinary change of attitude and one which remains a proud moment in my career! After all, I figured that if I could convert him, I could convert anybody!

I have had nobody of that extreme nature for many years, until last week as it happens. Again, the slightly late arrival, giveaway body language and sullen look did not require Sherlock Holmes to work out what was going on. There were a few possibly embarrassed squirms from other attendees at one or two comments made by the person in question.

The delegate was hard work but we made some headway during the day. We have a follow-up session with the same firm in a few weeks…it will be interesting to see if the person in question makes an appearance and their prevailing attitude if they do.

So why behave like that? I imagine it must centre upon the belief that they know it all, are perfect in all that they do and that any new ideas or refinements to their skills are unnecessary. I find this attitude hard to understand as my perception is that nobody reaches perfection in any walk of life, be it business, sport or any other area.

The best people in business have a thirst for new ideas, a ravenous appetite for new angles and approaches and a recognition of the “performance gap” that exists in all of us, namely the gap between our actual performance and perfection – training helps close that gap. The narrower the gap becomes, the better. Top sports performers have coaches who encourage slight tweaks and new ingredients to their play and style that can make the difference between winning gold or silver, being a champion or the runner-up.

That is why the best agents I meet across the country read avidly, seek better ways of doing things, engage with other practitioners via social media, and realise that 100% market share may be a pipe dream but look to edge closer to it by improving every day.

This is not meant a justification of why you should come on our training courses, but rather an attempt to make those agents who are fearful of change, who see no need to improve on their current skillset and who have the “We’re doing alright Jack” mentality to think more deeply, particularly in the face of a harder world and increasing competition.

After all, although it may seem a strange analogy, dinosaurs ruled the Earth many years ago, but their inability to adapt to the changing environment ultimately led to their demise. Let’s face it, you don’t see many dinosaurs around these days.

Apart from the very occasional one on our courses obviously.

Tour Dates 2017

We are running the following courses:
Surviving & Thriving in 2017 in
    Cheltenham on the 23rd May
Maximising Business Opportunities in a Challenging Market in
Newcastle on the 13th June
Manchester on the 15th June
London on the 20th June
Building an Exceptional Lettings Business in
Manchester on the 21st June.
Becoming an Exceptional Lettings Agent in
London on the 28th June
For more details please visit our website at or email the office at or give us a call on 01480 405583.