Summer newsletter from TM training & development

Summer newsletter from TM training & development

The challenges of the first half of 2017 are not going away any time soon. A backdrop of uncertainty, mixed messages on house prices, increased competition and fee wars are highly likely to continue for the rest of the year.

Challenging circumstances demand a change in behaviour and approach alongside the raising of standards and skills.

The articles below focus on best practice principles that ensure agents survive and thrive in tricky times.

Have a read and let us know which of the ideas you're going to implement and any other changes you've made to deal with your challenges.

As JFK said "Change is a way of life. Those who focus on the past and present are certain to miss the future."

No one will ever be a good valuer without self awareness

So what does that mean and why should it be top of the tree in terms of the ingredients of a valuer’s performance?

To answer that question, we first need to assign a clear definition to the concept of self-awareness.

Googling it throws up countless versions but it is perhaps best described as “having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.”

An integral part of emotional intelligence, self-awareness plays a massive part in achieving true skill development.

The best people I get to work with on the training side of our business are those who have a high level of self-awareness including an appetite for candid self-assessment to ensure real habit change. (As Epictetus put it: “Self-scrutiny applied with kindness.”)

Self-awareness means recognising that they are not perfect, that they have strengths and weaknesses that need to be harnessed and addressed respectively. And conversely, the most frustrating delegates on our courses are those suffering from a distinct lack of self-awareness which manifests itself in the “Why do I need to be on a training course?” attitude.

The irony here is that the very fact that question is being asked answers it!

Author Paul Jun puts it this way: “Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it can help you make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”

To apply this to our industry, a valuer lacking in self-awareness will blame all sorts of “externalities” for losing instructions (“the other agent overvalued it”, “my competitor offered them 1%”, “the vendor knows the other agent’s wife/ uncle/ milkman” etc etc) whereas the best highly self-aware valuers upon losing an instruction will go down the “thinking, reflecting” route, replaying the whole appraisal appointment and ask “Where did I go wrong?”

The importance of self-awareness in estate agency cannot be overstated yet the lack of it within many practitioners within the industry is alarming. The “blind spots” this issue creates represent a significant gap between what a valuer thinks they do and how they actually act.

I remember accompanying a valuer on an appraisal where he talked way too much. Many of you will have heard the old adage “Two ears, one mouth – use them in that proportion” – sadly this had passed the valuer in this case by.

At one point I timed him talking non-stop about his firm and their services for almost 20 minutes without seeking feedback, inviting questions or pausing for breath. The client looked increasingly bored during this experience and ushered us quickly out of the front door at the earliest opportunity.

Afterwards, I asked the valuer the classic coach question “How did you think that went?” to which the valuer replied: “Really well. That is the best presentation I’ve ever done.” He is no longer an estate agent.

Other examples of a lack of self-awareness I have witnessed in recent years in estate agency include: male estate agency owner asking a female estate agent how she managed to work long hours when she “had to get home to get dinner ready” (chauvinism always riles me); an overseas presenter at an industry conference making reference to his $700 suit (the “big I am” attitude never goes down well in my eyes); an agency director who refuses to give his business card to people at the start of meetings or valuations based on the fact that “if they don’t know who I am after me being in the town for 30 years, it is their own silly fault” (arrogance beyond belief); and people arriving late for courses having kept all the diligent, organised, punctual attendees waiting (lateness, particularly when not coupled with a sincere apology, speaks volumes about the culprit).

There are often examples in the trade press. Some of the comments to articles and news features I read … goodness me. A handful of people spend incalculable amounts of time posting their reactions and then getting upset at the reactions to their reactions! Vitriol, hot air, lashings of spelling mistakes … and to achieve what exactly?

I want to tell them to develop a bit of self-awareness, think before they comment, particularly about how they and their comments will be perceived, and also to consider spending this valuable time doing more productive things like reviewing customer phone calls, appraising staff or accompanying their valuers on appointments and coaching them to achieve higher standards.

That’s what I want to tell them. But I don’t. Because I heed Paul Jun’s words about “stopping yourself and admitting, ‘Wait a minute, I’m trolling right now because this person’s opinion just sucker-punched my ego, and I feel a visceral desire to tell this person they’re an idiot so I can feel better!’”

And if I have failed to convince you, I will leave the last word to Billie Jean King: “I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”

Are all Estate Agents really the same?

“I first saw the house advertised on Agent A’s website and rang them for further information. They said they would email me a full specification. After 3 days this hadn’t arrived so I called into their office and collected a hard copy brochure. Later in the day I phoned them to say I was interested in viewing that evening. They promised to phone me back within 10 minutes. I hadn’t heard anything by the time I was ready to leave work, so I gave them a chase and they called me back with an appointment. I think they had forgotten all about me.

 I fell in love with the house and went into their office the next morning (Wednesday) to put in an offer. I also asked them to come and put my house on the market, although the first time they could do it was the following Tuesday at 3.00pm.

 I was a bit disappointed by this and decided to get another agent out. I went into another estate agent (Agent B) in the town. There were two girls talking in a back office and I had to wait for about 5 minutes before they came out. I told them that I wanted to sell my house and asked that they send someone out to value it. They were unable to come until Monday.

 I spoke to friends on Thursday who told me I ought to get my house on the market quickly as I might lose the house I wanted to buy. I then decided to try one more agent. As I was passing a local agent called Agent C, I popped into the office. A very pleasant and friendly young lady stood up and immediately greeted me. She quickly found out my situation and said that I really needed to get things moving very quickly so as not to lose my house.

 Whilst we were talking, another gentleman came across and introduced himself as the person who would be coming out. I found him to be a very pleasant and professional man. To be honest I had already made my decision then, that I was highly likely to use them. He offered to come out later that day to fit in with me before I went away for the weekend.

 He arrived on time and asked me to tell him exactly what I wanted out of his visit. He also wanted to know what things, if any, gave me cause for concern. He asked me to show him round the property and suggested he measured up so that he was ready to get it onto the market.

 We sat at the dining table and he then asked me if there were any other questions before he moved onto explain how his Company could help me. I felt that he was well informed about the local market and he brought along details of other properties that were currently for sale on my estate, plus some that his firm had recently sold. We agreed that the house needed to be priced right to get a quick sale. I was expecting something between &260,000 and &270,000. He agreed with my thoughts and he suggested we ask &269,950. I was quite impressed by him and the interest shown to me by the other person in his office. I was particularly pleased compared to the experience I had with Agent A and Agent B.

 He tried hard to get me to make a decision to go ahead. I explained that my husband and I were going away for the weekend and I needed to speak to him about what had been discussed. In truth I had decided that we would use him to sell our house. We left it that I would speak again on Monday.

 When we got back on Sunday evening there was a message on the answerphone from Agent C saying that they hoped we had a good break and looked forward to speaking on Monday. We were very impressed by this and I went into his office first thing Monday to sign the agency agreement. I cancelled Agent A’s appointment but thought it might be interesting to see what Agent B had to say, even though I had signed with Agent C.

 Agent B’s manager arrived with a young person who he said was undergoing training. He told me that he knew we wanted to sell and that he would have a quick look round, then talk to me about selling. He seemed to rush round, took no measurements or notes, and then told me that the property should be put on the market at &295,000. I knew this was a daft price as none like my style of house had been that high. He said that his fees were 1.5% and although we could get cheaper, his Company didn’t cut corners. He said he’d leave me to think about it and call on Wednesday. He never asked me if I wanted to give it to his Company.

 He did call on Wednesday as agreed. He was somewhat surprised when I told him that I had given it to Agent C and already had an offer.

 I was annoyed by Agent A because when I called them to say I had sold my house they told me that I was too late as someone else had bought it. Needless to say I was very upset.

 There was a happy ending though. Agent C contacted a number of owners of properties like the one I was hoping to buy. Within three days, they had found one for me to view and to cut a long story short, we bought it and exchanged contracts last week.”


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 2017. Don’t leave it too late.

Tour Dates 2017

We are running the following courses:
Stars of Tomorrow in
    St Neots on the 22nd,23rd & 24th August.
(3 day course costing &499 plus vat)
Maximising Business Opportunities in a Challenging Market in
London on the 26th September
Manchester on the 27th September
Bristol on the 24th October
How to be an Exceptional Lettings Agent in
Manchester on the 18th October.
London on the 19th October.
Being an Exceptional Sales or Lettings Branch Manager in
London on the 8th November.
Manchester on the 9th November.
For more details please visit our website at or email the office at or give us a call on 01480 405583.