With instructions hard to come by for some agents in recent months, the second half of 2012 is a crucial period in which to increase levels of quality stock whilst being mindful of maintaining healthy fee levels. My recent journeys around the UK have already revealed pressure on fees as weaker agents cut commissions in a panic measure to get instructions on their books.
However, a number of my estate agency firm clients have grown their market share while simultaneously maintaining, and in some cases increasing, their fee levels.
This objective could be regarded as essential in 2012 as most predictions suggest that transaction levels will remain at far lower levels than we have enjoyed in the past. Most industry commentators suggest a continuation of pre-downturn levels of transactions of significantly less than 1m, compared to the heady days of 2007 when it was approximately 1.6 million.
So, with a smaller amount to go at, how can an agent ensure that they grab a big enough slice of the action?
Much of our recent training and consultancy assignments have centred agents’ instruction processes, breaking them down into the key component stages and then assessing the quality to which each of those stages is carried out.
In simple terms, the key stages are:
- Generating valuation appointments
- Booking the valuation appointment
- Preparation for the appointment
- The appointments itself
- Follow up and Closing
These stages vary massively in terms of how well they are undertaken, but it is a useful exercise to benchmark them against other agents around the country that we work with. To keep things simple, we rank the key stages either “Poor”, “Fair”, “Good” or “Exceptional”.
The whole premise of our current estate agency training is that “good is no longer good enough” – most agents who survived the last two years are probably at least “good” at what they do. However, it can be argued strongly that the agents who will really thrive and make good profits in 2012 and beyond will be those who are “exceptional” at all that they do.
Once it has been established the standard to which each stage is being handled, the training needs are instantly revealed and can be addressed by way of coaching or a group training session where applicable. Initial attention is obviously paid to the weaker parts of the process.
For example, one agent we worked with was getting plenty of enquiries and appointments but had a conversion rate to actual instructions of less than 35%. This revealed an issue with the valuers’ ability on the appointments themselves, particularly in terms of closing and overcoming resistance. Thus a training session subsequently addressed those weaknesses in that firm’s process.
On the other hand, a different company had a high conversion rate but were simply not getting called out to enough properties, so our main job was to look at the marketing and in particular the staff’s ability to gain valuation appointments from the opportunities that presented themselves.
In the latter case, it was alarming how the staff in the agents’ offices were sorely lacking in the skill of promoting their company’s USPs and differences to convince a local applicant with a property to sell to consider having that agent out to value their own. The staff did not fully understand the benefits in detail of their own firm’s services and even less so what their competitors offered.
As a result of identifying this issue, the staff were trained to “benefit sell” to an “exceptional” standard and to mystery shop their competitors to know completely what they were selling against. Almost immediately, the number of valuation appointments went up and those opportunities were converted into instructions by the valuers, ensuring that stock levels for the second half of the year are at an encouraging level.
There is a raft of further ideas that can be introduced to an agent’s culture to increase the number of instructions – feel free to email me, follow me on twitter or pick up the phone!
TM training & development
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