New Tour Dates Announced

New Tour Dates Announced

Two new training course dates have just been added to our schedule. On Wednesday 20th June at the St Neots training centre we will be running our popular "Supervisory Management Skills" for business owners and branch managers and on Tuesday 3rd July the tour will be going to Manchester, where the training course will be "Winning Quality Instructions", ideal for valuers of all levels of experience as it focuses on how to gain more business on the best possible terms.

"Your enthusiasm and positive method of presenting is infectious and your ability to engage and challenge even the most experienced agents is extremely valuable to anyone who makes the effort to apply the principles and content you delivered on the day. The fact that you are a successful practising agent provides a unique perspective" - Roger Wilkinson, Wilkinson and Grant.

All places are £95 plus vat per person and can be booked via our web site at

Winning quality instructions

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!


Julian O'Dell

TM training & development

Twitter ID: @agencytrainer

Telephone: 01480 405583

Decisions, Decisions...



I am regularly called by estate agents seeking an objective view on decisions they need to make on a whole range of issues from whether they should close a branch to how to change their staff commission scheme for the better.


One of my clients called me for some advice a while back when faced with an unusual decision he had to make, which might seem trivial but which was important to get right. One of his staff had requested that he be allowed to leave the office 40 minutes early every Wednesday evening to watch his son play football. My client was uncertain whether to grant his wish. We had a conversation around this challenge and talked through how he might deal with it.


Like most issues in business, if one has a clear process to follow, one tends to reach an acceptable end result.


Help is at hand in the form of a recognised process – the 5 Cs of decision making – which ensures valid choices are made and problems with erroneous decisions are avoided.


Firstly, it is important to CONSIDER. This is a time for reflection and contemplation on a whole raft of elements pertaining to the scenario upon which a decision needs to be taken. Full knowledge of all the facts relating to the decision must be researched and deliberated. Consideration must be given to all the options that could be taken and critically all the potential implications and outcomes of these options. Previous decisions made within similar situations (and the success or failure thereof) should be referred to, as should the parameters of one’s authority and indeed any legal implications, company policies and procedures.


The second stage is to CONSULT. Anybody potentially affected by the imminent decision may see an angle that the manager himself/herself has missed. An element of consultation with fellow managers/directors who have found themselves with similar dilemmas could prove invaluable as they will be able to advise on the result of previous experience. Running certain decisions by legal and technical experts may also be valid.


The third stage is the CRUNCH. This is the point at which a decision needs to be made. It is possible here that a manager may have to decide that he/she is unable to make a decision and therefore has to resort to further CONSIDERATION and CONSULTATION before doing so.


Fourthly, the manager must COMMUNICATE the decision. All parties that are likely to be affected must have the decision clearly explained with an element of rationale attached. Anybody else who may hear about the decision through a company grapevine should also receive the decision through a more reliable medium be it a meeting, email, letter or telephone call. Language used must be unambiguous to ensure clarity of understanding. Lastly, out of courtesy, those who were consulted earlier in the process should benefit from the knowledge of the ultimate conclusion.


Finally, as with many key areas in management, there needs to be a CHECK. At an appropriate, prescheduled future point, the validity of the decision must be verified. What was the outcome? Had all consequences been foreseen and positive? Was it the right decision? If the answer to that final question is in the affirmative, then it is time to draw a line and move on…if not, then it is back to stage one and another trip through the 5 Cs.


Out of interest in the case above, following the call, the manager considered everything involved, consulted several parties including myself, crunched the decision (in fairness, taking probably the less easy option- he had declined his member of staff’s request to leave early, citing the potential disruption to the office and the dangerous precedent that would be set, potentially encouraging other staff to raise similar issues. He had however, agreed that his team should structure the diary each Wednesday to allow the member of staff in question to leave bang on time and watch the second half of his son’s football matches), communicated it (the employee, whilst not overjoyed, seemed to respect and understand the decision) and will no doubt check the outcome in the future, although I understand that it is so far, so good.


Julian O'Dell

Thought for the day...

"People do what you inspect, not what you expect..." - Lou Gerstner