A long hot Summer or a long hard one?

A long hot Summer or a long hard one?


We are loving the hot weather here at TM training & development's HQ but we know that the market in many parts of the country has cooled down in terms of activity quite significantly. More competition, instructions hard to come by, fee wars and many buyers playing a "wait and see" game adds up to some severe challenges for estate agents to adapt to and overcome. The articles in this newsletter are directly geared to helping defeat those challenges. So buy yourself a Cornetto (other ice creams are available - but hey - they are not as good are they?), pull up a lounger in your garden this evening before or after the footie, read and enjoy.



<strong>Are your customers sufficiently disturbed?</strong>

The property market is somewhat unpredictable at present and many agents are facing up to some severe challenges. There seems to be a considerable amount of uncertainty as a backdrop, arguably created or at least exacerbated by Brexit and general economic uncertainty.

The media will always seek out a story about house prices as it makes for reliable readership numbers – after all, everyone wants to know what the housing market is doing, don’t they? Problem is, the storytellers are sourcing their information from a wide base and ending up contradicting each other (and sometimes themselves!) due to the variances of data published. For those of us within the industry, these mixed messages may raise a wry smile or create a sense of irritation. For the wider public, they simply perpetuate confusion and uncertainty as to what the property market is doing.

Confusion can lead to lack of housing market activity. People tend not to act unless they are “disturbed” – thus there is a new and necessary skill for many estate agents to develop as the market has done the job of “disturbing” buyers and/or sellers in the past whereas currently we are in a market where many people can simply “wait and see”. In short, whereas historically the public were "disturbed into action" by market forces (particularly rapidly rising or falling prices), many are now sitting on the hands in a state of inertia fuelled by the aforementioned media-driven confusion - in other words, "I am waiting to be unconfused before I do anything"...or put simply, that no action is better than taking action they are unsure of.

When I look back on my own house moves over the past 30 years, it is patently clear that those moves that went the distance were driven by a state of “disturbance”. My first time buy was solely based on a fear of missing the boat, whilst a sale some years later was agreed with a smile despite the price being many thousands of pounds less than I paid for it prior to the early 1990’s price plummet. The smile was linked to the fact that another week or two and even more of my precious equity would have evaporated.

There is an old adage in selling – “Emotion creates motion” – in other words where there is an underlying emotion, people will move. Agents have to identify those clients and customers who are motivated and as importantly, what the true nature of that motivation is.

Customers act to achieve a goal and/or to avoid a penalty – for example, people are driven to move by the goal of giving their children a better lifestyle/safer environment or by fear of financial loss. Equally, house buyers may have a goal of making their life easier by living closer to work or to an ailing relative, or by the penalty of not seeing their grandchildren grow up or by continuing to live next door to noisy neighbours.

If a negotiator can establish the perceived penalties and/or goals behind the possible house move, he/she can use that information to “disturb” the customer to act.

“Disturbing” customers is a higher level skill and is built upon a strong foundation of broad industry knowledge. If a customer simply thinks you are trying to cajole them into increasing their offer, reducing their price, putting their property on the market now rather than next year or moving out into rented to break the chain, simply so that you secure a bit of business for yourself, your suggestions will fall on deaf ears.

However, if the customer is sufficiently convinced by your knowledge, authority and advice, you are far more likely to succeed.

A relationship of trust is essential – the use of an empathetic approach “If I were in your shoes, I’d probably do this…” works brilliantly if the customer trusts you, but fails dismally if they don’t!

Confident salespeople will use carefully worded questions to gently get the customer to think about the repercussions of not taking action.

“What will happen if you miss out on that property…?”

“As you’ll know, there is 10% less property for sale now than there was a year ago…”

“What will the implications be if house prices do fall next year…?”

“I would hate to see you reach a situation where…”

“Are you confident that you will secure a better offer than this one…?”

"What would be the impact if you were still unsold at the end of the year?"

“I’d hate you to miss out on the perfect property because you weren’t in a position to go ahead…”

 

The market demands exceptional salespeople rather than order takers or polite dispensers of information. The skill of “disturbing” customers sets the best agents apart from their competition and gets results.

 

Do not disturb at your peril!

 



Take care of your clients…before someone else does!

Failure to proactively contact existing vendors, in an effort to maintain and improve the relationship and to enhance saleability where necessary leads to complaints, negative comments about your firm in the community and a huge potential cost to your business in terms of your reputation and the money spent on marketing unsaleable instructions.

 

There are a number of key elements to tackle:

 

1) Staff attitude. Office teams mourn a collapsed sale, however may only be mildly miffed when a vendor withdraws to try another agent. These events must be treated with equal concern – both lead to potential lost income.

Further to this, valuers faced with two calls to return, one from a disgruntled vendor and the other from an unknown person considering putting their property on the market, will often call the new client before the existing one. This is questionable prioritisation.

 

2) Staff training. I witnessed a really interesting incident at an agent’s morning meeting recently. With the meeting in full flow and with all staff participating and seemingly up for the day’s challenges, there was a marked change in body language when today’s “client care calls” were about to be distributed. The visible “shrinking” by the staff made it clear that they were not looking forward to this element of their work. After the meeting I asked the manager what training and coaching had been provided to his team on this skill area – the answer was “none”.

The team must be guided on preparing for the conversation (setting appropriate objectives, relevant evidence to support those objectives, how the call should be structured, how to overcome resistance etc) – this will in turn build the negotiator’s confidence in getting a result. Too many calls are merely a PR exercise attempting to keep the client happy for a week or two.

 

3) Client Care System. Whether computerised, manual or hybrid, a reminder system is essential to flag up all available properties for review. Many agents fail to maintain such a system, leaving vendors to go for lengthy periods without contact. Research has shown that vendors switch agents due to lack of communication as much as failure to sell.

 

4) Managing client expectations. If a new vendor is left with unrealistic service expectations, the agent will rapidly fall into the “overpromising/underdelivering” trap, leading to early problems. Clarity at the point of instruction is crucial.

 

5) Client/Agent relationship. Trust is the key, with the most trusted agent likely to be successful in securing the initial instruction. However, that relationship of trust must be maintained. The agent who fails to upload to the portals quickly and accurately, to include the property in any other promised marketing, to erect a board or produce high quality photographs and floorplans will soon lose that client’s trust, increasing the likelihood of the vendor looking elsewhere. Exceeding client expectations is best practise.

Furthermore, if the vendor has rapport with the whole sales team rather than just the valuer, increased client loyalty is more likely. Such rapport can be achieved by different team members conducting and providing feedback on viewings, or simply visiting the property to make selling it an easier task and conversing with the client while doing so.

 

6) Proactive client contact. With the right system, attitude and training in place, the best agents can proactively provide their vendors with updates to maintain their relationship and client satisfaction. Inviting the client into the office or visiting them to discuss progress have proved far more effective than telephone calls.

These visits/calls also serve as an opportunity to enhance saleability not necessarily by way of a price adjustment but also through improved viewing access, suggested improvements/changes to the property itself, securing a mortgage appointment or a for sale board.

 

Vendors gain a heightened awareness of the efforts their agent is making to achieve a sale ensuring they are less susceptible to “jumping ship”.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

When I was a Partner and valuer at our estate agency, we hoovered up instructions from our competitors who had failed to meet clients’ expectations. The biggest reason for the switch to us? Lack of communication and contact from the previous agent.

 

Estate agents must understand that an existing instruction that has been rendered more saleable by way of achieving your client care call objectives and improved trust, loyalty and motivation of the vendor is as good as, if not better than, a new one.



Is it finally coming home?

Football managers are well paid to achieve exceptional teamwork. Estate agency managers may not earn quite so well, but their responsibility is much the same.

         

A team can been defined as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.

 

Managers who wish to get the best possible level of sustained performance from their teams must first recognise that this is unlikely to be achieved overnight. It is widely accepted that teams go through various evolutionary stages before reaching peak performance.

 

Firstly, the “forming” stage is when the team initially comes together and everyone is very polite and reserved. There is an initial lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities. Conflict can exist beneath the surface but remains unspoken in these early days. Discussion is limited since no one wishes to be seen as foolish. Watch the early days of the reality show “Big Brother” to see this stage in evidence!

 

Then, typically, “storming” within the team occurs: alliances form and difficulties arise through differences of opinion and “muscle-flexing”. The team is ineffective and results are unsatisfactory. This is a stage which sees conflict and problems arise. Oneupmanship and point-scoring at the expense of colleagues is typical.

 

Slowly, as confidence and trust begin to grow, the team enters the “norming” stage in which working processes, team and individual objectives are agreed and understanding of all members’ roles is clarified. Co-operation and the valuing of each other’s opinions and contributions begin to be seen. The effectiveness of the team begins to increase. Discussions and contributions are more open and honest.

 

Eventually, the team enters the “performing” stage where they are firing on all cylinders. There is recognition and allowance of each other’s weaknesses and identification of how to employ the individual team members’ strengths to achieve optimum results. There is a high degree of flexibility, compromise and support. As a “performing” team, they become far more effective than the sum of their individual efforts.

 

Many estate agency managers are team-orientated leaders who recognise the importance of maintaining team spirit and blending individuals with the appropriate mix of strengths and skills. However, on occasions, this team ethos can go too far, whereby a blurring of relationships between manager and team members can lead to a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere without defined leadership. This situation is particularly prevalent where a manager has been promoted from within the team. These environments often fail to deliver results because there is more focus on fun than on the tasks that need to be fulfilled to drive out results. What the manager says is no longer respected. In football, it is often known as “losing the dressing room”.

 

An effective manager will be one who identifies the above principles and works hard to accelerate his or her team through the four team development stages to reach “perform” as quickly and smoothly as possible.

 

The following managerial functions will assist in achieving this goal:

 

  1. Planning – Define clear team and individual objectives, targets and behavioural standards. Identify specific roles and responsibilities for all individuals. Ensure that all team members are clear on all these factors (for both themselves and their colleagues) through effective communication in team briefings supported by unambiguous (preferably written) guidelines.

 

  1. Monitoring – Pay particular attention to early activity and results. Reinforce any of the principles covered in the “planning” stage which appear to have been misinterpreted or ignored. Seek ongoing feedback from team members on how they feel their own and the team’s performance are progressing. Spot and record examples of good and poor teamwork. Encourage and support the team and individuals, recognise and reconcile disagreements. Create opportunities for the team to meet away from the workplace to build relationships and team spirit.

 

  1. Checking – After a predetermined period of time, review all team-related results, particularly considering the four stages of team development. Revisit the planning stage to assess success or failure of objectives – revise any elements within the initial planning stage as necessary.

 

The life of an estate agency manager is a challenging one – however, with an effective team, the rewards can be fantastic. Let us hope that Gareth Southgate applies all the key teambuilding principles, gets England to continue to “perform” and leads them to glory in Russia.



Tour Dates

19th September 2018

London

How to be an Exceptional Lettings Agent

Full Day &225 Plus vat

 

20th September 2018

Bristol

Managing Your Team in a Tougher Market (Sales & Lettings)

Full Day &225 Plus Vat

 

27th September 2018

Manchester

Selling Properties in a Tougher Market

Half Day &109 Plus Vat

 

27th September 2018

Manchester

Winning Quality Instructions in a Tougher Market

Half Day &109 Plus Vat

 

2nd October 2018

London

Selling Properties in a Tougher Market

Half Day &109 Plus Vat

 

2nd October 2018

London

Winning Quality Instructions in a Tougher Market

Half Day &109 Plus Vat

 

10th October 2018

St Neots (Cambridgeshire)

Stars of Tomorrow

3 Day Course &499 Plus Vat

 

To book or for more information please contact us on 01480 405583, email us at linda@tmtd.training or

 visit our website https://www.tmtraininganddevelopment.co.uk/tour-dates/

 

 



Breaking News!

TM training & development are delighted to have heard from one of our longstanding client firms Thomas Morris that our involvement in a five month project has resulted in an increase in valuation to instruction conversion rate of  33.3%.

 

TM training & development's role in the project included helping identify valuers' specific training needs by designing and providing a 42 point "Conducting an exceptional valuation appointment" checklist which was then used by senior management on observed visits, then subsequently putting together two high impact training sessions to directly deal with all key issues and areas for improvement.

 

Thomas Morris Director Simon Bradbury said "We have a long association with Peter Chapman and Julian O'Dell of TM training & development and their training forms a key part of staff development and performance management. I am very pleased that their involvement in this project, alongside some other key initiatives that we have implemented, has had such a tangible and ultimately profitable result."

 

If you are interested in more detail around how TM training & development can help you in improving your conversion rate, please get in touch with Julian on 07718 634235 or Peter on 07982 073626.