Summer Newsletter

Summer Newsletter


The challenges of the first half of 2019 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.'


Are you receiving me?

I dialled the number in response to a message left 20 minutes earlier by the proprietor of an estate agency wishing to book a training course. (The names have been changed for the purpose of this article.)

“Aardvark and Co,” said a flat, disgruntled male voice.

“Hi, please can I speak to Alan Aardvark?” I inquired.

“He’s not in,” replied Flatboy Grim.

“Oh…I’ll call back later then,” I suggested.

“OK. Bye,” came the response, followed by an abrupt clunk as the phone was put down.

An interesting if frustrating experience, this call was a reminder that arguably the most powerful tool of our trade – the telephone – is too often in untrained hands.

In this example, the negotiator had no idea who the caller was. Fortunately, it cost his company no business.

But I could have been a potential vendor, recommended by a friend to use Aardvark and Company.  Having been treated in such a fashion, a potential vendor would be justified in appointing a different agent, possibly costing Aardvark and Company thousands of pounds in commission.

It is almost certain that Flatboy Grim wasn’t deliberately trying to do his job badly. What is certain, however, is that Mr Aardvark would be mortified to discover that, having ploughed large sums of money into marketing to get the phone to ring in the first place, potential customers were being handled in this fashion.

On my travels delivering training and conducting consultancy work, I find that telephone skills are often below par. Estate agency clients typically estimate that between 60 and 90 per cent of new customers make initial contact by telephone.

It is critical to understand that this statistic means the majority of potential buyers and sellers will gain their first impression of estate agents without being able to see their sparkling offices, striking window displays and pristine staff. These new customers will judge the agent initially by how their call is handled.

Excellence in telephone techniques is a vast subject, but these points should be observed:

  • Be prepared. Many of the mystery shopper telephone calls we conduct requesting property details to be sent are first met with “Hang on a minute..” or “Bear with me…” as we are then put on hold to endure Greensleeves or left listening to scrabbling sounds as pens are sought or computers switched on. Excellent preparation should mean that the taker of an incoming call is ready to deal with it without hesitation.
  • A prompt response. Answering within three rings seems to be a sensible and recognised standard. Even when sitting with a client in an office, while colleagues are busy on other lines, a negotiator can politely break off and answer the call, explaining to the caller that he/she is unable to help immediately – but taking a name and number and promising a call back within an agreed timeframe – then obviously making that return call as promised.
  • More difficult than it sounds especially if a sale has just fallen through, but customers like dealing with people who are enthusiastic in their work. A smile conveys that impression.
  • Positive greeting. The words, tone and pace all need to be considered. Many companies adopt a greeting that includes the employee’s names and an open question such as “How can I help you?”
  • It may sound obvious, but there are countless examples from our mystery shopper exercise of failure to listen. How about this recent classic…

“Hello, Bloggs and Co…”

“Hi. My name is Mr O’Dell and I’ve seen a property on the internet that I’d like more information on please.”

“Certainly, sir. May I take your name?”

Concentrate on the caller’s opening words, make notes and clarify any uncertainty. Ignore the distractions going on in the office and focus totally on the caller.

 

Best practice

There are dozens of other points to consider when adopting excellence on the telephone, but just the few above would have helped Aardvark and Company in the event that the call had been from a potential vendor…

“Good morning. Aardvark and Company, how may I help you?”

“Hi, please may I speak to Alan Aardvark?”

“I’m terribly sorry, sir, he won’t be back in the office until tomorrow. My name is Simon. Can I be of any help in the meantime?”

“Well, you’ve been recommended to me by a friend of mine. I’m thinking of selling my house…”

“Excellent. Thanks for considering us. We’d be delighted to help. What I’ll do is take some details if you’re OK for time, and arrange and appointment for Alan to come and see you as soon as is convenient for you. Please may I take your name?”

 

Another instruction on the way, another future sale, another commission earnt…all because of excellent telephone techniques.



Tour Dates

24th July 2019

Coventry

Essential Selling Skills in 2019

Half Day £109 plus Vat

 

24th July 2019

Coventry

Essential Listing Skills for 2019

Half Day £109 plus Vat

 

25th July 2019

Cardiff

Essential Selling Skills in 2019

Half Day £109 plus Vat

 

25th July 2019

Cardiff

Essential Listing Skills in 2019

Half Day £109 plus Vat


12th September 2019

London

Stars of Tomorrow - Becoming a Star Valuer
 
Full Day £225 plus vat

 

24th/26th September 2019

St Neots (Cambridgeshire)

Stars of Tomorrow

3 Days £499 plus vat

 

1st October 2019

Manchester

Make More Mortgage Appointments

Half Day £109 plus vat

 

2nd October 2019

Coventry

Make More Mortgage Appointments

Half Day £109 plus vat

 

9th October 2019

London

How to be an Exceptional Lettings & Management Agent in 2019

Full Day £225 plus vat

 

16th October 2019

 Bristol

Make More Mortgage Appointments

Half Day £109 plus vat


16th October 2019

London

Leading Teams to Success (Sales & Lettings)

Full Day £225 plus vat

 

23rd October 2019

Manchester

Make More Mortgage Appointments

Half Day £109 plus vat

 

30th October 2019

Newcastle

Make More Mortgage Appointments

Half Day £109 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/

 

 



The X Factor

Transaction numbers are the crucial factor and estate agents have to accept that the size of the sales market has condensed to a figure that is unlikely to grow for some considerable time.

Of course, those that survived the last downturn can pride themselves for having done so while a vast number of their competitors have failed. There is no doubt that these agents are each of a reasonable standard, for they would not have survived if they weren’t. However, good is no longer good enough. If the market proves as difficult as many commentators expect in the next few years, it is time for agents to establish their X factor and stand out from the crowd and thereby win a greater share of their diminished market. In short, it is time to be exceptional.

There are many fundamental principles that exist in thriving agents, two of which are that they have a clear set of agreed performance targets and hold regular sales-focused team meetings. Agents without these elements in place tend to lack a unified vision and direction, and on occasion a healthy team ethic.

If every team member understands what needs to be done to keep their business profitable, they can all ensure that they contribute to the overall team performance. This knowledge of what has to be done and the continued awareness of the correlation between performance and target fuels motivation and also helps prevent staff from becoming distracted with thoughts about the future safety of their job

Companies who took this arguably radical step to make their business strategy more transparent among staff in the last downturn describe the move as an essential element of their survival strategy.

 

A daily, or at least regular, team meeting allows business owners or managers to fulfil a number of their key duties in one hit. A good team leader motivates, communicates, organises, problem solves and prioritises, which is all possible during a well-run team meeting.

But it is easy for these meetings to drift along and leaders to go through the motions without achieving their objective, which is why they must ensure they focus on business opportunities,

Leaders’ primary objective must be to review all hot buyers and to ensure everything possible (beyond relying on a software match) has been done to find them a suitable property by reviewing previous valuations, forthcoming valuations, withdrawals and targeted leaflet drops. Every hot buyer represents a sales opportunity – if your company does not do absolutely everything in its power to create a sale to them, that buyer will do business with a competitor, leaving you with one sale less with which to deal and one less prospective recommendation. Replicate that scenario a few times and the result is frightening.

 

Spending time with the right applicants is crucial, but it requires staff to understand the right applicants with whom to spend time. This is based on an agent’s ability to qualify and categorise effectively new applicants.

It is vital that agents understand how to sort the wheat from the chaff and actually do so on a regular basis and in a consistent manner. I’ve lost count of the negotiators I continue to come across who are unable to show me their top 10 buyers without considerable hesitation and trawling through the applicant database on their computer.

I come from a generation where as a successful salesperson I knew my best prospects from memory, often taking their information with me to valuation appointments so that when I had signed up the instruction I could stop at a phone box en route back to the office to call my applicants and line up viewings before my colleagues even knew the house was on the market. This may be considered an archaic approach when the computer can match the new instruction in seconds and provide a list of all potential buyers, but when that list runs to dozens and sometimes hundreds of people I know for a fact that many agents resort to blanket emailing. Successful agents will be those who can harness the positives of both manual and computerised sales approaches to ensure that no sales opportunity is ever missed.

 

Exceptional agents also understand their vendor clients better than ever before, and they do this by simply honing in on them as people and not on their property.

Successful listers are typically those who spend more time with potential clients, getting to understand them as people, establishing their real reasons or problems behind the move and ultimately demonstrating that they will be the best agent to find a way to help them move and put their problems behind them. It is this skill of rapport building that has come to the fore in an uncertain market – vendors are confused and need clarity of answers; winning their trust is critical to an agent’s success.

This approach stands them in good stead as they battle for instructions against competitors who are resorting to overvaluing and undercutting on fees. These tactics are dubious in any market, but as it tightens they become highly dangerous. Agents who ceased trading in the last downturn tended not to be those who priced their instructions correctly and charged appropriate fees for doing a thorough job.

 

Can you honestly say you do a thorough job? I hear some horror stories of agents spending 15 minutes or less valuing a detached property, arriving late or on the wrong day, failing to tell the vendor anything about the housing market or how they reached their valuation figure, claiming that they have not lived in the area long, or taking a week to send a valuation letter.

The common denominator throughout these tales is that they were all told to me by the agents who successfully won the instruction in the face of such inept competition. Listers who are winning instructions at the right price and the right fee are inevitably the most knowledgeable about the local and national property markets. Thus, agency bosses should endeavour to keep their staff up-to-date with key national and local market data so that it can be used to inform and impress customers.

 

There is a raft of other best practice ideas that I have witnessed across the market that have made a positive difference to agents’ sales performance, including putting offers forward to vendors in person, supported by evidence about why the offer should be seriously considered if indeed it should, and securing more mortgage appointments as a means by which to vet applicants to ensure they can put their money where their mouth is. A structured approach to vendor care calls is also essential – poorly-trained staff can do more harm than good.

The time has come to identify what is exceptional business practice, to instil it, to monitor it and to reinforce it until it becomes habit. Agents who do so will be equipping themselves for the challenging times ahead, leaving those who don’t venerable prey to superior competition.



Follow the Leader

Manly newly promoted managers rapidly lose confidence in themselves and often end up stepping down and taking a lower ranked position at a competitor agency. This is far from ideal for the original firm and the lack of training investment is the main contributory factor.

One of the most lively and interesting discussions that often takes place on our management training courses relates to the essential qualities of excellent managers. Delegates are asked to consider the best manager they have worked for and to highlight the single most important attribute that makes that person so good. Frequently, the fact that the outstanding manager was seen to ‘lead by example’ is cited as the characteristic that is most significant to a manager being deemed to be excellent. Therefore, this is a trait that all leaders should understand and aspire to.

As a manager, you cannot fail by setting an example – however, the crucial point is whether it will be a good or bad one! Nobody I have encountered will set out deliberately to do the latter, but accidents happen. The staff’s perception is all important in this area.

It is interesting to note that managers are a little bit like football referees – supporters rarely talk about a referee who has had a good game, whereas discussions about bad refereeing can rumble on for weeks after the final whistle. In the working arena, staff may not be aware of a manager setting a good example, but they will almost certainly notice, and possibly comment on, a bad one.

People take in information more through their eyes than their ears – therefore what managers do has a far greater impact than what they say. However, what is said obviously has a degree of importance and must dovetail with what is done. Any mixed message in this area of a manager’s role will cause at best confusion and at worst resentment. The manager who demands the provision of a high standard of customer service by their team will doubtless experience problems if staff witness a failure on the part of that manager to return a client’s call. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ will lead to failure.

The least successful managers I have encountered have frequently been guilty of the misconception that once they have secured their management status, they can take their foot off the gas as they have ‘arrived’. A key lesson for a successful manager is that management is an activity not a status! It is no coincidence that many estate agency staff display behaviour that they have absorbed directly from the person who manages them.

For example, the proprietor of an estate agency firm was recently bemoaning the sickness record at one of his branches, which was leading to unsatisfactory sales performance. It came as no surprise that the manager of that branch had the worst attendance record of any of the company’s management team – leading to the culture in that branch of absenteeism through illness being accepted as the norm. Interestingly enough, a member of the team from that office had been transferred to another branch and despite some early sickness issues had just achieved a full calendar year of attendance – something they had never got remotely close to at the previous office. The manager of the second office had not been off sick for over two years.

Leading by example often means leading from the front. A mountain guide does just that to communicate to his party the direction and speed at which they must go. In an estate agency environment, a personal willingness to go out in front and ‘get your hands dirty’ achieves the same result. However, time must also be invested in the other functions of leadership, such as planning, monitoring and checking. In short, managers must recognise that they will have to work harder than any of the people they are leading.

The standards set by a leader will be the standards which are achieved by their team. Punctuality, appearance, administration, customer service levels are all key examples within our industry. A manager arrived late for a training course recently, putting his tie on as he entered the room and then asked to borrow a pen…several members of staff were present and I couldn’t help but wonder what they had gleaned from their manager’s conduct.

Examples are contagious. Children imitate behavioural examples, and adults retain that characteristic. By setting the right example, managers will gain respect, avoid accusations of hypocrisy and ultimately achieve a climate of teamwork and unity.

As Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary of the United Nations said, “Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated”.