2013....unlucky for some?

2013....unlucky for some?



With just a few weeks of 2013 gone, there appears to be a large number of estate agents surfing on a new wave of optimism. Many of my client firms are reporting brisk business despite challenging weather.

Several house price and market reports (including Land Registry, Rightmove and the ONS) have offered up positive outlooks as to where values are going or will go in the next twelve months.

However, a dollop of caution is necessary as house price movement is something of a red herring for agents. Transaction numbers are our lifeblood. The number of residential sales across England and Wales in 2012 looks like being similar to 2011 (between 600,000 and 650,000), namely less than half the heady days of the pre-downturn years. Dividing the total residential sales by the number of estate agency branches makes grim reading as the figures suggest strongly that there are insufficient transactions to sustain the number of outlets.

The key to 2013 is to face that challenge by upskilling to seize a larger market share. Valuers need to be the best in the area to win more than their fair share of instructions. Negotiators need to be better than ever before at spotting and maximising sales opportunities.

These objectives are not met by willpower alone. It is time to train and coach staff to the highest possible level of performance. Call us and we will talk you through your options. 2013 is going to be a battle - make sure your troops are equipped for it!




New Year, New Challenge…

Julian says…

 

2013 is likely to be another challenging year for property-related businesses. Numbers of completed property transactions in England and Wales during each 2012 continue to be way down on the heady days of 2007 (less than half in many months), meaning that there may simply be insufficient residential estate agency sales income within the UK to sustain anywhere near the numbers of branches and firms that exist at present.

 

Just before Christmas, I reread my favourite non-fiction book “Moments of Truth” by Jan Carlzon – one that I first enjoyed many years ago and which has helped me improve the way I run my businesses more than any other.

 

As I devoured for the sixth or seventh time the words of wisdom on each of the 135 pages, it struck me that every estate agency proprietor should do the same.

 

Jan Carlzon took over Scandinavian Airlines in 1981 – a company on the verge of losing $20 million. One year later, it was making a profit of $54 million. That turnaround is quite extraordinary in both size and speed. Better still, the way he achieved it was simple and straightforward. It was all about understanding and maximising what he called the “moments of truth” – in other words, every single interaction that a customer has with a company, whether it lasts only a few seconds or more, needs to be a positive experience - better than they expected and better than the competition deliver.

 

I have run dozens of seminars on the “Moments of Truth” principles and encouraged estate agency proprietors and managers to apply them to their own operation. Conveniently the initials of “Moments of Truth” are “M.O.T.” – and by giving your business an annual “M.O.T.” in the same way as you do a car, you can ensure that your business is operating as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Those owners that have done so frequently report back that having carried out the three key stages of listing, reviewing and perfecting the “moments” that customers experience, an upturn in business levels inevitably follows.

 

Just listing the “moments” is a time-consuming task but an essential one. Think about sales and rental applicants and all the interactions they have with your firm from their first visit to your website, to contacting the branch, to receiving information from you, to arranging viewings and so on.

 

Vendors and landlords have a vast list of experiences with you from their first awareness of your brand, to booking a valuation appointment, to the appointment itself, to the point of instruction, to feedback calls and many many more.

 

Once these have all been listed, it is crucial to conduct a review to see exactly what your customer’s real experience is like (perhaps by way of “mystery shopper” exercises or customer feedback forms), and then to take steps to perfect each “moment”. The steps taken towards perfection need not cost any money – rather an investment of time, energy and diligence.

 

Once you embrace this concept (and ideally read the book!), you will find yourself experiencing your own “moments of truth” when you are a customer. I experience them daily – many are far from positive.

 

Recently I went into a well-known High Street bookshop (which I imagine is not having their most profitable period given the competition from online suppliers) to look for a particular book. Failing to locate it, I approached an assistant behind a till and asked if she could help me. I gave her the title and author. Without explanation (nor eye contact nor smile), she tapped away on her keyboard for two minutes or so, asked me again for the name of the book and who wrote it (mildly irritating) and finally handed me a small printed ticket. She then explained that I might find the book in “a number of places” in the shop, all of which I had already looked in. Finally, when I asked her whether she could confirm that they had it in stock, she told me their “system can’t tell us that”. Genius!

 

I went home and bought it online. In the most challenging of times for the retail sector, the shop has lost a transaction (and a future customer) in minutes. If only they stocked Jan Carlzon’s book and made their staff read it!

 

Julian O'Dell

TM training & development



2013 Tour Dates

Those dates and course details in full are...

"Gaining Quality Instructions" at Bristol on Wednesday 30th January 2013 (morning session).

For valuers, this course covers things an exceptional valuer needs to do before, during and after an appointment to win the business at the right price and on the right terms. The key objectives are improving conversion rates, securing appropriate asking prices and maximising fees. It has received amazing feedback and positively influenced the performance of all who have attended it.

 

"Selling In A Tougher Market" at Bristol on Wednesday 30th January 2013 (afternoon sesssion).

 For any staff who are responsible for dealing with applicants, securing viewings and valuations, and maximising business opportunities in challenging market conditions. This course shows how to raise the bar in terms of selling skills and techniques and has proven a resounding success.

 

"Leading Your Sales Team To Success" at St Neots, Cambridgeshire on Tuesday 19th February 2013.

 For anyone responsible for getting results from a team in a sales or lettings environment. This session focuses on best practice in leadership and man management, tips and techniques on how to get the best results from teams and individuals. It has proven to be a real eye opener to all levels of managers and directors. Not to be missed!

Each session costs &95 plus VAT per delegate, however delegates booking both sessions at the Bristol courses will get a reduced rate of &170 plus VAT to include lunch.

To book or for more information contact us on 01480 405583, email as at admin@tm-traininganddevelopment.co.uk or visit our website http://www.tmtraininganddevelopment.co.uk/online-booking.php

 



How are you doing?

A large slice of an estate agency leader’s time should be spent managing people, however it is dangerous to ignore the discipline of managing information which can assist in influencing performance in similar fashion to concentrating on staff.

 

As an industry, estate agency is fortunate insofar as there are whole rafts of data and statistics at our fingertips. An investment of an hour or two poring over facts and figures relating to office and individual performance may appear superficially to be a waste of a manager’s valuable time, yet those who do so typically find it enlightening and rewarding as it often highlights areas of weakness yet to be identified. This allows appropriate action to be taken before the problems are too great to solve.

 

Fundamental management information within estate agency includes the valuation appointments to instructions conversion rate, sole agency strike rate, fee levels, percentage of for sale boards on new instructions, instructions to sold instructions success, properties withdrawn without selling, number of applicants registered to mortgage appointments, number of viewings to offers, agreed sales to exchanges ratio, sales process time from offer to exchange and so on.

 

On my training and consultancy travels, it is alarming how many managers do not know any of the above information – and in some cases don’t actually know where to look to find it!

 

Those that do know, or seek it out having been made aware of its importance, find it useful to benchmark themselves against other offices within their firm and other estate agents’ figures elsewhere around the country. We provide these figures without attributing them to an identified company, and this information is often useful in helping establish a suitable target for the future.

 

One Company for whom we have carried out a lot of training over the past few years had a valuation to instruction conversion rate of 33% when we began our work with them. They had never measured this prior to our involvement, and we suggested that with the appropriate training and support, a conversion rate of 50% could be secured given what we had witnessed being achieved elsewhere. Following the figures through, achieving a 50% conversion rate (assuming other ratios such as instructions to sold instructions and agreed sales to exchanges remained broadly the same) would be directly responsible for an increase of approximately &40,000 extra income per calendar month as a result of the extra completions across the company in question. In fact, they are now achieving 52% so the bottom line is looking far healthier than before.

 

Calculating one’s own performance statistics and benchmarking those against others have proved to be very useful exercises for a vast number of my clients as it allows them to place their own company’s achievements into a broader context, and to readjust their aspirations as appropriate. Examples include an estate agency proprietor who explained with somewhat misplaced pride that his Company sold 20% of the properties they took onto their books – once he knew the context that there are firms comfortably achieving three and four times that success rate, he realised that his expectations needed to be revised. Similarly, a firm who typically saw 70% of their agreed sales fall through before exchange were surprised to hear that elsewhere 25% and lower was not uncommon. We provided the key players with relevant training which led to a huge reduction in cancelled sales, a crucial performance measure in the current climate.

 

A weekly check on appropriate websites will give you an immediate guide as to your firm’s instruction levels in comparison to other local agents. Land Registry figures broken down into relevant postcode areas also help measure effectiveness.

 

Another Company who started to monitor and measure the aforementioned range of data discovered an interesting insight into their valuers’ performance. In one particular office, the primary valuer, who carried out the majority of the valuations, and was widely regarded as having an admirable appointment to instruction conversion rate was actually pinpointed as a weak link in the process as his instructions to sold instructions ratio was horrendous. The second valuer whose conversion rate was not as good was adding far more to the bottom line as a much greater percentage of her instructions were selling – data helped paint the real picture and appropriate changes to working practices could be made accordingly.

 

In short, leaders should measure, monitor and above all manage the information that is available – they may not always like what they see, but the lessons learnt are critical steps on the road to continued survival.

 

Julian O'Dell

TM training & development

01480 405583

 

 



Getting through more doors…

It is important to raise your profile in the local area and ensure you are seen as a successful, proactive and above all better alternative to the competition. In short, you must be on every local vendor’s radar to ensure you are at least “in the frame” as their possible agent.

 

It will not necessarily mean that you will take on everything you are offered –prudent agents are declining instructions unless they enhance their available register. However, it is crucial to have the opportunity to make that choice by being invited in!

 

Wanted ads in the newspaper, the office window and on your website give local customers the message that you want their business. Generic leaflets and specific letters to appropriate local addresses work if constantly employed – however, this canvassing must be planned and constant.

 

Ensuring that the neighbouring community is made aware of every successful sale you agree locally by way of a regular newsletter or the delivery of “Sold in your area” leaflets will increase the chances of your firm being asked to future valuations. Currently, one client agent of ours even delivers “Another viewing on a property near you” leaflets after accompanied viewings to let the locals know they are active in that area.

 

“Farming” developments and villages is effective – displays in the village store, business cards left with hoteliers and publicans, support given to school events – these have all proven successful in building an agent’s business in those communities. Contact with previous customers who have bought and/or sold through your firm keeps your name in mind.

 

Beyond this background work, agents with large market shares are unsurprisingly those who focus on the provision of excellent service. All the staff recognise the concept that every vendor is a potential recommender and repeat customer, every applicant a future vendor, every tenant a future buyer.

 

Separating the local applicants with properties to sell from the rest of your database, and upping the level of service given to them in terms of telephone and email contact will help convince them that you are a more diligent and customer-focused agent than your competitors, leading to an increased chance of them employing you when the time is right.

 

Really outstanding firms also recognise that there are other “customers” to consider outside the obvious categories.

 

Anyone who interacts with your company should be seen as a customer – some of these relationships are less obvious but equally important.

 

How do you manage these “customers by association”? Firstly, it is important to identify who they are – the lady in the newsagents where you buy your paper, the tyre fitter who worked on your car last week, the board contractor, the office window cleaner to name but a few. These all represent future business and recommendations. In short, everyone you deal with should be viewed as potential business.

 

Secondly, these “customers” merit great service in the way they are handled. How much effort do the team make in creating rapport with the aforementioned examples? How do we conduct ourselves with them? Do they have an impression of our firm that would lead to them recommending us? Have we suggested that we would recommend their services in return for them recommending ours?

 

Poor service to less obvious “customers” loses business. An estate agency which sent staff on one of our seminars had not paid and were sent a polite reminder by email. Eventually, with payment still outstanding following a number of further reminders, a colleague of mine popped into the agent’s office with a copy of the invoice. It was finally paid the following week – over three months after the seminar.

 

The company were unaware that during this saga, I was asked by a relative to recommend an agent who would be suited to selling three newly built homes in that area. The delay in payment of our invoice led me to only three possible conclusions about the agent in question – that they were disorganised, that they could not afford to pay the invoice (less than &300.00) or finally that they were simply avoiding payment. None of these conclusions made me feel comfortable in recommending them, so the business went elsewhere – I am not party to the detail of the terms the other agent agreed with the developer but the fees will amount conservatively to over &8000.

 

The message for this market is simple – “Get your own house in order, in order to get houses…”

 

Julian O'Dell

TM training & development

 



Thought for the day ...

"For every sale you miss because you're too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you're not enthusiastic enough." - Zig Ziglar