Time for the final push...

Time for the final push...


As we reach the final quarter of 2013 many of our client firms are seeing continued excellent sales performance, but with that comes challenges for a vast number of agents in terms of stock levels. If this issue is affecting you, it is crucial to understand and review your agency's "instruction process" to make sure you are performing at every key stage and winning the lion's share of available properties in your area. Our first article will give you some ideas that will help....

Stock is key to success…

On my travels around the country, the market seems better than for a long while pretty much everywhere – the only difference from one area to another seems to be the degree to which lack of stock is an issue. One office literally ran out of sales stock a few weeks ago, while another has circa 20 when the norm is between 60 and 70. While these situations are partly as a consequence of great sales figures, it is patently obvious that such results cannot be sustained without available stock of the right quantity and quality.

The “Instruction Process” is worth revisiting whatever the market conditions as your performance as an company within that process will shed some light on where your future focus should be. The process comprises ten key stages for winning and retaining stock –

ü  Opportunities and Connections

ü  Generating Appraisals

ü  Booking Appraisals

ü  Preparation for Appraisals

ü  The Appraisal Appointment itself

ü  Immediate Follow Up

ü  Ongoing Contact

ü  Point of Instruction

ü  Client Management

ü  Future Customer Relationship Management

These ten stages are all critical to success and every agency will have different approaches, procedures and challenges at each.  However, the fact remains year in year out, that the agent who performs differently to and better than their competitors at each of the ten stages will win the lion’s share of instructions available in their area.

The first step is to analyse objectively where your agency sits in terms of calibre and differentiation at each of those stages. It is impossible to formulate an action plan to help you get to where you want to go without knowing where your starting point is.

I have just carried this exercise out with a couple of agents and the issues that needed addressing were different for each. One was simply not getting through enough doors while the other had issues over converting appointments into instructions. Subsequently the planned course of action for each agent was geared to their specific shortcomings. There is no “one size fits all” approach…

Having said that, most of the hundreds of valuers I have trained in recent years are now doing an exceptional job when they are given the opportunity to do so. It is the lack of opportunity that is the main battle. Therefore, the first two stages of the “Instruction Process” may well be the two to pay special attention to at present.

The first stage of the process – “Opportunities and Connections” – relates to how successful your firm is at being in the hearts and minds of the local property owning public. Are you on their radar? If a poll was taken among your local residents as to who was the most active agent or which agents’ names they could quote, would your name come up first? Are you active in the community, on social media, in the local press? Brand awareness gets the phone ringing so be brutally objective about your own performance in this area.

Are you making the best of all your local connections and ensuring that everyone you know is aware of what your business offers? Think of all the people you interact with on a regular basis – the postman, the pizza delivery person, your hairdresser, the guy you buy your Sunday paper from or who services your car. How about setting yourself a target of talking to a specified number of connections every day or every week?

Are your family and friends actively linking your business to their connections? Daft as it may sound, do your family and friends really know enough about your business to be able to promote or recommend you?

Tell them what you do and the type of opportunities they might come across where they could recommend you and why they should – but make sure you make this 100% reciprocal. Nobody I know has reported negative feedback to sharing their professional life with their personal contacts.

Furthermore, there are so many opportunities for random connections to be made every day and you just might be surprised where they lead. Strike up a conversation with people you encounter, rather than assuming they have no relevance to you or you to them. I remember listing and selling a house a few years back as a result of passing the time with a fellow parent outside my son’s school – That piece of business may never have come my way without that conversation taking place.

The second stage – “Generating Appraisals” – is all about the effort and focus of the agency staff at the coalface so to speak. The best agents I work with place huge emphasis on the number of appraisals they need to do. Having scientifically worked out the necessary total, they are then aware of the minimum required and will set a target accordingly. That target is then shared amongst the team with each individual knowing their own essential contribution to the overall figure, even down to what each attended appraisal will ultimately mean in terms of income.

Each team member is then coached and trained on how to secure appraisal appointments from the opportunities that present themselves. The key ingredient to success is to understand in detail your own firm’s service proposition and those of your competitors to ensure every employee in every case can demonstrate to a potential client that their agency is significantly better equipped to secure the result the client is seeking – whether that be the best possible price, the shortest possible time, a committed and capable buyer, a lack of stress or all four of the aforementioned.

Creating, targeting and converting appraisal opportunities and appointments really will make a massive difference to the final stages of 2013. Don’t leave it too late.



2013 Tour Dates

Those dates and course details in full are...

 Tuesday 19th November 2013 in Exeter -

              "Gaining Instructions from Vendors and Landlords This Autumn"  (morning session).

              “How To “Outsell” Your Competition”  (afternoon session).

 

Wednesday 27th November 2013 in Harrogate - 

                "Gaining Instructions from Vendors and Landlords This Autumn"  (morning session).

                 “How To “Outsell” Your Competition”  (afternoon session).

  Details of the course content:  

"Gaining Instructions from Vendors and Landlords This Autumn"  (morning session).

*The characteristics of an exceptional lister. * Generating instructions. * Preparing to make your appointment exceptional.      * Gain agreement to your valuation. * Presenting your companies services. * Justifying fees. * Dealing with questions and objections. * Closing instructions – Making the most of current stock. 

 

“How To “Outsell” Your Competition”  (afternoon session).

* Selling skills self-assessment.  * Preparing to sell.  * Exceptional applicant qualification.  * Promoting properties through effective phone outs.  * Viewings that work. * Generating Offers  * Dealing with barriers to sales.  * Supporting the listing operation.

  

Each session costs &99 plus VAT per delegate; however delegates booking both sessions at the 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 us at admin@tm-traininganddevelopment.co.uk or visit our website http://www.tmtraininganddevelopment.co.uk/online-booking.php

 



New Football Season

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 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.

 

Then, typically, “storming” 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.

 

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
  2. 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.
  3. 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, although admittedly not quite so great as those of the manager who leads their team to cup or league success in the world of professional football.



Start the day the right way…

A few years ago, I witnessed a snapshot of the life of two estate agency firms in the same town which was all it took to identify the successful agent from the struggling one. Picture the scene if you will…

 At 8.00 a.m. one Wednesday morning, I arrived to prepare to run a course for an independent agency in the training room above one of their residential sales offices. Most of the staff were already present and as always I was struck by the smart interior and energetic atmosphere even at this early hour.

 Having got myself and the training room organised, I wandered downstairs to witness a team meeting in full flow, as the staff discussed yesterday’s successes and today’s challenges with enthusiasm. Everyone seemed involved and alert, and were making notes on various action points.

 I then went outside to get some air and pick up a newspaper. En route to the newsagents, I happened to pass another estate agency office at around 8.30 a.m. and glanced through the window to see two members of staff in the front office. One was reading a tabloid national newspaper and the other was putting on his tie.

 It will probably come as no surprise that when I took a drive around the area later that day, the initial agent were seen to hold a dominant market share within the town in question, while the latter firm appeared to be a bit part player. And on a recent return visit, I discovered that the second agent has ceased trading…

 For any manager in our currently challenging industry, a well-run daily team meeting makes a massive difference to productivity. Yet many fail to hold such an event at all, while others merely go through the motions because superiors have told them to.

 Managers have such huge challenges in their role, not least because they are often responsible for a large chunk of the front line sales business that needs to be achieved. Upon listing all the areas of responsibility of an effective manager on a recent course, the delegates came up with over thirty separate suggestions!

 A structured daily meeting is not the answer to all ills, however it achieves a great deal in helping a manager manage successfully. Management is sometimes defined as “the art of directing physical activities and human resources in the attainment of predetermined goals” and there is no better time to undertake such “directing” as in a team meeting.

 An agenda is essential to ensure all key areas are covered and must include a review of yesterday’s activities, new business opportunities in terms of valuations, instructions, applicants, viewings and sales, as well as team input into problems and challenges that they individually or collectively face.

 From this agenda there is a natural flow of objectives for the day ahead, which can be discussed and issued to the appropriate staff. The manager can then record these objectives (and more importantly be seen by the staff to do so) to ensure subsequent monitoring during the day and checking at close of business. Employees benefit from a clear set of daily goals, as they will be focused on those tasks and motivated as they are gradually achieved during the day.

 The staff are also more likely to ensure those objectives are met, given that they know there will be a review of success or failure at the next meeting.

 Sales can be created in this environment as a valuer describes yesterday’s new instructions to salespeople who come to the meeting equipped with a list of their hot buyers. A review of new applicants for whom nothing on the available list seems suitable may prompt a colleague to suggest a less obvious alternative from the withdrawal list or lettings portfolio.

 Different angles on problems may be seen by team members leading to a plausible but previously untried solution to a problem sale.

 Commencing each meeting early enough in the day will minimise interruption, but as long as one member of staff is allotted the task of dealing with incoming enquiries, then the rest of the team can concentrate for the duration.

 A manager needs to adhere to the timeless cycle of planning, monitoring and checking. Without these team meetings, the first part of this process is at risk, thereby automatically jeopardising the other two.

 The time spent on an effective morning meeting will doubtless be the best investment in a manager’s day.



Thought for the day ...

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." - Vince Lombardi