Little things mean a lot...

Little things mean a lot...

At a time where stock is in short supply, it is vital to get everything right in an effort to attract vendors and landlords to your company. However, so many agents are getting things horribly, horribly wrong…To make sure you're not one of them read the next article..

Little things mean a lot

I was lucky enough to be asked to present at one of the industry’s premier events last week – the Negotiator Conference at the Park Lane Hilton in London. As I was first on, I felt a little levity might be in order, so I included within my presentation airline boss Jan Carlzon’s famous quote “Coffee stains on the flip tray suggest to our customers that we do not service our engines properly” and then the top ten examples of “coffee stains” perpetrated by sales and lettings agents.

The basic premise of Carlzon’s quote is that if you get the small details wrong in your business, a dangerous bigger picture presents itself to potential clients. Lack of attention to detail will potentially dissuade a client from using your firm. A recent survey stated that 42.5% of people found bad spelling and poor grammar in Social Media usage to be damaging to a brand.

Beyond social media, the quality of property presentation within the realms of portals and your own website can prove costly if strewn with errors and/or lack of care.

My presentation included the “Terrible Top Ten”, which were my personal lowlights that I had come across by pottering about on Rightmove and the like.

A lounge with a “chimney beast” was one. A house with a “rear bobby” was another. And a “large loving room” made the cut. Plenty of others didn’t…

“A double bowel and drainer unit”, a “kitchen/doner” (ideal for kebab lovers), several “dinging rooms” (a campanologist’s dream) and a garage with a “roller shitter door” missed out on the final list.

Social media messages can say so much good about you and your firm – yet do so much damage if your spelling and/or grammar let you down. Tweets to say how busy you currently find yourself are all well and good, but don’t undermine the impact by lack of attention to detail. My personal favourite example? It has to be “Morning all. Busy busy day ahead – those hoses won’t sell themselves!” – now unless that agent has branched into garden equipment, I detect a rushed tweet and a poor impression created.

Poor quality photos are another trap into which agents plummet regularly. There are a number of websites which feature such camera crimes – my personal favourite being

The serious message here is that these crass errors are your firm’s “coffee stains” and some clients, when reviewing how you present properties will strike you from their list of potential agents as a result.

On a final note… “complimentary tiles” are the types of tiles that, when you walk into the bathroom, say “Looking gooooood”…it is “complementary” that you should be using. And don’t get me started on “comprises of”….

Julian O’Dell



Know Your Onions!

The training course included a checklist of 22 elements that needed to be covered during that first point of contact, and we were advised that the company regularly “mystery shopped” its offices to gauge the quality to which this key part of the job was being carried out. Having committed these checklist points to memory, I then ensured I dealt with every applicant every day on the premise that they might be the mystery shopper. After all, I was keen to do the job to the best possible standard and ensure that I made my mark on the company’s sales figures.

Nowadays, my training company conduct mystery shopper exercises for estate agency firms around the UK and the results are never less than fascinating. The original list of 22 key points, although many years old and slightly revised, still broadly forms the benchmark of how well these calls are handled, and the standard of follow up service delivered. The difference in quality between the best and worst is extraordinary. Feedback from proprietors, whether the calls and follow up are poor, fair, good or exceptional, is that the exercises are worth their weight in gold for illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the sales/letting operation within their businesses.

Most (but by no means all) agents will establish key contact information (names, initials and titles of all parties plus all telephone numbers and email addresses) and a general idea of what the applicant is looking for.

However, the real areas for concern are the depth of information gleaned and the lack of testing of the answers provided by the customer.

Assuming that an agent is striving for exceptional standards of selling techniques to maximise results, it is alarming that many areas of key information are missed – the reason for and specific timescale of the proposed move, for example.

Much of the facts established are not clarified – “I’m looking up to around &200,000 for a three bedroom property” is not good enough! These points must be tested with probing questions like “So if I found you a property that had everything you are looking for, but only had two bedrooms, you wouldn’t consider it?” and “If I found you the perfect property, what is the very maximum you would be prepared to pay for it?”. It is incredibly rare to hear these questions asked during our mystery shopper calls.

Similarly, when the applicant states that they have sold their property, the negotiators seldom dig deeply enough to find out the quality of that “sale”. The avoidance of establishing an applicant’s financial capability is also a regular shortcoming. This failure to check the detailed ability of the applicant will inevitably lead to missed opportunities by agents spending the wrong amount of time with the wrong people, or equally worryingly, failing to spot the real “money making” customers.

The above represent just a few of the criteria that are measured by the mystery shoppers. The most recent mystery shopper exercise saw a top score of 12 out of the possible 22 – the other offices involved scored less and in one case, only 5! This is not a level of acceptable performance. Fortunately, the proprietor in question has now invested in training with us to ensure we help address these problems on his behalf.

Qualifying applicants is a little like peeling onions...each layer of information you peel away reveals a bit more information to help you form a judgement as to how much time ought to be invested in them. Sadly, our mystery shopper exercises seem to prove that too many agents fail to peel away enough layers and therefore leave themselves reliant upon guesswork.

For further information or if you’d like the checklist, please contact me us on 01480 405583, email or follow me on Twitter @agencytrainer




From failure to success…

A frequent concern raised by managers during discussion forums on our management training courses is how to get an acceptable level of performance from members of the team who frequently fall short of the required standards. A significant number of managers fail to achieve such an improvement in their underperforming staff and rapidly run out of patience before taking the workers in question down an appropriate departure route whilst simultaneously and potentially desperately seeking a replacement employee. However, a manager must think hard before embarking on such a course of action – giving up on an employee in such a fashion is irreversible and there is no guarantee that the new recruit will fare any better, particularly in the short term while they are learning the job role and company culture.


Handling poor performance effectively falls into three key areas – spotting that there is a problem, understanding the reasons for that problem and attempting a remedy.


The first of these is relatively straightforward in an estate agency environment as there is a plethora of performance criteria to measure employees against. Should a member of staff fail to achieve targets in any or all of these areas then action must be taken. Lack of addressing underperformance is a common failing among weaker managers, allowing staff to perceive an unspoken acceptance of such a state of affairs.


The second stage of understanding the causes of underachievement is key to success.

There are usually good reasons why an employee is not performing well – often the most difficult part of the manager’s role in this area is to identify those reasons swiftly and accurately. It can help to have an awareness of the specific attitude the worker has to towards their job.


Broadly speaking, staff have one of four prevailing attitudes to work – "can do/will do", "can’t do/will do", "can do/won’t do" and "can’t do/won’t do".


The first of these is displayed by the employee who constantly demonstrates standards of behaviour that meet or exceed the manager’s expectations.


The second aforementioned attitude is typically observed in newer staff who have the desire to do well but lack the knowledge or skills to achieve excellence.


The third "can do/won’t do" approach is a trickier one to handle as there is probably a lack of motivation at the root. The employee adopting this approach to their job may be finding the workload too easy or repetitive and therefore experiencing a lack of challenge and variety. They may feel neglected or detached from the team. There may be outside influences in their personal life affecting their concentration or energy levels. Whatever the cause, the manager must quickly identify it prior to taking action to address it. Likewise, the "can’t do/won’t do" worker has to have some managerial support and time invested before a decision is taken to release them.


Patience is important. The underlying reasons for these last two types of behaviour may not reveal themselves immediately and discussions with the employee involved must be tactful and thorough. Establishing the reasons for the shortfall in results is not a question of apportioning blame, but rather a joint discussion including factual analysis.


The manager should also consider key questions to try to establish what has gone wrong. Was the task misunderstood? Was the task understood by the employee but the objectives or targets inappropriately set? Was the failure to meet the objectives wholly down to circumstances within the person’s control? It is an important principle to grasp that poor performance can be a direct result of poor leadership, where a manager has failed to specify the results expected or the levels of skills and competence required.


The third and final stage of managing underperformance – attempting a remedy – involves deciding and agreeing the course of action required.


A necessary improvement in skills could be achieved by training courses or in-house coaching. Behavioural change is less straightforward as staff will often fail to change just because their manager tells them to! They must understand the benefits to themselves and the company of the suggested changes. Attitudinal change is the most tricky to secure, however improvements in performance as a result of behavioural change may engender a new way of thinking, particularly if combined with an increased investment of time on the manager’s part spent helping develop abilities, skills and knowledge through guidance and support.


As ever with effective management, to complete the third stage successfully requires monitoring and checking prior to revisiting stage one.


This time may be difficult for the manager to find in an already busy schedule, but the pay off in terms of overall team performance will make it well worth it.


Julian O ' Dell

2013 Tour Dates

Those dates and course details in full are...

 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 or visit our website


Consumer Protection regulations - staying on the right side of the law!

The session runs from 10am to midday and costs &65 plus VAT per delegate. To book please contact us on 01480 405583 or email us at Places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Thought for the day ...

Never mind what others do; do better than yourself, beat your own record from day to day, and you are a success.
-- William J.H. Boetcker