So Spring seems to have finally sprung.

So Spring seems to have finally sprung.

The optimism in the air about the property market seems to be prevalent in most areas. Positive press coverage about the market and the publicity about the extension in the budget of the Help to Buy scheme have all helped create confidence and momentum. The opportunities for a brilliant year are before us - however, winning stock remains the big issue. If you want to seize more than your fair share of the market, you need to present yourselves as a different and memorable option in the eyes of potential vendors and landlords.
In 2014, we have been involved in a number of projects directly designed to help get agents through more doors and to ensure they increase their conversion rate from valuation to instruction. Achieving those two objectives is making a massive difference to the income and profit of our client firms. In the case of one agent, an idea of ours secured an extra 162 valuations. Why not get in touch to find out how we can help you?
In the meantime, enjoy our newsletter - there is, as ever, no theory here, just proven practical ideas to help you develop your staff and your business...

Extra training date announced..

That date and course details in full are...

Wednesday 4th June St Neots

Winning Quality Instructions (full day course with Julian O'Dell)

It will cover:

* Getting through more doors
* Best practice principles for before, during and after your appraisals
* Differentiating you and your proposition from your competitors
* Handling objections and closing successfully
* Securing the optimum fee

We look forward to seeing you!

 Each session costs &170 plus VAT per delegate to include lunch.

To book or for more information contact us on 01480 405583, email us at or visit our website


Coaching for Success

An estate agency manager called me to book a young valuer onto a course, explaining that he was concerned that the valuer in question was failing to achieve an acceptable conversion rate from appointments to instructions, which the manager felt in part might be due to him rushing his valuations. Often, his employee was back from appointments within 20 minutes of leaving the office, and the manager couldn’t understand how he could carry them out so quickly.


Whilst I am always delighted to welcome delegates onto our training courses and to play a part in their development, it struck me that this scenario involved a coaching need rather than a training need, and it was apparent from the rest of the conversation with this manager that coaching was not an integral part of his working life. However, on my travels around the country delivering training and consultancy work, there seems a strong link between the time invested by a manager in coaching the individuals within the team and the success that the team enjoy.


Coaching needs careful planning in terms of content and allocation of time to ensure it happens. Poor prioritisation often means that in reality, even where a manager has good intentions, coaching falls by the wayside as other “more important” events take over.


Proactive managers recognise that the host of benefits that result from spending time developing individuals make the investment of time well worthwhile. Those benefits include improved motivation and staff retention, enhancing skills and knowledge to increase productivity, enabling staff to multi-task to facilitate manning during periods of holidays and sickness and easier delegation for the managers themselves.


Effective coaching involves following five key stages, each of which are outlined below.


Spot Opportunity

A manager must be aware of the coaching needs of their employees by ongoing monitoring of their successes and failures in their work. Watching, listening and recording examples where duties are conducted by employees in a manner which suggests room for improvement are critical elements of the manager’s role. In the example above, the manager would have been wise to accompany his failing valuer on a few appointments to identify areas of weakness in their approach…at the very least this would answer the question as to why the valuations were so swift!


Diligence in spotting the opportunity means the subsequent coaching will deal with real issues that need addressing.



The coaching itself needs to be tailored to the individual and a number of issues must be considered. These include the knowledge and current skill level of the employee, previous coaching provided and the effectiveness thereof, the most suitable method of the coaching itself and the likely attitude of the member of staff to receiving coaching. The latter is particularly important as the provision of coaching, if handled inappropriately, can demotivate as there is an inherent challenge to the recipient’s ability.



The coach must explain the goal of the coaching and the benefits that the recipient will enjoy, as well as the change of working behaviour and habits that the employee needs to adopt. Demonstration by the coach to clarify exactly what is expected is critical…a “tell” session is unlikely to succeed. In the previous case above, the manager should consider taking the valuer to several valuations to watch the manager in action to identify the standards required. A full review should then be conducted as to how the employee needs to modify their approach to close the gap between their current performance and the manager’s expectations. The manager must then accompany the valuer on a number of appointments to monitor and review progress accordingly. Staffing levels will potentially make this suggested coaching programme tricky, but the time invested will lead to improvement in performance and income thus making it time very well spent.



As the coachee learns new working habits (alongside unlearning existing ones), there can be a difficult transition and a tendency to fall back to the old ways, due to a discomfort in doing things differently. The manager must continue to monitor behaviour and be quick to praise success and encourage the employee to embrace his/her behavioural changes. Coaching is not a one-off session, but an ongoing responsibility. Changing habits is not easy…just ask people who have tried to quit smoking!



After an agreed period of time, results must be reviewed and the effectiveness of the coaching assessed. If the change in behaviour has been achieved then it is time to move on…if there is still evidence of unsatisfactory results then it is up to the manager to revisit stage one of the coaching process and spot the appropriate opportunity.


Spot Opportunity, Tailor, Explain, Encourage, Review…the manager who follows those five stages of effective coaching will STEER their staff to success.


Julian O’Dell

TM training & development

March 2014

Listen and learn...

Many new ideas on selling techniques have come and gone over the last thirty years, but one technique that has always been around and still requires great skill to perform consistently to a high standard is listening.

We have all heard the buzz phrase “two ears, one mouth, use in the same proportion” but sadly many agents seem to forget that mantra and get it the wrong way round. “The gift of the gab” should have died out long ago but some agents still seem to rely on it to get them through the day.

The genius observation by Stephen R Covey that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” is one which a good many agents should take on board.

But how can you learn to become a better listener?

The first lesson is to recognise that listening is not a passive activity. There is also a degree of confusion between hearing and listening. Research suggests that people listen to only 30% of what they hear.

Effective active listening requires hearing, understanding and interpreting. The best listeners give their undivided attention to the “speaker” and think of questions that can be asked in order to clarify understanding.

Using acknowledgement techniques like eye contact, smiling, nodding or saying “I see” as you listen confirm that you are paying attention.

Summarising and paraphrasing what has been said confirms your interest in the speaker and helps understanding.

A quick checklist on improving the standard of your listening would include:

  • Resist the urge to interrupt

  • Don’t be distracted by other events around you

  • Avoid allowing your mind to formulate what you want to say next

  • Allow people who are less articulate time to say what they want to say

  • Encourage the speaker – nods, smiles etc

  • Summarise what you think you have heard

Adopt the tips above and your listening will improve. As a result, you will understand your customers far better, while they will enjoy speaking to you and may well disclose more than they intended. Good luck!

I want to tell you a story…

In my experience, the advertising budget of many businesses should be rechanneled into staff training so that customers who use those businesses are wowed by their experience and ultimately become fans and ambassadors for those businesses.

This story relates to a hotel brand, which hooked me in with their marketing. To woo me as a customer cost them money – but how good were they at ensuring they kept me?

Scene: A hotel in Leeds. Julian O’Dell, managing director of TM training & development arrives after a long drive to run a training session for a group of 30 delegates. He arrives an hour before start time to get the room set up. On entering Reception, he sees a board on the wall informing him that the TM training & development session is being held in Meeting Room 7. Armed with this information, he approaches the Reception Desk…

Me: “Hello. My name is Julian O’Dell from TM training & development. I’m running a course today. Please could I have the key for meeting room 7?”

Receptionist sighs. Shuffles some paperwork. Disappears through a door behind reception. Returns with plastic key card – inserts it into machine  and hands it to me. All this without saying a word.

Me: “Thank you.”

I then walk to meeting room 7. A two minute walk carrying various files and equipment. The key doesn’t work.

I walk back to reception. The same two minute walk carrying the same equipment.

Me: “Excuse me, but this key isn’t working…”

Receptionist: “It should work.”

Me: “I’m afraid it doesn’t.”

She printed and handed over another key without any further comment.

I then walk to meeting room 7 again. Another two minute walk carrying the same various files and equipment. The key doesn’t work. Again.

I walk back to reception. Again. The same two minute walk carrying the same equipment.

Me: “Still not working I’m afraid.”

Receptionist (with a sigh and a frown): “I could give you another one.”

Me: “A sorry would be nice…”

Receptionist: “It isn’t my fault it’s not working.”

Me: “Well I’m the customer, and it certainly isn’t mine…”


…of both the exchange between me and receptionist, as well as the end of any chance of my company dealing with that hotel again.

The moral of the story?

By all means spend money to promote your brand but set some aside to train your staff in the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to ensure that the customer experience is above expectation and turns them into fans of your business. Get in touch if you would like to discuss one of our “Exceptional Customer Service” sessions for your team – they are worth every penny!

Thought for the day ...

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life." – John Lennon