Estate Agents: How to win more instructions

Julian O'Dell
Julian O’Dell

New sales and lettings stock has been hard to come by in many areas, with a reported drop in available properties of 43% below the five-year average.

One of my client firms is currently experiencing stock levels of around 20% of what they would usually expect to have at this time of year. The highest demand in terms of training support over the best part of two years now has been for us to help improve agents’ processes and practices in winning instructions.

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that over the last 40 years, service levels have generally risen within the industry while fee percentages have typically fallen or at best held steady. In fact, for a large number of agents, the only increase in fee amounts has purely been down to rising property prices.

Many UK agents bemoan the fact that we are among the cheapest in Europe, despite longer working hours and higher running costs. In times past, there were no floor plans, virtual tours, virtual viewings, drone photography, video marketing, social media promotion and so on. The client is getting a higher level of service than ever before – but not always paying an appropriate price.

I provide online training to a huge number of agents around the country and I cannot think of a town or city on my “virtual” travels where the cheapest agent sells the most property. Indeed, many of my estate agency client companies who have the most impressive market share in their respective areas are also the most “expensive” local agents.

I put “expensive” in inverted commas as obviously they are not the most expensive in real terms. They charge the highest fees but their clients recognise that the most important figure when they sell is the “walkaway” or net figure. The reality is that the cheapest agent is actually the one which leaves a client with the highest amount of money in their pocket upon completion.

It is no coincidence that staff working for the best firms I train display an inherent pride in the companies they work for, and perceive without question that their vendors receive excellent value for money despite the fact that there are a raft of “cheaper” options in the area or online.

This matter of “value for money” is the key to success in agents securing the right fee level.

Upon having more than one valuation, it is critical that the vendor perceives you and your agency to be different and more effective than the rest. If a vendor genuinely understands that instructing a cheap agent could cost them thousands of pounds on their sale price, they will look more closely at what each agent offers in terms of services, and the likely end result.

Everything an agent does from the first point of contact with the vendor onwards helps create the right context for appropriate fee discussions later on. When the subject of commission is raised at the valuation appointment, it is crucial to have built a clear impression in the client’s mind that you and your company are genuinely different and better equipped to help the client move than any other agent they have had dealings with.

Ideally, the client would be sitting there thinking: “This firm is so much better than the agents I’ve spoken with – I bet they will be expensive!”

By displaying higher level behaviours (agenda setting, interpersonal skills, trust building, active listening, consultative selling approach etc etc) and focusing on key differences between what you and your competitors offer, particularly your unique selling points, the vendor can be persuaded to understand why you charge more.

Naturally, the reverse is true, in that if the potential client sees you as no different to your competitors on any level, there is no way they could be expected to pay more.

Furthermore, in the face of a fee objection, many agents buckle quickly and reduce their commission to try and secure an immediate instruction. A client asking you to negotiate is not necessarily saying that if you don’t, they will not instruct you. They may simply be trying their luck. The very fact that they are interested in talking about your charges should be taken as an indicator that your company is at least under consideration as their agent of choice.

By standing your ground and calmly explaining that your fees are non-negotiable because they reflect the services offered, the potential vendor may recognise a confidence and belief in you that leads them to appreciate that you should be their appointed agent.

If, however, you drop your fees without blinking, there might just be an underlying question in the client’s mind: “If you are so ready to give your own money away, how skilled are you going to be when negotiating on my behalf?”

Julian O’Dell is head of Marvellous Training Solutions.


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  1. 40yearvetran08

    ‘ One of my client firms is currently experiencing stock levels of around 20% of what they would usually expect to have at this time of year.’ obviously the training is not working then!

    1. julianodell

      Too early to tell to be fair as their first session with me was only three weeks ago. One of their newer valuers won an instruction last week against six other agents so things are moving in the right direction. The effect on his confidence will obviously create momentum. Thanks for taking the time to read the article and respond. Much appreciated. 

    2. Ric

      It might be working brilliantly for them 40yearvetran08…

      Their 20% might be 75% of their local market! but frustratingly just low levels for what they are used to!

      They might also be listing at an 80%+ ratio so just getting out to more serious sellers becomes the next business objective.

      Julian’s training is not going to make people sell their house, but it will put the agent in a position where they hope when instruction levels across the board start to rise to higher levels, agents like the client he refers to will be back at their usual level (they hope).

      I think I know it all, but a session or two with Julian reminds you someone somewhere else knows much more and is doing something which can transform your listing ratios.


  2. janbyerss

    Those who can do do – those who cant talk about it
    Nothing he said is in any way original and has not been said a zillion times

    1. AgencyInsider

      From that comment it is abundantly clear that you have never been on one of Julian’s courses. But then why would you, as you are not and never have been an estate agent.

    2. Robert_May

      julian O’Dell has been my go to agency trainer for the past 12 years, when I wanted to  raise Jupix to another level developing their CRM system for agency a day with Mr. O’Dell was the moment in time that pivoted them as an industry supplier.


      I sit here crunching numbers, I can literally see a  Julian’s customers and compare them with clients of other trainers and self appointed gurus and influencers. I can measure the results they deliver to their clients based on market share.

      He has been training longer than most and delivering measurable results. He is respected for what he does and how he does it.  Your comments will not dent his reputation or the respect people have for him

  3. Born On The Rock

    As they say, those that can’t list or sell become trainers.

    1. Ric

      and earn more than most listers in the process… as they say, those who adapt survive!

  4. OverratedAgent

    I have had the pleasure of having been on one of these courses as a young agent. Couldn’t recommend it enough. I do not know him personally


    For all of you above, comments such as “As they say, those that can’t list or sell become trainers” are nothing more than keyboard warrior attacks. Contextually, this is no different to the trolling and hate that people receive on social media. Comments with no purpose other than to defame and hurt (I’m not saying he would be hurt by these comments, but the motivation is the same)


    It is more that fair to have a valid criticism, but comments like this are not criticism, they are just an attack for the sake of attacking. So what you are not keen on this? You have the choice to stop reading. You have the choice to move on and read something else, but you take time out of your day to offer derogatory comments



    1. julianodell

      Thank you. With you entirely on the keyboard warrior point. Funny thing is, they rarely check facts before they snipe.

      I am actually an estate agent of many years standing, with valuing/listing my speciality and the element of the job I enjoyed most. I helped run, grow and sell a multi-award winning sales/lettings agency too.

      As it happens, the hackneyed comments about “can do, do/can’t do, teach” are water off a duck’s back as they don’t apply here. Plus I follow the mantra of a dear departed friend of mine which stands me in good stead every day: “Never accept criticism from someone you wouldn’t go to for advice.”

      1. OverratedAgent

        I remember being in your training room in St Neots! Awards as far as the eye could see!

  5. Woodentop

    Sellers are more fiscal orientated and better informed today than they were 40 years ago. They believe they know best and just like before many have an attitude towards the agent before you put foot over their threshold.


    If you are not trained right … you are dead duck.


    If you do not conform to their likes and wishes …. you are a dead duck.


    Where white socks …. you are a dead duck.


    The best training  advice is “Listen to your customer” before you jump in with two big feet of how good you think you are. Assess their needs, likes and dislikes before engaging tongue, look the part and satisfy their needs, if often the one to win the instruction. Some people you can’t help, even if you offered a free service   … walk away, you are wasting your time. It will always be a people like people business.

    1. julianodell

      Think we are on the same page here re listening, assessing needs etc – hence my reference to “agenda setting, interpersonal skills, trust building, active listening, consultative selling approach”…

      One point of possible difference of opinion…white socks marginally better than no socks?

    2. Danny Marino

      Spell “wear” wrong…….you are a dead duck!

      1. Ric

        Love the spell police… special bunch.

      2. Woodentop

        Well spotted Danny ….. I shall be shot at dawn, know better or should it be, no better. Lol.

  6. Gangsta Agent

    I have never been on one of Julian’s courses but i can tell you if his quiz’s and taste in football teams are anything to go by, his courses must be top notch!

  7. TommyG

    I run a two office sales based agency here on the Kent/Surrey borders. Julian has provided us with excellent training over a number of different courses. My team have had great value out of it and he is far better than other industry ‘trainers/coaches’ I’ve dealt with. I would highly recommend Julian to anyone wanting to improve productivity and training for their team.
    Some of the comments above are just ignorant “As they say, those that can’t list or sell become trainers.” ??? Get back under that rock my friend. 


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