There are daily reports and views relating to the property market, many of which are somewhat contradictory. It seems an incontrovertible forecast that transaction numbers will be fewer in number than in 2022, but by how much is tough to call.
As a partner of Thomas Morris Sales & Lettings for over 15 years, our estate agency experienced some severely challenging times over the years, but came through relatively unscathed. One thing we learnt was to adopt a “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” approach.
There will always be a market made up of people who need to move. That may be a diminished number in comparison to previously, but the “must move” sector will never disappear.
So the positive angle is that if you ready yourselves as an agent to grab a bigger slice of a smaller pie, you will be fine. Our estate agency always came through the various downturns with bigger market shares and increased fees (both of which improvements lasted much longer than the troubled times did).
Even more positively, if you upskill and refine in all key areas of your business and the anticipated dip in activity fails to materialise, those improvements will still stand you in very good stead anyway, as your estate agency will shine like a beacon in a mass of mediocrity.
Nowadays, the training and consultancy work I undertake is all geared to ensure estate agency and lettings teams and individuals spot and maximise every possible business opportunity in a challenging market. After all, that won’t simply happen through wishful thinking or keeping your fingers crossed.
You can’t do anything about the external factors but you can control the controllables.
William Arthur Ward said “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails.”
Pessimistic agents are bogged down in a “woe is me” state of mind. I respect their concerns but it is wasted energy and changes nothing.
Optimistic agents are hoping that the market won’t be too tough for too long. That is arguably naive.
And the realistic agents? Of all the steps they take, these are their “six of the best”…
✅Know your numbers – They analyse their figures in detail, knowing exactly what success or failure looks like. They know the detail of their likely costs over the next 12 months and the detail of the quality of their STC pipeline to ensure they can accurately assess forthcoming profit/loss scenario. This in itself can paint a grim picture but nonetheless it is a picture that will need close inspection.
✅Have a plan – They prepare a survival plan to ensure income to cover bottom line costs is achieved. Once the survival figure is pinned down, the focus turns to how to reach it. Changing fee structure and upping the peripheral income opportunities are effective strategies, but need careful planning and implementation.
✅Equip the troops – They prepare their team for the battle ahead by training, coaching and constant communication to reinforce the necessary approaches for the new circumstances. It is always interesting to see the polarisation of approaches when times are changing – some agency bosses say “The market’s tough, we can’t afford training”, while others say “The market’s tough, we need to do more training”. This year will demand skilled salespeople not simply polite dispensers of information.
✅Watch and listen – They recognise that every single business opportunity needs to be spotted and maximised, by raising standards of service and enhancing skills. They will monitor staff performance more closely, listening to customer interactions, reviewing telephone call recordings, accompanying staff on appointments – then coaching accordingly.
✅Know thine enemy – They review their own business practices against those of their competitors and assessing how they can be different and memorable in the hearts and minds of customers and clients. Understanding the oppositions is key in times of challenge.
✅Control costs – They sort their expenditure items into “must have” and “nice to have”, then taking a pragmatic view as to whether to continue with the latter. There may be opportunities to renegotiate with suppliers, some of whom will take a sympathetic view and recognise that having an estate agency firm paying them a slightly reduced rate for their products and services is better than that agency not being around to pay anything at all. Our agency certainly benefitted from those conversations back in 2008/9.
So there are “six of the best” steps to take to successfully navigate the potentially choppy waters of 2023. As the saying goes “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” and challenging times can make businesses stronger, fitter and leaner, thereby ensuring a brighter future when calmer conditions inevitably arrive. In short, the greatest agents change their business to cope with the change of environment.
How are you “adjusting your sails”?
Julian O’Dell is head of Marvellous Training Solutions.
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