One of my favourite estate agency quotes has always been “If you have the best stock of well priced properties, the buyers will find you”, and it certainly stands the test of time.
Stock remains king in our industry and there are plenty of agents who still fail to maximise every listing opportunity.
The subject matter that my existing and new client firms are requesting us to cover on our forthcoming training sessions serves as a clear barometer as to the typical challenges that the market is throwing their way, and whilst there has been a noticeable upturn in enquiries about selling skills training, there remains a high demand for courses aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of instructions, in both the sales and lettings sector.
Already in 2017, we have booked time to work with a large number of agents on this crucial element of their businesses, reviewing and perfecting the key stages of their “instruction operation” or “listing process”. How to win the business by being seen as different from the competition is one of the most significant areas to be given attention.
Many firms are already good at what they do. However, my constant mantra with these companies is that “good is no longer good enough”.
Pretty much all agents who come through challenging market conditions must be “good” to have done so, therefore all agents in business right now who conduct business to a “good” standard will almost certainly be perceived as the same as everyone else.
In turn, if landlords and vendors perceive potential selling/letting agents as similar in standard and approach, those clients tend to base their judgement on which agent to instruct upon the most basic differentiator – the fee.
This is a disaster for most agents, assuming you are not one of those who is looking to rely on getting instructions by being the cheapest. Indeed, with transaction numbers predicted by many experts to be less than the already lowish levels of 2016 and before, charging cheap fees may well represent a slow painful death.
The best practice principles in securing quality instructions against high price/low fee competitors are too numerous to list here; however, a few essentials should be borne in mind.
One exercise we have conducted on recent training courses has been to issue a questionnaire to all the attendees that asks about the detail of their company’s services as well as those of the main competitors.
Questions include ones about opening hours, number of property portals used, years of trading, number of completed sales in the catchment area over the previous 12 months, amount of combined staff industry experience, membership of trade bodies/affinity groups and lots more.
It has been fascinating to see what a struggle it is for a large proportion of valuers to answer the questions accurately with confidence – even the ones relating to their own proposition, let alone that of their rivals! One company’s valuers, when asked how many associated branches their firm had, gave a range of answers from 200 to 1,500!
The old adage that “People buy differences” in selling is as relevant now as it has ever been. It is hard to see how a valuer can sell the “differences” of their service offering against a competitor when he/she has not grasped the detail of either.
This is an example of a lack of knowledge which makes a valuer vulnerable to a superior clued-up rival. Plugging this knowledge gap is relatively easy with a well-structured training session (and perhaps a mystery shopper call or two to local agents). Once full knowledge is in place, it becomes clear which elements are your strengths versus the weaknesses of the other agents.
This in turn ensures that the competent valuer can highlight those important differences between his/her services and the competition’s.
Crucially, the valuer has to be seen as the most capable and confident individual so as to effect a relationship of trust and a clear impression of differentiation. The result of that approach is that the potential client perceives clear, tangible differences between the valuer’s capabilities and the service offerings leading to them weighing up whose services will secure the best result in terms of price, speed and quality of buyer.
The ultimate upshot of that deliberation is that the fee becomes of secondary importance in the decision making process.
There are many other behavioural improvements that we have instilled in valuers which contribute to success – suffice to say that they are all geared to ensuring the individual stands out from the crowd.
Trying out the above principles within the training environment provides valuers with an opportunity in a no-risk situation to become comfortable with those techniques before putting them into action in the real world.
This is another key part on the road to success, not always built in to an estate agency’s culture. Whilst this “role play” element of their development initially worries some valuers, the fact remains that “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle”.
TM training & development