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Training agents to thrive in a ‘make it happen’ market

"With challenging market conditions, we need our negotiators to make the best of every opportunity, raising the bar in how they deal with clients. I tried a bit of coaching but I’m unconvinced that there is any noticeable eff ect. I’m nervous about spending money and outsourced training isn’t cheap! What do you suggest as a next step?"

Julian O'Dell
JULIAN SAYS:
Julian O'Dell image

Julian O’Dell is founder of TM Training & Development

It won’t surprise you that my immediate response to your question is that you must not give up. Any training or coaching that you have carried out can take time to have a measurable impact and your efforts must not be made as part of a quick fix but rather as part of your business culture on an ongoing basis. However, you may need to consider other approaches.

Training imageI find it ironic that estate agency owners constantly spend money on software, marketing, branding and advertising which generate opportunities but do not spend anywhere near enough (and in some cases nothing) on skilling the staff to maximise those opportunities.

In tougher market conditions, every possible scrap of business is critical. Untrained staff are presented with opportunities every day – these need to be spotted, nurtured and exploited. We are without doubt in a ‘make it happen’ market rather than a ‘wait for it to happen’ market and the best agents will thrive due to integrated best practice principles, processes and highly skilled and focused teams.

ASSESS THE SITUATION

The good news is that estate agency is a simple business. If your team understand the basics of customer care and selling (plenty of agents sadly have no idea of either) and then do those basics to a high standard every day, your business will be successful.

The most effective training focuses on the needs of the company and has clearly defined objectives as to what that training is going to achieve.

The most effective training in any industry is that which focuses on the needs of the company and has clearly defined objectives as to what that training is going to achieve. Behavioural change for the better by way of enhanced knowledge and skills will be at the heart of any such programme but the clearer the goals the more likely the training is to succeed.

To assess what objectives are valid for your particular situation, a mystery shopper exercise is recommended. We carry these out via telephone and/or email and have a 22 point checklist against which we measure the agents. From this exercise, your training needs and objectives will become clear. Typical weaknesses across the industry include lack of agenda setting, poor questioning / listening skills, failure to gain commitment, substandard sales techniques and follow up strategy.

Once you have decided on the specific behavioural change, you can design and deliver a training course yourself, or outsource to specialist training providers. Whilst the former will seem an attractive option from an initial cost perspective, it will potentially be a false economy in the long run, as the effects on behaviour will be less likely to be achieved. You have already started to doubt the impact of your own ‘DIY’ efforts.

Investing in an outside provider is likely to have a better result – employing an expert in any walk of life is usually more successful than having a bash yourself or using a suspiciously cheap option (you may have used a comparable argument with vendors in recent months!)

CREATING SUCCESS

A training course should be an interactive, engaging, stimulating and enjoyable event – some I have witnessed have failed to tick a single box! Don’t try to save a few pounds on venue – the place the training takes place is conducive to the overall success of the event. I’ve run courses in freezing cold village halls and above pubs with the noise proving a bit distracting.

Pick a trainer who knows the industry well – generic sales training isn’t always a great fit with the property world. Make sure they understand your company structure, targets, strengths and weaknesses. Interview them over the phone or face to face – it is a big investment so as with any supplier, you must spend time making the right decision. Ask for references or if you could sit in on one of their sessions to assess their style and relevance.

Remember that in many cases, an extra instruction that results in an extra sale will doubtless more than pay for the training event – frankly, if a trainer can’t deliver that result, they shouldn’t be doing that job.

If you remain in any doubt about spending money on training, bear in mind this conversation between two senior managers: one said, “What if we train our staff and they leave?” The other replied, “But what if we don’t train them and they stay?”

February 14, 2017