Just a few weeks ago, it was widely reported that estate agency branches have been the fourth largest sector this year for closures after fashion, food and footwear across 500 High Street locations in a PWC/LDC survey. On my training and consultancy travels around the UK, I witness more and more agencies facing challenging times.
There will be survivors, there will be victims – so what needs to be done to ensure you are in the former category?
Adapt or die!
Dramatic though it may sound, ‘Adapt or Die’ needs to be the company mantra. ‘Old market’ habits will not generate sufficient business in current conditions, but habits are notoriously difficult to break.
The first step to take is to review the working processes in place for your listing and selling operations and assess your team’s effectiveness at each stage. The listing operation comprises six key stages to focus on – generating appointments, preparation for the valuation, the appointment itself, follow up and finally client management.
Seize the day!
Survival may hinge on seizing the lion’s share of good quality available stock and to ensure you are an appropriate choice of agent for local vendors. How effective is your team at generating appointments? Social media activity, brand awareness, marketing, reputation, reviews, online presence, targeted messages on your website, leaflets, letters, diligent levels of quality contact with local ‘win-to-sell’ applicants have all led to an increase in valuations elsewhere.
You must be exceptional!
Some agents are not experiencing a reduction in valuations so the second stage of the process – booking appointments – becomes their initial priority. When valuation enquiries are taken, are the staff handling that stage in an exceptional manner – have they been trained in building real rapport with these potential clients by establishing their true underlying reason for the move and prioritising the quality appointments according to motivation and saleability? Do they know how to control the timing of the valuation in your favour and ensure your valuer meets decision makers? Does the client perceive your agency as better than and different from other agents at the point of booking their appointments?
The other stages of the listing operation – including the appointment itself – all play a part in your success and merit an overhaul if you are falling short of an exceptional standard. Have you accompanied your valuers on appointments and coached them on their weaknesses?
Many agents recognise the necessity to increase fees, but such ambition will only be realised by being seen as the best option. The good news is that behavioural difference costs no money – just energy and effort.
There will be survivors, there will be victims; so what needs to be done to ensure you are in the former category?
Love your clients!
The final stage of the listing operation – vendor management – is absolutely critical to success. What is the system and standard of ongoing client care and contact? Have the staff been trained how to persuade vendors to improve the saleability of the instruction? Senior staff visiting these clients has a far greater success rate than a sporadic telephone call from an inexperienced employee carrying out a task in which they have little expertise or confidence.
As far as the selling operation is concerned, again there are six processes that must be reviewed. Knowledge/preparation, creating the right first impression, accurate applicant qualification, matching/benefit selling, gaining commitment, obtaining/ negotiating offers – effectiveness in all these disciplines is critical. Yet our mystery shopper exercises reveal that many ‘negotiators’ do not warrant that job title as they merely fulfil the role of polite dispensers of information and then hope that something will happen!
Check out / chuck out old habits!
What are your front line staff’s sales habits? One estate agency branch upon whom we conducted a mystery shopper exercise has emailed the high quality applicant in excess of thirty times to advise of new instructions but not made a single phone call to them. A glaring example of a dangerous ‘spray and pray’ habit…I fear for that company’s existence if that habit is not changed.
Are the team highly skilled at identifying the ‘make you money’ customers through higher level questioning skills? Have they been given support and guidance on maximising income streams through referrals?
An objective review of the selling and listing processes coupled with the necessary resultant coaching/training will dramatically improve the chances of winning an increased percentage of available instructions and sales. The role of managers, directors and owners must include a significant slice of time to coach the teams towards exceptional performance – good is no longer good enough.