I have been all over the country carrying training and consultancy work for sales and lettings agents and it has been noticeable in recent weeks that there are changes afoot. Sales are harder to come by in many areas.
Whilst it is not easy to increase sales figures overnight, there are fundamental areas of agents’ work that can have a massive impact on the bottom line when the quality of those jobs is raised. In simple terms, the better the sales process is handled, the more transactions will be created.
Certain key lessons have to be constantly reinforced with staff, most notably when market conditions toughen, particularly those relating to the registration of applicants. The skill of sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’ is essential to ensure accurate categorisation of potential buyers and the allocation of the appropriate amount of time to spend with them.
A large proportion of our recent training work has been focused on that key area. One course covers a checklist of all the elements that need to be covered during the first point of contact with applicants, and we advise that companies ‘mystery shop’ staff to gauge the quality of their staff in this key part of the job.
In mystery shopper exercises the difference in quality between the best and the worst is frightening.
The whole purpose behind our issuing documented standards to our client firms is to enable their staff to identify best practice in the critical areas of their work and ultimately to achieve higher standards than their competitors to maximise the chances of the potential buyers doing business with their company rather than going elsewhere.
Unfortunately, recent mystery shopper exercises have revealed alarming shortcomings. The difference in quality between the best and worst agents is frightening. However, feedback from proprietors, whatever the standard of the calls and follow up service, is that the exercises are worth their weight in gold for illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the sales operation within their businesses.
The most common errors in applicant registration include lacklustre tone, poor greeting, no agenda, unskilled questioning style, errors in listening techniques, failure to establish key information, failing to present properties in the right fashion (or in some cases, at all), no commitment sought and more.
Yet a basic principle in estate agency is that the quality of an agent’s applicant registration is directly linked to sales performance – the better the former, the higher the latter.
Assuming that an agent is striving for exceptional selling techniques to maximise results, it is alarming that many agents do not have clear standards of registration and in some cases not even a consistent method across the team.
So what are the essentials of exceptional registration? Beyond the obvious goal of ascertaining maximum accurate information, other objectives are to build rapport and trust, stand out from your competition and secure commitment to viewings or business referrals. Never forget the mantra that the best agents have in mind – Today’s applicant is tomorrow’s client – you can create raving fans of your business at this stage if the team is correctly trained. Answer the phone enthusiastically and thank them for contacting your firm. Introduce yourself and state that you can help, explain the process of registration to the customer and that a few minutes spent now will help you find them the ideal property quickly and accurately.
Use plenty of open questions to establish information about the applicant and their family; in particular their detailed reasons for moving, timescales, financial capability, specific position and their property ‘must haves’ as opposed to simply a wish list. Check key information throughout the process and summarise at the end. Match and suggest potential properties, offer to arrange viewings and secure any other referral opportunities (valuation, mortgage, conveyancing, lettings etc).
Whilst these guidelines may not seem revolutionary to some agents, there are many whose standard of registration comes nowhere near to the suggested basics above. One infamous mystery shopper call I made as a hot buyer was met with an abrupt “Have you got access to the internet?” I replied that I had, to which the agent replied “Best thing to do is have a look at our website and give me a call if there is anything you like the look of.” Shocking but true!
There is a dramatic difference between being a ‘salesperson’ and being a ‘polite dispenser of information’ – potential market challenges in the coming months make it abundantly clear that agents in the latter category will outperform and outlast the former by a stretch.