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Raising standards to protect your future

“Dear Julian, I have read your Dilemma column for many years and used the content to improve my business. I never thought to send in my own dilemma for your consideration until now. It is simply that we need to raise the bar, we are struggling! Help!”

Julian O'Dell

Julian O'Dell imageThere is no doubt that you are one of an increasing number of estate agents I encounter that are finding things difficult. There are pockets of the UK where the market is still lively, but it is clear that continued wider uncertainty is causing a high degree of inertia leading to lack of activity.

Link to Julian O'DellHowever, there are agents to whom we provide ongoing training and consultancy support that are leading their markets, getting more than their organic share of available stock and making healthy profits. Many of these dominant agents are operating in locations where a number of competitors – both corporate and independent – have ceased to be.

Where’s the magic wand?

So what do these top agents have in common? I am sorry to say there is no magic wand, no revolutionary software generating their outstanding results. They simply identify the best way of doing all the key jobs within their remit – and do those jobs to that standard every single day. I’m tempted to add “Seemples” at this point but that would be underrating the diligence of these brilliant businesses. It is however, fair to say that this approach, whilst hard to adopt, is not complicated.

The staff members may now know what best practice looks like and how to achieve it, but they are human and need to be reminded on a regular basis.

One firm we train regularly in the Midlands has an outstanding market share, leading the way in a highly competitive town – one office, eight staff punching well above their weight. Another regular client in East Anglia hoovers up awards like a machine – achieving a 19 per cent year on year increase in average fees. A business in Greater London, to whom we provide support, is one that many others would love to replicate in terms of business levels achieved in challenging times.

With these big hitters, we cover exceptional standards in key disciplines such as dealing with new applicant enquiries, increasing viewing appointments, conducting accompanied viewings in an exceptional manner, effective vendor management, offer negotiation, converting valuation opportunities into appointments, teeing up valuations in such a way as to maximise the chances of winning the instruction and more. Their training regime is a journey not a destination. Although the staff now know what best practice looks like and how to achieve it, they are human and need to be reminded on a regular basis. They don’t simply have an “annual staff training day” to tick a box, the training regime is planned, structured, aimed at addressing current needs and geared to providing principles and techniques that achieve differentiation and success in the real world.

Answers & questions

This article will raise as many questions as it does answers, including:

Have you assessed what you consider to be the way you want your team to handle the key elements of their job – the standard to which those tasks are done?

Are the staff aware of those standards so there is no confusion as to what is expected? The best agents I work with have documented standards that form part of their training programme – we provide a 22-point checklist on how to register a new applicant plus a 44-point checklist on how to conduct a valuation appointment for example; both these documents have been hugely influential in upping performance by those who have adopted them.

Are you or other team leaders monitoring and managing the individuals against the agreed standards? Is there a regular team meeting (there is one every morning in the case of the previously cited top firms ensuring that behaviours are either praised or critiqued daily). Business owners and senior management also review staff conduct by way of mystery shopping exercises and customer feedback.

Have the staff been trained in the best practice principles? In the case of all the successful agencies aforementioned, regular training to remind, reintroduce and reinforce the company ethos and expectations, is part of the culture.

Have you checked on the competition’s approach? It is pointless agreeing standards for your employees if by adhering to them, they will actually be delivering a service at key points of a customer/client’s journey that is perceived as inferior to that which your rivals offer. ‘Know your enemy’ is a key mantra at all times – especially when times are challenging.

And finally

Estate agency is not a complicated business. However, it demands the right focus, discipline and mindset to be a winner. The challenges facing some agents are defeating them. By raising standards, you will protect your future. Be mindful that not all your team may come on that journey with you. When you raise your standards and stick to them, there will be people in your life who will fall away. Let them.

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June 26, 2019