Would you start serving burgers at £2.99 per portion or would you work harder to serve more delicious food at a premium price?
Estate agents face this dilemma in their fight against online agents. I am appalled by the paucity of their response. Agents who have spent their whole lives explaining how a service will achieve a better price are now falling over themselves to win a race to the bottom, where all attempts to offer superior service are sacrificed to reduce the headline fee. If I owned an online estate agency business, I’d be rubbing my hands in glee at this foolishness.
The clue as to how to respond is in the online agents’ advertising. The universal message is, “We paid all this commission and got nothing extra”. If you think this is true, you should shut your agency down and do something else. If it isn’t true, you need to fight back.
This does not mean bitching and feeling sorry for yourself.
This means preparing a convincing sales proposition to justify why customers will be better off paying a higher fee for your service, backing this up with cold hard facts.
WHERE TO START
You might start by compiling a list of ten unique selling points and practising how you will work these in to your sales presentation. Explain to potential clients how a bigger, more experienced team or an onsite sales progresser will help them achieve a better price for their property in a shorter time.
Then work on the proof. Compile a list of all the properties you have sold in the last year that were previously marketed with an online agent. Gather full details of each property, pull off a Rightmove history showing how 17 The Drive was on the market at £350,000 with XYZ Agents for six months. Show your dated instruction letter and a print-off from your software system showing 47 sets of details sent, followed them all up by phone and produced 12 viewings. Then show a copy of your (redacted) sales memorandum to prove you obtained a full asking price offer of £350,000 within 14 days of instruction. Then show the Land Registry record of the £350,000 sale price and a letter from the delighted vendor saying he wished he’d come to you in the first place. Then wave the evidence of the 14 other properties that you sold last year after they’d been unsuccessfully marketed by your online competitor.
This is not a time for subtlety. You must ram your message home with evidence to prove all your claims.
Next, collect testimonials from happy clients who sold through you after paying an online agent and getting nothing. Show their photos and written testimonials. For maximum impact, make a two minute video of them telling their story. Film this on your phone, if necessary, its impact can be huge. Next, collect every article you can find on the internet about the dangers of online agents and how full service agents usually achieve a better price. Look abroad for more, there are many online on American websites.
Collect documentary evidence of properties undersold by online agents. If you have sold four identical 3-bed semis in the same road at £340-£350,000 an online sale at £320,000 will look very suspicious.
This is not a time for subtlety. You must ram your message home. To have maximum impact, you must have visual evidence to prove every single claim you make. It will take you a few hours to put this together and supply the necessary evidence. However, you will recoup the value of this time a hundred times over.
Once you have researched written evidence for your selling presentation, you need to adapt it for use in your marketing campaigns. There is no point having a fantastic presentation if the potential client does not call you out to make it. Be very careful not to make libellous or unsupported statements, but testimonials, quotations on your leaflets, case histories in the newspapers and testimonial videos on your website can play a very important role in increasing the number of valuations that you are asked to attend.
You may think these suggestions are aggressive or distasteful but there is no alternative. You will never be a better online agent than the companies who are already market leaders and you can never beat them on price as they have far deeper pockets than you. What you can and must do is to fight back by disproving their central claim that all that commission gives the customer nothing in return.
Adam Walker is a management consultant, business sales agent and trainer who has worked in the property sector for more than twenty-five years. www.adamjwalker.co.uk