Your dilemma is no surprise, many of our clients are in the same position – the only difference is the degree to which lack of stock is an issue.
We advocate that agents monitor their performance within the 4 Ps model – the People that work for them, the Process they follow to acquire stock, the Proposition they offer clients in terms of brand and service and the Price they charge.
Weaker agents choose to differentiate themselves under the last heading by chopping fees down to ridiculous (seemingly unprofitable levels) whereas the astute and ultimately the most successful firms focus on the other three Ps to ensure clients recognise clear positive differences and therefore, an understanding as to why that agent charges more than others.
The Instruction ‘Process’ is worth revisiting whatever the market conditions as your performance as a company in that process will shed light on where your future focus should be.
The process comprises ten key stages for winning and retaining stock:
- Opportunities and connections
- Generating appraisals
- Booking appraisals
- Pre-appraisal work
- The appraisal appointment
- Immediate follow up
- Ongoing contact
- Point of instruction
- Client management
- Future customer relationship management
These ten stages are all critical to success and every agency will have different approaches, procedures and challenges at each stage.
START AT THE BEGINNING
The first step is to objectively analyse where your agency sits in terms of calibre and differentiation at each of those stages. It is impossible to formulate an action plan to get to where you want to go without knowing where your starting point is.
I have done this exercise with many agents and naturally the issues that need addressing vary from one to another. Most of the valuers I have trained in recent years are doing an exceptional job when they are given the opportunity to do so, but there are always new elements to introduce to keep ahead of the pack.
The fourth stage of the process – ‘Pre-appraisal work’ – is often overlooked by agents who fail to recognise that it can serve as a key part in a client’s decision making. This is the passage of time between a client booking an appraisal appointment and it taking place.
It could represent a period of hours or days, but whatever its duration, it is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition.
The good news is this isn’t about spending money, merely doing a few seemingly minor things that add up to being a noticeable difference.
We can learn from other industries.
I’d moved house to a new area and needed a taxi to the train station and back again. They collected me and brought me home. The experience was satisfactory.
Two weeks later, I needed another taxi. I couldn’t recall the name of the taxi firm and the first one I found on Google was a different one. Seconds after booking the taxi, I received a text to confirm the date, time and addresses of the booking. Twenty minutes before the cab was due, I received a second message to say the car had been despatched, providing details of its make, colour and registration. Finally, I got a third text when the taxi had arrived. This is a superb example of a company improving its ‘Process’ to stand out. I have used that company ever since so their differentiation secured repeat business.
So what could agents do at that stage to be different?
A well written pre-appraisal thanking them for inviting you, steering them towards your website; ‘pre-selling’ services with a short promotional video featuring a biography of the valuer highlighting local knowledge and expertise; inviting them to raise any concerns about their move, all show a higher degree of care and professionalism than agents who don’t bother.
A pre-appraisal phone call from the valuer to introduce themselves, build rapport and invite questions about the forthcoming appointment will also set you apart.
Best practice also involves being seen to be the most effective agent in helping them with their onward search – a massive concern to many potential vendors with the current lack of stock.
Whatever you do to stand out from the crowd at this stage, or indeed any other stage, of your ‘Process’ do it soon, do it well and do it consistently. The fact remains that the agent who performs differently from and better than their competitors at each of the ten stages will win the lion’s share of instructions.
Julian O’Dell is founder of TM Training & Development