I am asked this frequently during conversations with estate agents and in fairness it is one of the most straightforward questions to deal with. The answer is an unequivocal “Yes”!
My role as a trainer/consultant is centred on improving sales and lettings agents’ performance through the pursuit of exceptional business practices. The techniques, skills, systems and processes are proven to have a direct impact upon the bottom line by raising levels of performance and results. It is subsequently critical to maintain momentum by adhering to these new higher levels and one way of doing so is to scrutinise all key areas of performance on a regular basis. One of the best ways of undertaking this, is to enter industry award competitions.
I have been fortunate to be deemed worthy of judging awards and the estate agency firm of which I was a Partner for 15 years won a variety of accolades, including “Best Independent Estate Agency Chain” from this esteemed publication. For the cynical, I was not a judge for any of the awards that our estate agency won!
Some industry awards are free to enter, others require an fee, others still are voted for by the public. Typically, a detailed submission needs to be compiled and the objective is to ensure your company stands apart from the other entrants in the eyes of the judges.
Compiling an Awards submission you will review your business through an objective set of eyes!
Guidelines regarding submissions also differ – from 400 words over four pages, through to no limit at all at the other. Most judges are too long in the tooth or worldly wise to be taken in by froth and gloss, quality is far more important than quantity. The submission needs to contain more than bold platitudes as to how wonderful your firm is and the excellence of all you do – evidence is key.
Third party market share reports, board counts, performance statistics, testimonials, online reviews, photographs of your quality premises, brochures and marketing all contribute to the overall evidence that should be presented to the judges. Include information about training budget and schedule, staff turnover statistics, and ultimately proof of how you are different from your competitors in the way you conduct your business.
By compiling a submission, you cannot help but review your business through an objective set of eyes. This act in itself can be very revealing as it often highlights areas of performance and business practice that need improvement. If evidence is hard to come by on a particular part of the company’s performance, it probably needs to be an area to work on before next year’s awards.
In my experience, agents that win awards always treat the submissions as year-round events, with the gathering of proof and evidence an integral part of their culture. In many cases, staff members are encouraged to inform a co-ordinator of anything above and beyond the call of duty that will be worthy of mention in the final submission.
A phone call from a judge is sometimes an element of the process – I have made many such calls over the years and it is extraordinary how unprepared some recipients are, despite having prior notice of the call. If you are due such a call, I recommend that you have a copy of your submission in front of you and that you are conversant with the content as well as your company’s figures and statistics. Sounding enthusiastic and cheerful is always appreciated too.
Crucially, all the above can be totally undermined by the way staff handle any mystery shopper calls, which will almost certainly form part of a thorough judging process. You can appear to be the best agent in history on paper, but if that impression is contradicted by poor quality service received when tested. I wouldn’t bother entering for any customer service related award unless you have trained your staff to deliver to a high standard.
I have helped many companies win awards by ensuring that all staff knew the key criteria that would be measured, getting them to accept my mantra that ‘good is no longer good enough’ and by ensuring that they strive for “exceptional” performance on a daily basis. The ‘journey to exceptional’ is one that every member of the team needs to come on. Examples need to be discussed every day, and evidence diligently collated. Although many awards are decided at the back end of the year, work to win them starts in January.
And for the winners, subsequent marketing campaigns write themselves – shout about the successes and ensure the awards in themselves serve as a fabulous USP and instruction winner.
In the meantime, ‘exceptional’ business processes and customer service must then become the norm within those winning firms – after all, if they are going to promote their awards victories, they have to live up to the hype!
Julian O’Dell is founder of TM Training & Development.