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Demonstrating professional skills

“I anticipate a slightly tougher sales market in 2015 and I know it is time to sharpen the selling skills of my team. I know you conduct a lot of mystery shopping, so I would be interested to know what you see as the most common areas of weakness that negotiators are guilty of, and how you have gone about helping agents address those?”

Julian O'Dell

julian-the-dilemmaWe have spent some considerable time reviewing the mystery shopper telephone calls that we have carried out during 2014 and a number of common shortcomings have emerged – predominantly pertaining to the beginning and end of the conversations.


training-skilled-professionWhen a new applicant phones in to register, as a result of spotting a property on a portal or simply to enquire about available properties, the most common start to that conversation is “Let me just take some details from you”. The typical end, just ahead of “Goodbye”, is “I’ll pop those properties across to you on an email. If there is anything you like the look of, give me a call.”

2015 is likely to be a market that demands salespeople, not polite dispensers of information, and if that is the case, it is crucial to ensure staff have the necessary selling skills. After all, you wouldn’t send troops into battle without the right equipment and training.

Demonstrate that you are a skilled professional!

So what should be done at the start and end of the call to ensure it is effective for the negotiator and impressive for the customer?

Firstly, at the outset, a clear personal introduction is required so the customer knows who they are dealing with. This could either be within the greeting itself or immediately afterwards. Further to that, assuming the caller is requesting some sort of property advice, a thank you for calling your company is the least that should be done – after all, if these people stop contacting you, your business won’t last long!

Next, agree an agenda for the conversation. This helps the salesperson seize control of the situation. Simultaneously, the customer recognises that they are dealing with a competent individual and also understands how the call is going to be conducted and crucially, why.


An e ective agenda has four components – the process, the ‘WIIFM’, the duration and permission. The ‘process’ is what you are going to do. The WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) is why the customer will benefit from the process. The ‘duration’ is an upfront guide as to how long will the call take and ‘permission’ simply means that the salesperson needs to ensure the customer agrees with the agenda, rather than forcing it upon them.

Thus, a great start would be, “Thanks for calling us. My name is Steve and I will be happy to help you. What I’d like to do is ask you a few questions so I can help you find the perfect property quickly and accurately, and not waste your time with anything unsuitable. It will only take a few minutes and once we have done that, I’ll have a look at what we have that will suit you. Is that OK?”

An agenda of that calibre is sadly lacking in most cases, until the sta have been trained in that discipline and the manager/owner monitors and maintains the standard, often by ensuring they set the example if they are working on the front line themselves.

As to the end of the call, a summary is best practice prior to running through any suitable properties that match the requirements of the customer.


Employing summaries is a higher level sales skill that ensures the customer knows they have been listened to, that the properties you are going to tell them about are likely to be relevant and that they can trust you to make a judgement as to which properties would be suitable in the future, assuming the initial selection does not provide the ideal one.

“So can I just check I’ve got things clear… you are looking for a three-bedroom semi, with a garage and in the St Peter’s school catchment area. Something within walking distance of the station would be ideal and as little necessary remedial work as possible…”

The customer’s likely reaction, alongside the appreciation that you have digested and understood what you have been told, will be to confirm your perception, or possibly to add to it…” Actually, there was one other thing…”

Summaries are underutilised in sales, and, quite frankly, in life in general. For example, I always prefer a restaurant waiter to read our table’s order back to us so that we can relax in the knowledge that the right food will arrive subsequently.

The very final element of the call, regardless  of outcome, should be another thank you and confirmation of your name and what will happen from that point onwards. There are so many best practice principles that are sandwiched between the perfect start and the perfect finish of a call from a new applicant, but ‘bookending’ those with the principles above will make a huge difference to your success, not least by illustrating that you are a skilled professional compared to your competition.

Julian O’Dell is founder of TM Training & Development

February 22, 2015