JULIAN SAYS: The first rule of estate agency is, “If you have the best stock of well-priced properties, the buyers will find you.” This holds true as strongly as it has ever done.
Understanding the client journey plays a huge part in the success of any agent in how they adjust their approach to appeal to the widest section of potential vendors and landlords. If you as the agent can put yourself in the shoes of the client, you are better equipped to ensure your behaviours and techniques are effective. These are the typical stages a vendor or landlord goes through:
- Decide to sell or let
- Prior awareness
- Approach agents
- Book valuation(s)
- Interim between booking valuation and valuation taking place
- Valuation appointment
- Immediate post-valuation experience
- Ongoing post-valuation experience
- Instruct agent
These ten stages are all instrumental in the client’s decision-making process. It might help to consider the process to be akin to a sporting cup competition. To get to the final and be the clients’ chosen agent, you need to get through the preliminary rounds. Sadly, many agents get ‘knocked out’ due to shortcomings in the early stages. For example, the ‘Prior Awareness’ stage ends many agents journey with the client. If an agent has not ensured they are on all local potential landlord/vendor clients’ radar, how can they expect those clients to appoint them? Whether through general marketing, social media and reviews, recommendations, reputation or board presence, an agent must have put themselves into the minds of all possible clients.
If you conducted a survey in your patch and went door to door asking residents “Who do you think are the two most active estate agents in your area?” would they give your name? If not, you are coming up short at this early stage.
The “Research” stage will see more agents fail to be invited out. Potential clients can find out plenty about your business and, crucially, its track record by pottering about online. Do you appear to deal with properties like theirs? How do you present them? What quality and quantity are your photos and descriptions? What level of information can potential buyer/ tenant glean? How is your grammar and spelling? (a big turn-off – crass grammatical errors and basic spelling mistakes betray a lack of attention detail and lacklustre quality control – “dining room”? Do “complimentary work surfaces” tell you how nice you look in the morning? Don’t get me started on bathrooms with “shite suites”…)
Untrained staff taking new client calls can cost incalculable sums!
The third stage in the client journey – ‘Approach agents’ – is vital. It may come in different guises. The client may approach you enquiring what your fees would be. The agent’s goal from a fee enquiry is to secure a valuation appointment – anything less is a failure. Yet the standard to which these calls are handled is often woeful. How this enquiry is dealt with is inextricably linked to your chances of winning the instruction. The best agents train their staff to do things to an exceptional standard ensuring that each fee enquiry becomes not only a valuation appointment, but also one where the client is already highly impressed with how they have been treated during this crucial first interaction. Untrained staff taking such calls can cost the company incalculable amounts of money.
Another way that potential clients may initially approach agents is as an applicant seeking a new property. The manner in which they are looked after will massively affect the chances of that agent winning the instruction. Ask yourself whether such clients are genuinely being given a ‘wow’ experience on that first point of contact?
The easiest starting point is a customer calling in to book a valuation – even here some agents fail to grasp the opportunity to secure the instruction and simply go through the motions of taking cursory information, confirming a time and date for the valuation and bringing the call to an end. Better agents recognise that the booking of a valuation is the first opportunity to build a relationship and achieve genuine differentiation. If you offer an online valuation booking facility, ask yourself how user-friendly this really is and what is left upon the client.
Just a glimpse at the first three stages of the client journey between the points of deciding to sell or let and the point at which they choose their agent. You must ensure that you outperform your competition at every stage to win more than your natural share of available instructions.
Frankly there is simply not enough stock to sustain the number of agents out there – those who do not adopt the ‘dare to be different’ approach will not survive the future.