Who they gonna call? You or another agent?

Surveys regularly indicate that vendors instruct the agent whose competence and integrity they trust. Winning such trust can best be effectively achieved by face-to-face contact at an appraisal. However, this fact is academic if such opportunities are not being created.

In short, estate agency Utopia would be to get invited out to every single market appraisal in your area. So how can we move ourselves closer to this perfect scenario?

If local people were asked “Who is the most active estate agent in your area?” would they give your firm’s name as the answer?

It is important to raise your profile in the local area and ensure you are seen as a successful, proactive and above all better alternative to the competition. In short, you must be on every local vendor’s radar to ensure you are at least “in the frame” as their possible agent.

It will not necessarily mean that you will take on everything you are offered –prudent agents may decline the odd instruction unless it enhances their available register.

However, it is crucial to have the opportunity to make that choice by being invited in!

Does every element of your marketing scream that you would appreciate more property to sell?

Wanted ads on your website’s home page, in the office window and in printed publications give local customers the message that you want their business.

High-calibre generic leaflets and specific letters to appropriate local addresses work if constantly employed – however, this canvassing must be planned and constant.

Social media presence and particularly engagement are effective in building local connections and promoting your business and stealing a march on your rivals who are inactive in that medium.

E-marketing via newsletters to your database of local clients ensures that they are constantly made aware of your brand, your activity, your successes and any special incentives.

There are some fantastic options for the design and distribution of newsletters via email, and as many agents still fail to use this approach, it is another key way of differentiating your company from the competition.

Ensuring that the neighbouring community is made aware of every successful sale you agree locally by way of a regular newsletter, Facebook posts, tweets or the delivery of “Sold in your area” leaflets will increase the chances of your firm being asked to future valuations.

Currently, one client agent of ours even delivers “Another viewing on a property near you” leaflets after accompanied viewings to let the locals know they are active in that area.

“Farming” developments and villages is effective – displays in the village store, business cards left with hoteliers and publicans, support given to school events – these have all proven successful in building an agent’s business in those communities.

Contact with previous customers who have bought and/or sold through your firm keeps your name in mind.

Beyond this background work, agents with large market shares are unsurprisingly those who focus on the provision of excellent service.

All the staff recognise the concept that every vendor is a potential recommender and repeat customer, every applicant a future vendor, every tenant a future buyer.

Separating the local applicants with properties to sell from the rest of your database, and upping the level of service given to them in terms of telephone and email contact will help convince them that you are a more diligent and customer-focused agent than your competitors, leading to an increased chance of them employing you when the time is right.

Really outstanding firms also recognise that there are other “customers” to consider outside the obvious categories.

Anyone who interacts with your company should be seen as a customer – some of these relationships are less obvious but equally important.

How do you manage these “customers by association”?

Firstly, it is important to identify who they are – the lady in the newsagents where you buy your cigarettes, the tyre fitter who worked on your car last week, the board contractor, the office window cleaner to name but a few.

These all represent future business and recommendations. In short, everyone you deal with should be viewed as potential business.

Secondly, these “customers” merit great service in the way they are handled.

How much effort do the team make in creating rapport with the aforementioned examples? How do we conduct ourselves with them?

Do they have an impression of our firm that would lead to them recommending us? Have we suggested that we would recommend their services in return for them recommending ours?

Poor service to less obvious “customers” loses business.

Some time ago, an estate agency which sent staff on one of our seminars had not paid and were sent a polite reminder by email.

Eventually, with payment still outstanding following a number of further reminders, a colleague of mine popped into the agent’s office with a copy of the invoice. It was finally paid the following week – over three months after the seminar.

The company were unaware that during this saga, I was asked by a relative to recommend an agent who would be suited to selling three newly built homes in that area.

The delay in payment of our invoice led me to only three possible conclusions about the agent in question – that they were disorganised, that they could not afford to pay the invoice (less than £500.00) or finally that they were simply avoiding payment.

None of these conclusions made me feel comfortable in recommending them, so the business went elsewhere – I am not party to the detail of the terms the other agent agreed with the developer but the fees amounted conservatively to over £8,000.

The message for this market is simple – “Get your own house in order, in order to get houses…”

Julian O’Dell

TM training & development

01480 405583


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  1. agency negotiation limited

    This is very much a “sales” culture proposal, rather than one that inspires the local community to know, like & trust any agency. That said, it has been shown to be effective but often at the expense of the agency reputation. “Public begging” is not something that creates loyalty and portrays any agency as the authority in their area.

    I disagree with Julian that trust can be achieved at a “face-to-face appraisal”. One hour does not create trust – simply an opportunity to “know” and perhaps even “like” an agency. Trust, where vendors will not even consider another agency (regardless of manipulative sales practices) takes longer to establish and much, much more hard work.

    “Does every element of your marketing scream that you would appreciate more property to sell?” What this does is to suggest that your agency is desperate for business, is, therefore a commodity and will do whatever it takes to gain an instruction. We are talking about supposedly reputable businesses here that need to earn “respect” from the local community, not see everyone with a warm pulse as a prospective sale.

    The “sales culture” way of doing business will always be around – it’s just one way of doing business, like cold-call telephone sales. However, there is growing evidence that vendors are “tuning out” to sales tactics (ignoring & blocking intrusions into their time) and therefore the pressure to better perform increases year on year. These “social clues” should lead agencies to seek out alternate methods of connecting with the local community. What vendors want to know about any agency is: What values do they possess, have they strong convictions and beliefs about either local or national events and in this way, agents can establish an affinity with certain sections (not all) of the community. This is the start of knowing, liking and eventually positioning the agency as a trusted member of the community rather than one that “farms” the community for self-interest.

    A huge topic, Julian, but one that I personally feel is essential for agencies to get right. Differentiation is a buzzword at present and there is no better way to differentiate oneself than by not being a sales person.The things that matter in agency from a vendors perspective are trust, permission and an emotional connection. Leaflets and offering different levels of contact for local/regional vendors is not, in my opinion, the way forward.

  2. Oldtimer

    The key to gaining instructions is the holy grail of agency and there is no one answer, so there is a never ending demand for the services of Julian and Mr Limited Agency Negotiation.

    The problem is that clients hold an infinite number of views about estate agents and property  and we all (should) know that you cant change clients perceptions, whether they are right or wrong! That is why trying to ‘educate’ clients with facts is a waste of time. You have to align your pitch with the client’s view of the world and if you get it right you will, probably, get the job.

    There are things that help and being active in the community, being seen in the press and having lots of boards etc are obviously beneficial but if the client thinks having lots of offices is good or, on the other hand, being a long established local firm is best trying to change that view is useless. Better to focus on something they do want.

    None of the above is to denigrate Julian and Co, they can be very helpful but mainly to open your mind to other ways of working and new ideas and if you want to delve further read Seth Godin’s All Marketers are Storytellers (originally Liars but amended later!), a small but excellent book.

    1. agency negotiation limited

      Excellent advice and just for clarity, I hold no grievance with Julian or any of the other excellent trainers. A sales driven culture will suit some agencies and for others, a culture where the agency can inspire vendors to loyalty will work better.

      Personally, I have an issue with aligning a pitch to fit with a clients view of the world (genuine/authenticity etc), but fully accept that it can gain instructions and makes short term commercial sense. Each to their own.

      However, on what we absolutely do agree is the value of Seth Godin (permission marketing also a great book) and also agree that crafting messages/storytelling has a bright future.



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