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A customer’s view…

Sometimes the best lessons in business are learnt by accident. A chance meeting led to me being reminded of some absolutely crucial estate agency principles…

I had a fascinating conversation with the parents of my teenage daughter’s new boyfriend last month, which gave me a very interesting insight into the manner in which agents can win and lose business.

Those of you with teenage children will recognise your role as part-time taxi driver, which is how I felt as I drove the 35 miles from home to collect my daughter from her latest squeeze’s house.

Upon arrival, the necessary small talk with the boyfriend’s parents rapidly came round to the challenges of moving house once I had established that they were hoping to upsize within their village. It just so happened that they had put their own property on the market that very morning having found somewhere to purchase.

I couldn’t resist finding out about their experiences in getting their home valued and appointing an agent to sell it. As they lived in an area that my own estate agency branches don’t cover, there was no hidden agenda on my part – it was simply an opportunity to discover the decision making process of these vendors (and a more interesting subject of conversation than the weather or fuel prices). Furthermore, these ad hoc discussions can often help in crafting content for our training courses.

The owners had arranged three valuations by local agents. The trio invited out had been selected largely due to sold board presence and reputation.

Mr and Mrs Client openly admitted that prior to the valuations, they had earmarked one of the agents (we shall refer to them as Agent A) as the most likely to get their business because that firm seemed to be the most successful in the village. However, the manner in which Agent A conducted themselves rapidly turned that provisional decision on its head.

Agent A’s valuation was scheduled for 4.00 pm. At 4.15 pm, the clients called their office to enquire as to the whereabouts of the valuer, to be reassured he was on his way. Half an hour later, another call to the agent was met with the response that as the valuer had been unable to find the property, he had proceeded to his next appointment. This situation astounded me, as did the fact that the vendors were understanding enough to allow the agent to rebook for the following morning at 10.30 am.

Before relating the detail of the two subsequent valuations, there are a few interesting subtexts about Agent A’s visit. Firstly the house had a name and no number and was relatively (but not significantly) difficult to find – indeed, I had phoned ahead before leaving home to check directions as it was my first visit there.

Secondly, the rebooked appointment could only be attended by Mr Client, whereas both members of the couple would have been present for the original one – seeing only one decision maker immediately put Agent A at a disadvantage.

Thirdly, when the rearranged valuation was carried out, Mr Client’s immediate impression of the valuer was that “he was so arrogant that if he had been made of chocolate he would have eaten himself” (two expletives have been edited out of that remark) and that he “aggressively” demanded the vendor to “get the dog away” from him on arrival.

The final interesting point regarding Agent A’s approach is that the valuer was the proprietor of the firm…

Agent B fared slightly better – arriving just a few minutes late and looking the part. However, Mr and Mrs Client commented that this valuer fell down on failing to support his perceived “low” price advice with any concrete evidence bar a verbal reference to “one down the road” which his firm had failed to sell. The vendors also criticised the brevity of his visit and his failure to measure the accommodation or take more than cursory notes.

Agent C was pick of the bunch and won the instruction. The factors that led to that outcome included that he took more interest in the clients and the property, spent longer at the appointment, proved his effectiveness by showing details of his local sales successes, highlighted key services that had not been discussed – therefore possibly not offered – by his competitors and, above all, led the clients to have greater trust in his integrity, determination and ability. Interestingly, Agent C happened to be the most expensive on fee.

As I drove home with my daughter berating me for spending so much time “talking about boring stuff”, I felt fortunate to be given confirmation by these people that best practice principles do make a difference.

Perhaps Agents A and B are trading so successfully that they could afford not to have this particular bit of business, maybe they were just on a bad day. But overall, my money is on Agent C to survive and thrive longer than their two competitors.

Julian O’Dell
TM training & development