Sometimes it’s good to look further than your borders to gain a completely different view. 

EstateAgentTODAY is a leading site in Britain jam-packed with up-to-date news, articles and trends. I tribute this article to them entirely. Published late last year, it was sent to me by a friend. It is quite direct but also immensely challenging to those of us who may be “caught up” in this time. Bearing in mind, times have changed dramatically and, as it was written in good times, it seemed all the more compelling a read for us.

But there’s another reason why I’m writing about Britain’s property market; a sample of One, in fact. My friend moved about 3 months ago and had the idea, in terms of his Visa requirements and in order to supplement their income, to buy a guesthouse. They have investigated possibilities for a year and a half now and set off on 7 July 2020, as permitted by lockdown relaxations, to view 9 guesthouses in the south of England.

The problem, we might say, is who invests in a guesthouse in a time when no one is going on holiday or travelling for business? Well, my friend has, and he saved himself UKP55000 on the price and UKP15000 on Stamp Duty [UK’s transfer duty], making a total of R1500000 saving. The latter boon is a gift to UK Property from the government which uplifted Stamp Duty until March 2021, to encourage sales. He and his wife take occupation of their 5-star guesthouse in Torquay, Devon in September.

The point for me is this:

  • 9 guesthouses were viewed
  • 3 estate agents were involved in the viewings
  • 1 won and she had 3 viewings lined up in total.

So, in the midst of a crisis just like ours, 3 estate agents had a one-in-9 shot at a sale. The price was correctly discounted, and with all the risks and strangeness of a new country, a sale was made. Indeed, as the article says, “You eat what you kill.”

We trust you enjoy the challenging read…

The problem with estate agents is: Whinge. Moan. Lead quality. Crap market. Decision procrastination. Fee pressure. Bloody competitors. Especially Purplebricks. Brexit, of course, Brexit.

These are just some of the ‘reasons’ that UK estate agents give as explanations for their lack of listing performance. In morning meetings all across the country, an army of ‘LAOs’ (Listing Avoidance Officers) sing in unison: “The leads are rubbish. And no-one is making decisions.” The Royal Wedding, holidays, Christmas – the opportunities for side-stepping success are plentiful. And not forgetting the weather. Too hot. Too cold. Snow. Storms. The wrong kind of rain? Blah blah.

In my 35 years in sales, most of it in estate agency, these excuses have been nothing but consistent across multiple salespeople in numerous businesses and several sectors. Sound familiar? It’s as if mediocrity and apathy are somehow excused by such lamenting. If the excuse is good enough, you’ll slip off the hook and survive another month. And if your other sales team colleagues can be persuaded to employ similar abdication, too, then that helps a lot. Safety in numbers and all that.

Yet, every time I picked up the phone or saw a potential customer face-to-face, each opportunity to do business seemed rather more proper. And when I dug into the sales team’s call stats and pulled a few recordings and listened in, more often than not I noted the following issues:

  • No customer qualification
  • No USPs mentioned
  • No questions asked
  • No close attempted
  • No contact details taken for follow up

So-called weak leads dismissed as ‘not a real lead’ in order to not dilute conversion rates. No wonder. No wonder ‘the leads are crap’ when salespeople, very often, don’t treat leads as, well, leads. And in a business where millions are spent on marketing and portal costs, with the resulting CPL (cost per lead) up there in the hundreds of pounds, that’s sacrilege. Around a third of portal, leads aren’t even opened or responded to by agencies. Yet about half of buyer enquiries have a property to sell. Madness. And yet we moan that the portals are ‘too expensive’. Think about that again for a second. Yes, way too expensive if you don’t capitalise on them properly.

In other markets such as the US, agents don’t squander leads. Hell, they don’t really rely on ad-derived inbound leads much at all. In Australia, an agent there told me that two-thirds of his leads were self-generated. Indeed, every person they know and every person *they* know is a potential customer. Every home on the market in their area is a lead. Every past valuation appraisal is a lead. Every Facebook friend. Every LinkedIn contact. Every neighbour. Every viewer. Referrals and recommendations. And so on. And the fact is, all of these opportunities are free. CPA zero.

UK estate agents are lazy. There, I said it. In the main, they take orders but rarely prospect. They’re not salespeople they’re passive recipients – sat under big, expensive trees waiting for the fruit to drop, nicely ripened, directly into their soft, comfortable, complacent laps. I’ve written and spoken much about the unsustainable cost to an industry of big branch-based networks. The evidence is there for all to see. But our culture of goal-hanging for easy-win leads, waiting for those customers that offer themselves up with a pen in hand desperate to sign your sole agency agreement – that’s not a viable acquisition strategy either.

‘You eat what you kill’ is the mantra of the world’s hungriest, fittest salespeople. Go out, find it and drag it back to feast on. Rather than waiting for an elderly specimen to wander into camp and die of natural causes right in front of you. That’s a sure way for your family to starve. But that’s what UK agents do. Estate agency is changing. The unit economics dictate such. But not only will the fittest and the most pro-active survive, they’ll prosper too whilst the weak and the apathetic die out.

Great White or Dodo? Choose one. But if you continue to choose the latter, remember it was your choice. It is simply left to say, What about the Originators and Conveyancers? I guess exactly the same sales and relationship principles apply.


Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena
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