This month we wanted to find out what it takes to be a world-class negotiator and valuer so we interviewed Tony Morris, co-founder of sales training business, Sales Doctors.


Tony, you have experience in sales training both in and out of the estate agency sector so in your opinion what are the key skills required for a front line estate/letting agent to succeed?

There are many skills required to succeed in the front line. The first must be great rapport building skills, as whether you answer the phone or stand to greet an applicant when they enter your branch, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. We know that in the current climate, applicants are contacting at least six or seven agents when enquiring regarding a property: in order for them to use your agency it mustn’t just be about the property itself, it must also be about the level of interest you show in the applicant’s needs and desires.

The second skill is questioning. Too many agents ‘register the applicant’ before even getting their name and number. Our mystery shop survey showed that over 70% of agents asked, “what’s your budget”, as their opening question, and 30% didn’t take contact details or even ask a caller’s name. How can you recommend properties as an expert if all you know is that they want a 2 bed flat in X area and have a budget of Y?

We have created a structure for our agency clients to demonstrate that they need to ask better questions in a consultative manner before they recommend any properties. Our feeling is one great question will give you five better answers than you would get from five bad questions.

The reason for this approach is that one great question is a conversation and five bad questions is merely registration. For example we hear lots of negotiators ask, “do you have a property to sell?”, and whilst we appreciate the importance of knowing this, it is a very selfish question where there is absolutely nothing in it for the applicant to answer and they feel under pressure very early on in the conversation. If they were asked (after you asked them where they were looking to rent/ buy), “out of curiosity where do you live at the moment? How long have you lived there? And finally what are your plans with that property?”, you are engaging the applicant, showing an interest in them and gaining the valuable information you need.

The third skill which ties in perfectly with questioning is listening. There is no point asking questions if you don’t listen to the applicant’s responses. It’s a fact that people like to talk about themselves and the more we appear to be listening, the more comfortable and engaged our applicant becomes.

The fourth skill is persistence and tenacity. There is a difference in chasing and irritating an applicant and being tenacious. One of the best ways to demonstrate tenacity rather than pointless chasing is to manage the applicant’s expectations. Don’t tell them you will call them in ‘a couple of days’ but rather make a telephone appointment to call them at a specific time on a specific day. Please remember these applicants could have a hundred pounds a week to spend or hundreds of thousands to spend – either way it’s a lot of money to them and they expect professionalism.

The fifth skill set is to understand that asking for the business is not pushy. Many negotiators we work with feel it’s rude and pushy to ask for the business – we view it the exact opposite. If you have done everything else correctly, you have earned the right to ask for their business. Please remember you are not selling to anybody, you are helping them to buy. Please don’t overcomplicate this part: if they like the property and think its valued accurately why wouldn’t they offer on it?

The sixth and final skillset is a positive mental attitude. Across the 8,000 sales professionals we have worked with, we are yet to meet a successful sales person with a bad attitude. We believe if you’re going to have an attitude you may as well have a positive one. What benefits does having a negative attitude bring to the table? We all know that in sales we get the answer ‘no’, but it’s our reaction that will determine our success or failure.

In your opinion, are there any particular habits that successful agents have in their daily routine?

Absolutely, and in our experience it’s all about building the right habits. It’s been said by the award-winning author Malcolm Gladwell that, “it takes 21 days to build a habit”, however what habits are negotiators building?’

The first habit is preparation. How do you prepare for your day, how do you prepare to make or take a call and when out on a viewing or valuation, have you prepared comparables that will enable you to get win the business or the instruction? Many negotiators argue that they have done the job for years so there is no need to prepare – our argument is that if Roger Federer can still practice before any match why can’t we?

A second habit is time management. It’s all about priorities; doing the right things at the right time for the right result.

The third habit is presentation. How does your branch look to an applicant, how does your car look and most importantly how do you look?

What is the most important thing to enable a team to win more business with less investment?

The first thing is how you manage your database. It’s not enough to just do random callouts asking people if they’re considering selling or renting: there needs to be a system in place. If you monitor your figures closely, you will spot trends in how often your clients are buying and selling. Are you calling them at the right time?

How often are you calling the vendors or landlords where you lost the instruction?
The most successful agents have a system for this so do you?
When they call they have the right story to tell – what is your team saying?

One of our agency clients in north west London conducted a survey on their lettings business. It transpired that 88% of applicants who were looking to rent were already in rented properties in one of their catchment areas. How often are your negotiators getting the applicants current landlords’ details? Some of our agency clients like to wait till they get given them once an applicant makes an offer, however now you are one of many agents calling the landlord. Our view is we’d like to be the first to call the landlord and tell our story and we’d like to take advantage of every applicant enquiry, whether they offer or not. Please forget the fact that some applicants haven’t given their notice yet or are having their properties managed by your competition – if you follow our structure you will get extra instructions every week at no marketing cost to you.

Tony and his business partner Boyd Mayover, have a combined sales experience of 48 years. Bringing their insight from outside and inside the estate agency industry, they will be revealing their top tips to be a world-class agent at Sales and Marketing LIVE. Join us on the 25th February in Manchester or the 26th February in London.

Book early to ensure your space here


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