Getting the troops to call clients

by Julian O'Dell

My staff claims to recognise that effective vendor contact is critical to our success but in reality it is obvious the team dislikes calling clients and so avoids doing so which has an adverse effect on my transaction volumnes. What can I do?

You are right to address this issue as a matter of urgency. Failure to proactively contact existing vendors, in an effort to make instructions more saleable, leads to complaints and negative comments about your firm in the community. And it is not only the potential cost to your reputation that is at risk, but the money spent on marketing instructions, which you know are impossible to sell with their existing criteria, be it in terms of appearance and/or price.

We all know how difficult it is to shift stock in a market downturn and we have all experienced the difficult conversations that this leads to when you are forced to negotiate with clients about the necessity of reducing the asking price of their property, hence the importance of your staff performing to their optimum.

There are a number of key elements to tackle.

Staff attitude

Office teams mourn a collapsed sale but tend to be only mildly disappointed when a vendor withdraws to try another agent. The latter must be treated with equal concern - both lead to potential lost income.

Moreover, valuers faced with two calls to return, one from a disgruntled vendor and the other from an unknown person considering putting their property on the market, will often call the new client before the existing one. This prioritisation should be discouraged.

Staff training

I recently witnessed an interesting incident at an agent's morning meeting. The meeting was in full flow, with staff participating and seemingly ready for the day's challenges. But there was a marked change in body language when it was time to distribute the firm's client care calls. It was obvious the staff were not looking forward to this element of their work.

It transpired that the staff were not receiving any training or coaching to help them execute this task.

Your team must be guided on preparing for client contact, which means they need guidance on how calls should be structured and how resistance should be overcome. This support should help build your negotiators' confidence and,
ultimately, your profit.

Vendor care system

Whether computerised or manual, a reminder system is essential to flag up all the available properties you have that are in need of a review. The absence of such a system means that vendors will be left for unacceptable lengths of time with no contact from your firm, causing them to question the value for money they are receiving from you.

Research has shown that vendors switch agents due to a lack of communication as much as a failure to sell.

If a new vendor is left with unrealistic service expectations, you will rapidly fall into the ‘overpromising/underdelivering' trap, jeopardising the deal.

Clarity about your service standards and your clients' expectations at the point of instruction is crucial.

Vendor/agent relationship

Trust is key - the most trusted agents are most likely to be successful in securing instructions. However, trust must be earned and retained throughout the sale process. Agents who fail to produce information quickly and accurately and/or fail to market stock in the promised newspaper advert or property portal will soon lose clients' trust, increasing thelikelihood of vendors instructing a competitor. Exceeding client expectations is best practice.

Furthermore, client loyalty is more likely if a rapport is built with the whole sales team, rather than just the valuer. This can be achieved by viewings or property visits being undertaken by different team members.

Proactive vendor contact

With the right system and staff attitude and training in place, you can proactively provide your vendors with updates about their property.  This will help you maintain your relationship with them and therefore their satisfaction with your service. Client contact serves as an
opportunity to enhance the saleability of your stock by way of price reduction, improved viewing access and securing a mortgage appointment or a for sale board. It also increases vendors' understanding of the role of agents and how you earn your fee and therefore, hopefully, reduces the likelihood of them instructing another agent.

You must help your team understand that their efforts in increasing the saleability of an existing vendor's property, and the consequent loyalty and motivation that they help generate, is often better than a new instruction.

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