Are you selling your services? Or just the portals?
Too many times, I see and I hear of estate agents highlighting that “we’re on all three portals” as their main point of difference.
Somewhere in the late 2000s, agents figured out that a client or prospect wanted to hear that they’d be advertised online.
Back when there was only one, agents showed their differences in other ways. Then it became easy to say “but we’re on both” and a lot of punters were sold (or at least, instructed).
Now it’s about being on all three. That’s the difference you offer. Or at least, that’s the only ‘difference’ many agents talk about. Trouble is, it’s the same difference that every potential seller or landlord hears, you and your competition list your services (portals, photos, signboard - usually in that order) and leave your potential new client to compare.
In truth, and where a lot of agents have lost their way, there isn’t much to compare. So the conversation inevitably turns to fees.
You may close the deal, but the buying decision will most likely be all about price since you didn’t discuss or establish the value of what you’re offering. It’s completely natural to select the cheapest of three identical products. I’d do the same thing. So would you.
To make matters worse, it's common practice to have an entirely reactive sales cycle and pitch. In most cases, a potential client begins a conversation with you, rather than you being proactive enough to work the other way around.
Estate Agency is inherently reactive
When you’re talking about the tools you use and not your true business value, you’re taking a reactive approach. This means you’re not in control of your sales process.
The customer gives you a call, says they want to sell or let, invites you around for a ‘valuation’ (more on that here), and you rattle off the same 20 minute desperate pitch for the business as the other two agents before you.
In that approach, it can’t be about anything else other than fee. You’ve added no more value and you’ve not given any reason as to why you might be worth paying a little more for at the end of the process.
When your fees are low, you need to carry more stock. In a market where stock is tight, it’s tough to do. It’s not the market that’s closing agencies each week, it’s the mentality of the agents.
So what can you do differently?
One of the best pieces of advice I got as a young agent was to always put myself in situations where I had to ask different questions.
Do this and you’ll find the information that others don’t. You’ll learn new things and you’ll get a fresh perspective on every situation.
Another saying I really like is, “the quality of your questions will determine the quality of your business”. Can’t remember who said it first, or where I read it first, but its stuck with me and I sincerely hope it sticks with you too.
Coming back to my point, to move your clients’ decision away from fee, get yourself into more situations where you’re asking questions.
If you don’t know exactly why you’re sitting in their dining room, you can’t offer the best service and it will be impossible to get them the best result.
Remember that you’re a professional. Take control of your meetings, turn them around and have the courage (it does take courage!) to ask enough questions to ensure your client knows you care and that your job is far more than just photos, signboard and “all three portals”.
Now you know their why, talk through yours.
The above is not to say you shouldn’t talk about what you’re going to do for them. It’s important.
What’s more important is to explain why.
Why do you put the signboard up out the front?
Why do you take professional photos?
Why do you use an ‘offers over’ pricing strategy?
Why do you group your viewings to 2-3 times a week?
And yes, why do you list on all three portals?
If you can’t clearly communicate the reasons why you do what you do, your client will see no value in you doing them and the conversation comes back to price.
You’re the expert. Explain your expertise. Bring your clients as close to the action as possible. To use a sporting analogy, make them feel what it’s like to be on the pitch with you.
The more you educate, the more meaningful everything (including you) becomes to them.
Bringing it all together...
If your client views you as a commodity, like a car or software, and all you give them a chance to do is compare your ‘features and functions’, then their decision can only be about fee.
You’ve given them no other options. You’ve negotiated against yourself.
In effect, you’re saying you’re clueless as to the real value you bring to them. You've also shown no insight into their real motivations (note: motivation is the estate agency word for problem), or how you can solve them.
Turn it around, get comfortable asking the right questions to ensure you’re not just selling photos and portals, but demonste that you understand their bigger picture, and that your goals and their goals align.
Then when you run through the how, highlight the why and show them the actual value, expertise and experience you bring to the table for each and every person you work for.