Five steps to help agents thrive during a crisis

There’s no denying the Coronavirus crisis has been devastating to many. The health and economic implications run deep and, depending on the strategy adopted, they could also run long.

The human toll on people’s lives and livelihood is immense, and like everyone else, I’m eager for us to move back toward a more certain future.

That said, this current event has given me pause, because in many respects, this economic fallout parallels the GFC. During that time, financial institutions were rocked, lending dried up and trade halted abruptly. Many were living in fear.

But experience has taught me, times of uncertainty for some can be moments of opportunity for others.

My GFC experience
In 2011, I started working for myself. Australia was still in the long shadow cast by the GFC, and Brisbane was experiencing 1:100 year flooding (even though it’s now flooded three times in the last 100 years!). We were going through an environmental crisis and financial crisis, not too dissimilar to the health and financial crisis today.

Leaving an agency and establishing my own business during a time like that seems crazy, but on reflection, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was able implement moves during this tough time to ensure that when the turnaround came, I was well positioned to reap rewards.

And I did. In 2013, my business had 5X growth in one year and then continued that growth every year thereafter. I eventually became one of only 30 agents in Brisbane to write over $1 million GCI and it all came down to five strategies implemented during the downturn that paid handsomely when the market recovered.

1 . The 20:1:20 Strategy
During the GFC, everyone was distracted by bad news and ignoring their core activities. My key responsibilities were getting listings and selling property.

I decided anchoring myself to one daily, productive measurable task within my control was a must, and this brought about the 20:1:20 strategy.

I resolved to make 20 meaningful new connections every day. It might take 50 or 60 phone calls to make those, but I would do it come hell or high water. I blocked my calendar until midday every day, recalibrated my positive mindset and got into it.

The goal in making those 20 connections was to secure at least one future meeting per day.

Extrapolating the numbers meant one new face-to-face booked per work day equalled 20 meetings per month. Out of those, I would land two to three new listings.

Growing listings by that number per month provided a solid foundation for turnover, because on top of these listings, I would already be getting organic referrals via client recommendations, past business and from reputation alone.

These brought in another one or two per month, which was critical because when sales volumes dropped by 50 to 75 per cent, just as I believe they will during this downturn, I had to double the number of properties I was listing.

2. Set goals, and reward yourself in small, medium and large ways
You must have goals and rewards to support drive and accountability.

While many might feel they’re already goal oriented, most of those goals are unclear, ambitious or audacious. That’s great, but don’t forget to celebrate small steps along the way too.

Set small, medium and big goals and then mark attaining them with commensurate rewards so you are constantly achieving.

For example, my small goal will be to make 20 connections in one day. Once I’d achieved that goal, I’d reward myself with a few quiet moments and a great coffee.

My medium-size goal might be landing five new listings in the month. Achieve that and I’d celebrate with my girlfriend at an excellent restaurant. We’d drink, eat and be merry. 

Then there are the big ones. I set an ambitious goal in 2011. If I made a certain number of sales in the year, I would buy myself a Rolex. Every time I needed a boost, I’d look at the Rolex brochure and imagined taking possession of that longed for Submariner. It drove me to keep going.

I wear that reward every day.

3. Focus on price and presentation
Sometimes you need to simplify things in trying times. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the bad news, and less talented agents will make lousy excuses as to why a listing won’t sell like, “The market is dead” or “The banks aren’t lending”.

But this is all garbage. There are only two reasons why a property isn’t selling – price or presentation.

That’s it!

And here’s the secret ingredient – you always work on presentation before you drop the price.

Presentation is key across all facets – from street appearance to internal finish and condition. It includes appropriate styling, and marketing the property toward the likely buyer demographic.

Presentation also refers to the advertising – great photos, video walkthrough, floor plan and excellent descriptions are all key.

When buyers walk into a property, they need to be blown away. You must be brutal about removing any objection the buyer can anchor themselves to – particularly during a crisis when everything is negative.

If you’re still not selling once you’ve maximised presentation, then it must be price. The seller should be educated every week as to the market value, until you start getting offers or serious buyer inquiry.

4. Work for yourself and keep more of your commission
Some of us have a deeply entrenched but misguided opinion that being employed by a big organisation provides a safety net for financial survival.

Well, that gets totally disproved in a crisis!

The GFC and COVID-19 have shown no one is immune from being given the boot. You can be part of an incredibly well-established business with seemingly excellent growth prospects in January, and then be out of a job by March.

I discovered in the GFC, it was healthier to have control of my own destiny. I wasn’t dictated to by a ‘head office’ that would choose to sacrifice my needs for ‘the greater good’.  Looking back on that period now, there is no way I could have been able to financially afford to stay in the industry if I remained working for an agency and giving half my commission away.

If you are driven, self-motivated and experienced, working for yourself and retaining more of your commission is the best security of all.

As the master of your domain, you also get to control costs better, scaling back your own outgoings where needed.

During those tough years of 2011-2012, I worked from home, much like we are now, and it was great. None of my clients knew, and none cared, because all inquiries these days are either online, or straight to the agent’s mobile, and all meetings are done at the properties, so what does it matter where you work from?

5. Build your own brand and create an attraction business.
Building your own brand is the practical application of working for yourself.

Creating an attraction business becomes easier, because you can turn YOUR name into a household name in your area, rather than the big brand franchise agency.

You can define your specialities and hone in on a client base that allows you to excel.

When I was selling, I became known as the go-to agent for listings of houses in Paddington QLD priced $1 million plus. I worked and cultivated that patch and took every opportunity to meet with property owners and potential sellers.

Not only did I build my brand on my skills, I strengthened it with a positive message. While everyone else was doom and gloom about the market, I was firmly upbeat about the long-term outlook. After all, even the smallest light fills the darkest room.

Talk up your achievements on every occasion because good news travels in a tough environment.

My ‘sold’ signboards promoted my success (and my brand), and before I knew it, I had created an attraction-business, and it’s the number one reason I achieved 5X growth in one year.

Diamonds are made under pressure and this crisis will be your time to shine. Embrace the possibilities, run hard and the rewards will come your way.

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Dan Argent

Dan has drawn on almost 20-years of real estate experience to re-imagine the purpose of real estate agencies in the modern era, with intentions of turning the old model on its head. To facilitate this real estate revolution, Dan has taken on the visionary role of Chief Energy Officer at UrbanX.