Managing expectations isn’t always easy. Nigel O’Neil, CEO of Hocking Stuart, talks about why and how you should be in the business of managing your own – as well as your vendor’s – expectations.
Defining good performance
Every six weeks I have the pleasure of delivering a general induction session to about 30 new staff who have joined the hockingstuart network. Participants comprise a range of sales, property management and administrative staff. Many are experienced real estate professionals, but for some, it’s their first ever job in real estate. The induction involves going through business leader Stephen Covey’s 13 behaviours of highly trusted individuals or teams. One of these behaviours, and perhaps the most important, is ‘clarifying expectations’. During our session, I always ask the group: “Who in their previous job had absolute clarity around what was deemed poor, average, good and exceptional performance in that role?” Typically, there are responses around position descriptions or some form of goal setting, but not a single person raises their hand; it is clear to me that expectations of performance can be vague at best.
Clarifying expectations is all about having courageous conversations with your boss, vendors, friends and family. It begins and ends with you and nobody else and is an essential ingredient for success. So where should you begin? In real estate, where communication is vital, it is important to manage your own job expectations with your boss. Sitting down with them and having a discussion around what would constitute poor to exceptional performance will ensure that you are aware of what is required in your role. These kinds of conversations provide an appropriate environment for you to learn what you can do better and highlight things that you may have classified as not important – and, in fact, – are non-negotiable in your role (being on time for meetings is a classic example).
The market factor
Once you’ve clarified your own performance expectations, it is as equally important to apply this theory from the inside out, by managing the expectations of vendors too. How easy this is can often depend on the state of the property market. When the market is on the rise, it is much easier to interact with a vendor as, generally speaking, comparable property prices will reflect results which will increase over time. Therefore, the estimate of price at listing is likely to be lower than at auction after a four week marketing campaign. During such times, sales agents have good news to deliver to the vendor as offers will reflect the rising property market – at this time expectations are quite rightly high.
The challenge, however, accelerates in a softening market when historical comparable property prices (sometimes three to six months old or more) are likely to be greater than when the property is sold two to three months into the future (following the final listing and after the marketing campaign begins). This is the situation in which sales agents need to have the courage to manage the expectations of vendors and explain what is happening in the market.
So how do you manage vendor expectations effectively? Here are my top tips to ensure a no-surprises approach to vendor expectation management and that they walk away satisfied with your service.
First, start the expectation management process from the very first appointment – explain the factors that can influence sale conditions and continue to update and set expectations throughout the entire sales campaign. This involves constant communication with your vendor about buyer – reaction to the property. It is essential for vendors to understand a realistic value for their property at that particular time. Further, updates to vendors on current comparable sales throughout the campaign guarantees vendors have the most up to date information to make a decision when offers are on the table.
It is important to remember that you are selling a vendor’s greatest asset, so negative surprises – like a lower than expected offer price, are never well received. While you cannot change the property market, you can change and adapt your communication. It is much easier to manage great expectations if you have set the scene from the get-go, so that your conversation is short and snappy and less like an epic novel.
Nigel O’Neil is the CEO of one of Victoria’s largest real estate franchise networks, Hocking Stuart.