With every real estate agency seeking to win more listings, top coach Josh Phegan says there are only two ways to increase profitability. You can focus on the competition, or you can focus on the customer. But choose wisely, as only one of them is responsible for paying your invoice.
Our industry is obsessed with what the competition is doing. We still follow what others do, and if someone breaks the mould, we wait and watch. If it looks successful we replicate it fast.
The disruptors are eating at the edges of our business, stripping away the value proposition, and it leaves us complaining that the competition is stiff; that it’s hard to compete. The advent of lead-generation websites, new models that charge lower fees and provide higher splits, leaves us dazed and confused.
The reality? All of that is a distraction, because it focuses on the current environment, on the ‘right now’ customer. Even the banks are entering with full artillery to provide consumers with the ‘real market value’ of their homes. The age-old market report, market appraisal and free assessment are done.
So how do you win? You put the customer at the centre of everything you do. It’s called customer-centric design. You work hard to identify the sticky points, the friction, the things that don’t work; then work out a way to deliver it so that the customer finds you valuable.
The customer has never argued for a lower fee; they’ve argued for value.
In a good market, agency looks easy. You’ll never know the strength of an agent until a market turns, or they have to negotiate. Any agent who started in the last five years on the East Coast of Australia has a limited memory of GFC conditions; we’re certainly not headed there, but we are reshaping what it is that great estate agents do to earn the right to the customer.
It comes down to your customer acquisition strategy and, if you think social’s the answer, watch your business fry. What makes a business move and turn quickly on its head, the type of thing that adds accelerant to your growth, is relationship.
When everyone is equal on digital, which is happening fast, it goes back to the relationship. That’s why those who focus on making the calls, getting in the doors, getting face to face, always win.
It takes guts to avoid an industry fad, an apparent trend. You must become more valuable. For excellent buyer work, it means making a pest, building and strata report (if applicable) available from day one to reduce the buying friction. For the seller, it’s having a buying service to help them find where they are moving to, assisting with property preparation, even sending someone to help have the property ready every Saturday morning for the open.
People are time poor; we live in a fast-paced society, a mobile society that expects to press a button and just make it happen. You could focus on the champagne you give to the customer, but isn’t it of more value to send a cleaner round in the hours before settlement, for both the buyer and the seller? To send the locksmith to replace the locks and keys alike for the buyer just after settlement, and provide a spare key at our office service to continue that consumer relationship with the future customer?
The most successful businesses in this industry focus on the customer, never on the competitor, so be careful about who you’re trying to replicate, who you hold up as a role model. You may be following a path into lower fees, lower profitability and possible extinction.
The easiest way to drive service innovation is to go through a real estate transaction yourself from beginning to end. Look at every point and ask yourself: what are the things you have to do and how can an agent make that easier, faster, better? We use a service called Getfeedback.com to survey our clients, and the ideas they have for innovation on what we can do are astounding. Pick up the phone and talk with 30 customers a day; find out what their real challenges are, the blockages as to why they can’t move, why they can’t sell and so on. Find a solution and you’ll nail it.
The last thing we need is another market report, another Just Listed or Sold in the letterbox. What we need is a relationship that matters – one that’s built on trust. You do that through being relevant; that relevancy determines the frequency and consistency always wins in business. Set your service delivery standard; train on the customer lifecycle and what you do to add the value. The true purpose of any great agent is to help people have a much bigger future through property.
The industry is bright for those who choose the alternative path. Do the work and watch your business thrive.