Never knock the competition. My dad taught me this; he was a star sales rep in the 70s, way before social media made it so easy to do exactly that, but if he were still around, he’d give me the same advice now. In some ways, it’s more true now in this new transparent world than it was then.
There is enough business for all of us, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. If we just put the effort we’re spending on attacking one another into pursuing and winning new business, we would be rewarded by a better bottom line and loyal, happy clients.
If a new agent opens in your area, particularly one offering bargain basement fees, invite them out for a coffee. Better still, a drink. Find out what makes him or her tick, what their long-term goals are for their agency, and how you can work together in a complementary, non-aggressive way. Perhaps they have bitten off more than they can chew, and have some projects they would like to work together on. Or maybe they would welcome the opportunity to sit down like professionals and work out commercial boundaries – geographically or demographically. For example, they could mop up the shared ownerships or that troublesome estate you don’t really want.
But of course, many new, hungry agents may refuse to meet up with you. The really aggressive ones won’t want to work in harmony; preferring instead to attack the status quo using ridiculously low fees and underhand tactics. These methods have no longevity. They are not a sustainable way of running an agency. Agencies are founded and built on mutual trust between you and your clients, a focus on doing the right thing at the right time, and at the end of the day, profit. A £199 agent with a flyboarding habit is never going to make his mark in your town, so stop worrying about him.
When a new competitor arrives and starts nicking instructions from you, the first thing you need to do is sit down with your team and decide the best way of describing the differences between you; the client, trying to understand why they should pay 1.5% and not £199, will undoubtedly question you on your valuation and you need to have some intelligent answers for them. You also need to do this for the benefit and morale of your team, who may not truly grasp how your agency is worth the extra few thousand quid, so spend some time making sure that they appreciate the added value you bring to a client’s house sale.
Make sure that the points of difference you identify are about you – not about them. So instead of “They don’t do accompanied viewings”, you could say “We accompany all our viewings to save our clients the time and trouble, and make sure we create offer opportunities”.
Once you have that list of differences between you and the newcomer, it’s time to practice them at your next market appraisal when you get challenged on fees. Have your phone on record if it has that function, and listen later to not just what you said, but also the client’s questions and reactions. You may not have heard something you can later pick up on.
So you’ve worked out your pitch, you’ve practiced your answers and explanations, now it’s time to perfect what you say. Each and every appointment or phone call is an opportunity to focus on the positive differences between you and your rival, without resorting to negative comments. If your competitor really is aggressive, it’s unlikely they will be doing this; they won’t hesitate to criticise the established agents in the town, but that won’t go down well with savvy vendors. You need vendors who value your service, who don’t see you as a commodity, and who will remain loyal if their property doesn’t sell in the first weekend on market. Does that sound like the kind of vendor they will win over?
I’ll leave the last line to Mr Jobs, who knew a thing or two about beating the competition:
“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better: you have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently.”
If you’d like to have a chat about how you can do it differently, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to hear from you.
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