The cost and reward of your integrity blogpost for estate agents by Sam Ashdown

As I sit across the kitchen table from Bob, I just know this isn’t going to work.

Bob is a 40-something geography teacher with a boyish smile and a Boris Johnson-style mop. He’s likeable, but his house is not. Beautiful on the outside, his turn-of-last-century Victorian stone cottage nestles beneath one of our most picturesque Lake District mountains. It’s a good size: an extended four bedroomed detached, it now sports a couple of extra downstairs rooms and an annexe. Plenty of space for a growing family, and a good investment for a holiday cottage hunter.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that even though this family has only lived here for a decade, in that time they have managed to cram every nook, cranny, shelf, wall and cupboard with stuff. It’s hard to see the walls and floors. And because it’s stuffed, it feels at best, dusty; at worst, dirty.

The house is currently on the market with one of our competitors, at £600,000.

The enthusiastic owner knows and accepts our fee is 1.5%. That’s £9,000. Plus vat. Enough to keep our office open for almost a month.

So why would we turn it down?

In the car on our way back to the office, we chat about it, Phil (son-in-law and business partner) and I. Thankfully, we’re on the same page. I shouldn’t worry really, we almost always are. (Except for that time when I turned down a joint instruction and a guaranteed £25,000 fee…. )

We know the house isn’t right for us. We know Bob won’t understand that he can’t sell his house as it is. We’re pretty sure the brochure won’t look great, despite our best efforts, and that buyers will be disappointed on first entrance.


It’s just not an AshdownJones house.

We are, of course, invited to beautiful, elegant homes; homes we know would photograph gorgeously. But occasionally, the owners just don’t ‘get’ us. They don’t see the value in our service. The clues are all there: they question our fee, tell us ‘the house will sell itself’ and object to our poetic copywriting.  In fact, none of the elements of the experience of working with us, are elements they value. We’re only there to make up the numbers. Chances are they’ve already got Savills coming out, plus their golfing buddy from the local independent.


They are just not AshdownJones clients.

You know there are clients you love to work with, and those who you just don’t. But when you’re trying to build your agency, and your stock, it’s really tough not to compromise and take on any old house. And any old client.

I’ve seen so many agents working with people that they shouldn’t be working with; those clients you regret the minute the agreement is signed. I know you’re probably telling yourself to suck it up, that you’ve just got to focus on getting the money in the bank.

The problem is that the damage one wrong client can cause is many times worse than having no client at all.

Here’s why: your emotional energy, motivation and passion for what you do is a hard-won entity. And it’s not limitless. If you don’t protect it, it can dwindle and fade until you ask yourself why you’re even an estate agent any more. That can’t happen at any price; certainly not because of one bad client. You need to protect yourself against them. Know what you want for you, your business and your team, and do not settle.


Have the courage of your convictions

Once you have a clear picture of the client and home you want to work with, you need to have the courage to stick to the plan. Sometimes that can be tough. You might be in someone’s home and get that vibe; that nagging doubt that this guy could be a toxic client, but you look at the fee you’ve written in your agreement, and you know you need that money. What are you going to do?

What keeps you going at a tough call like this, is a clear and unwavering vision of what you want for your future. Each hard decision along the way can take you a step closer to making your vision a reality.


The curse of the empty diary

Having an empty diary can make it almost impossible to refuse a lucrative instruction. I feel your pain.  We turn down on average around 10-20% of the houses we get called out to. It would be more, if our marketing didn’t act as a very effective filter in the first place. (Let’s face it, if you don’t really embrace the principles of bespoke marketing, you’re not going to invite us out to value your home.)  We can do this, because we have enough valuation appointments in our diary. This gives us the luxury to stick to our guns, and show some grit.

With a full diary of appraisals, it’s so much easier for you to turn down the people that you don’t want to work with, because you know that the next client is just right around the corner.

Let’s be clear – this is not a marketing tactic. It’s a fundamental strategy for your business. When the wrong person is allowed to become a client, they come to the table with entirely the wrong energy. They are toxic, and they can infect you and your team. And that’s dangerous. However, when you can be strategic about who you want to work with (and who you don’t) you’ll find your business gains a strength and credibility that is both fast, and long-lasting.

In his iconic book, The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari, Robin Sharma talks about the importance of having an empty ‘cup’ so you can fill it with new ideas. Think about your current clients. Are they open to new ideas and do they want to try something new? If the answer is no, it’s because their hypothetical ‘cup’ is constantly full. The only way to be able to open your mind, take on new thoughts, and change your current position in life is to empty your cup (your mind).

But how do you attract those clients you really want to work with, yet repel those who you don’t?

By being committed to making every touchpoint a prospective client sees only attractive the right kind of client.


Who do you most love to work with?

But to do that, you first have to get really clear on who it is that you want to work with.

That clarity will save you from toxic clients, drama queens, those who love playing the victim, and the general pains no one in the office wants to answer the phone to.

It’s hard, but this is what it means to have integrity.

Let’s remember that our mission isn’t just to sell our clients’ homes. Of course, that’s a big part of it, but our purpose actually goes much deeper. We want to grow our agency so we can make a real impact in the lives of the people we work with and the people who work for us. And we have an even bigger goal – to impact the property industry in the UK.  We want to elevate ourselves as thought leaders in our industry, and encourage other agents to do business at a higher standard of integrity.

That’s the bigger picture. And that means having rules and standards, and sticking to like glue – even if it costs you money to do it.

The fact that we only offer to take on, around four in five of the homes we go to see, costs us financially; sometimes over ten thousand pounds. But I believe wholeheartedly that it’s worth it because if we start letting the wrong people into our agency, we’re compromising on something way too valuable to risk: our integrity.

We know that it might cost us money in the short terms, but that it will pay off big in the long term. Not just in terms of revenue, but in terms of the impact we know we can create in our area, and also in our industry.

The culture we have created is empowering. Our team all know that if they really don’t like the way a client is treating them, they have the authority to dis-instruct them.  Once you have the culture right, you will be bringing in ideal clients that get you, that love what you do for them, and that are fun to work with. That in itself brings its own energy to the party, and you just know you’ll get the right result for them. The energy you’ve created is contagious, and the culture irresistible.


Your mindset will determine your results

Your team need you to demonstrate strong and authentic leadership, and this starts with you and your mindset. Ask yourself, “who do I not want to work with?” “What do I stand for?” “What do I want to be known for?” “What’s the impact that I want to make in the world?”

Your marketing all flows from that mindset, and that’s what makes it real and authentic; that’s what’s going to make it attractive to those dream clients.

This is immediately going to elevate you and your agency, and position you far above your competitors. Most corporates are so focused on the numbers –  turning a profit and reducing costs –  that their intention is flawed. That intention is threaded through their marketing: their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, leaflets and even the atmosphere in their offices; and your ideal clients will be repelled by it.

But you on the other hand, are emanating truth and credibility; authenticity and caring. And your ideal clients will be drawn to you like a magnet.

All you need is the integrity to believe in yourself and the strategy and courage to make it happen.


Ready to make the changes needed in your agency?

If you’d like a chat with my team to find out more about how we work, just tell us a bit about your business using this link, and let’s talk:


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