INDUSTRY INTERVIEW: Iain White from Agency Mentors.

You have been a name in the industry for a number of years now, has there been a big change in the way that we sell homes these days?

The legal process has remained largely the same, the mortgage market is significantly different now and lenders are far more cautious in what they will lend buyers and the process can be lengthy. Bizarrely in this high tech modern world the average time it takes a deal to go through if anything has lengthened. Obviously the Internet has changed how buyers search and agents have reacted by investing heavily in their own websites and utilising what the portals provide in terms of audience and exposure. Digital marketing and the use of social media to sell property are all now essential tools to ensure you achieve the very best outcome for your client and make it easy for buyers and tenants to find you and the properties you are marketing. In my opinion on the whole estate agents have become much more professional and customer centric in their thinking or at least the good ones have. Behaviours within the industry are being consumer led although  Legislation and the advent of the Ombudsman scheme have also had very positive effects on customer service strategies and ethics. The single biggest change in recent years is the lack of property for sale, which enables the very best estate agents who look to work the market to maximise the outcome for the seller to make huge market share gains over the pile it high sell it quickly and cheaply agents.  Regards the call centre agents Vs traditional model agents, I have a very simple view that is about the people not the business model, both models work if delivered by decent honest hard working Estate agents, similarly both models fail if the reverse is true. 

What is Agency Mentors, why was it ‘born’ and who is the team behind it?

We are a mentoring and training business with a difference, all of the partners have been very successful in their own right as estate agents and all have an innovative hands on can do approach. Time and time again I meet clients who are dissatisfied with existing training solutions. Most MDs I meet simply do training to tick a box with very little belief it will actually have any long lasting effect on the behaviours and or results of their staff, many feel the training today is exactly the same as the training provided to them many years ago. We have listened to these MDs and provided solutions and development programmes that solve their concerns and business demands, as I see it is all about solving problems for our clients. Our programmes often mean long term contact with a specific individual holding their hand and mentoring them through the promotional maze of personal growth, in short we mentor people as well as train them we monitor them and provide feedback and provide support systems and resources beyond the classroom.

Should traditional Estate Agents be concerned with the rise of online / Hybrid Estate Agents? 

I don’t believe the model is relevant, obviously some customers will be cost driven and some will be outcome and or relationship driven. There is space for both to exist side by side and many of my clients are working on offering both options to their client which seems very sensible to me. The real question that I think you should be asking me is should poor agents be concerned about outstanding agents regardless of which model they adopt and the answer Is an unequivocal YES, I simply do not believe they will survive.

Is social media changing the way that consumers engage with estate agents and how the buying / selling process takes place?

It is definitely changing how clients engage with the estate agents and how estate agents market properties, it has changed marketing spend and strategy, it has not  as yet really changed the process as such. However I pray for the day that technology or legislation overcomes the antiquated unnecessarily complicated legal process, something I believe stops many would be movers from taking the plunge.

Lots of people / companies offer training in all industry sectors – How do you make sure that those who train you are fit to do so? 

You can only really go with proven track record but you should only ever stick with those who provide tangible positive outcomes where growth in ability is engrained and measurable, not just a temporary blip created by an injection of enthusiasm. Asking for references makes sense although trusting your own judgment is a personal mantra of mine.  Looking at the results of the teams they have personally managed when estate agents would be a good starting point. Getting to know them and making sure they understand your philosophy is essential for a lasting long term relationship. The recruitment space is changing and the training mentoring and development approach needs to change with it.

How does an estate agency know if it is time to call upon an external company to help them with training / mentoring as many will be too busy in the day to day work of running their own businesses?

I think it is a constant need to develop your staff, attracting, developing and retaining the best people is the single most important thing you can do to build your brand, build your service offering and build your profits. Their will be those who refuse to invest in training/mentoring and those who see the value and make the investment will reap the rewards. Most tend to dive into training when results are poor, my personal view the time to Invest In your staff is way before the proverbial hits the fan.  The agent with the best staff will win regardless of model, staff are attracted by clear promotional paths, by employees who will invest in their development and help them achieve their goals, we provide that solution so our clients can continue to develop their strategy hole we develop their people.

What are your thoughts on Estate Agent Networking? 

It provides a great source of info and insight, a sort of digital meeting space for agents to stay informed and air their views, I have been in love with this industry now for over 30 years and believe any networking offering to be integral to keeping us all plugged into the heartbeat of the industry.

 

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking. Internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Social Media. Writes about UK property prices, housing, politics and affordable homes.

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