What they think of you

What they think of you

When people ask you, “What do you do?”, what do you say?

Do you say, “I’m an estate agent”?  and if so, how do you say it? With an embarrassed laugh, or with confidence and pride? Do you make a joke? Or do you then go on to tell that person with passion and pride about what you love about your job?

When people ask me what I do, I am very proud to tell them I’m a coach to some of the best estate agents in the country. I tell them what I love the most about my job is that I get to work with individuals who genuinely want to change the perception of the industry, who DO care, who DO do a great job, whose clients love them, and who have built up a real community in their area – because that’s how I truly feel.

I feel immensely privileged to do what I do: to help agents like you reach their goals and their dreams, through sometimes quite modest activities. Any little improvements done on a daily basis have the benefit of a compound effect and before you know it, they’re the market leader in their town.

I recently met up with Rush Somauroo from Propertyflock, a good friend and a tech-maverick, certainly in our industry. We chatted over dinner about the perception of an estate agent, often described as sleazy, smarmy sharks who would sell their own mother for an instruction, or words to that effect.

But who are these agents? Who are these sleazy, smarmy sharks? Very, very rarely, have I come across an agent who resembles the slightest bit of that description.

So why do agents have this reputation? Who is propagating derogatory words and phrases like these? Some of you might remember the Mary Portas documentary, when she went into an estate agency in London to try and work her magic. We didn’t exactly come out of that episode smelling of roses. More recently was the Under Offer series, which actually was a much more sympathetic and I thought, faithful representation of estate agency as an industry. Some of the individuals there were genuinely likeable, agents I would love to have representing my sale, working on my behalf, on my side and in my corner.

Obviously, the media is a major source of this perception. After all, a good, kind, customer-focused estate agent doesn’t make a good headline, do they? Much better that they are ridiculed and held up for derisory comments; that’s what people want to read, apparently.

Go to Google and type in “estate agents are…….” and see what comes up. These are some of the results I found.

Estate agents are evil

Estate agents are liars

Estate agents are crooks

Estate agents are useless

Estate agents are idiots

So if it’s not true, where is it coming from?

Is it possible it’s coming from US?

Could this perception actually originate out of our own industry?

Some of us are guilty of feeling that we’re the only honest agent in our area; the only one whodoes care, who puts clients first, and perhaps works harder, and longer hours than anyone else. After all, it’s all too easy and pretty convenient to see your competitors as the enemy, and tag them with the sleazy, smarmy, shark estate agent stereotype.

How many of you when asked about a competitor say, “Yeah, they are a great agent, in fact either of us would be a good choice”?

You may be surprised to learn that I only have the highest regard for the guys who others consider my competitors: consultants and trainers, like Chris Watkin and Stephen Brown. We talk on the phone frequently and even meet up in person. We share strategies, ideas, innovations; all with one aim in mind – to do a better job for our clients: past, present and future.

So when an agent asks my opinion of Chris Watkin, I say he’s terrific! He’ll work really hard to help you get to where you need to get to and has a tremendous reputation for success.

We may not always agree, my fellow industry professionals and I, but we are all exceptional in our own way, and we all speak of one another highly. If for example, Stephen and I told agents that the other one was terrible, with no ethics, a low professional standard, and generally ripped people off, it wouldn’t just harm us personally and professionally, I believe it would harm what we stand for in the industry, that whole industry sector of coaches, trainers, and consultants.

As the law of Karma says: what you give out, you receive back.

If I was to insult Chris or Stephen’s integrity, and use derogatory words to describe their services in the hope of winning the business, my would-be client would inevitably associate the negative words that I used with me instead. I’d be unwittingly damaging my own reputation, not that of my competitors.  On a larger scale, I would be propagating the perception that it is not worth using an industry consultant or coach, and if you did, you’re at high risk of wasting money.

I’m sure Chris and the other guys, when asked what they do, talk with pride and passion about their jobs and privileged role in the industry and speak about me and other colleagues in glowing terms, as I do likewise.

After all, we’re all on the same side.

How you talk about yourself, your job, your agency, and even more importantly, your competitors, will have a direct result on your customer’s perception, not just of you but of our entire industry.

When was the last time you met up with one of your competitors? Saw them in the pub and bought them a pint? Or made an effort and took them out for lunch? You don’t need to talk about anything that would compromise your competitive relationship, (or alert the Office of Fair Trading with secret talks of fee setting), but you could sit down and explore the genuine differences between your agencies and perhaps brainstorm how to do a better job for your collective clients.

One is not necessarily better, just different.

If you did that, when you next sat down with a potential client and they ask you about one of your competitors, you could tell them, hand on heart, whether you or your competitor are the right fit for them, because you’ll know about their business and what they have to offer.

Have you seen that film Miracle on 34th Street? Chris Kringle has been hired as a Santa to Macy’s department store and the store manager is appalled to discover that Chris is telling customers exactly where they can get a toy not in stock in their department store, i.e, a rival store. The customer in question goes on to tell the manager how delighted she is to have had such genuine, customer-focused service and that she will now be a lifelong customer of Macy’s. An effective strategy, albeit not an obvious one.

Zappos does this too.

In Tony Hseih’s book, Delivering Happiness, his business memoir on how he started, and still runs, his company Zappos, (a great read), he tells how they train their staff that if they haven’t got a particular item in stock, they automatically check the websites of five of their nearest competitors and direct the customer there. By doing that, they’re actually creating a customer for life. Counter-intuitive it may be, but by sending one of your clients to a competitor, when necessary and appropriate to do so, you are actually creating a bond of trust between you; you’re putting them, not profits, first.

Agents who send their clients to competition are unlikely to be sleazy, smarmy sharks after all.

I met with an agent in London this week. A super agent with a small but dedicated team. He told me his core value is the intersection between urgency and integrity. This idea sums up his ethos beautifully.  Your integrity should not be at odds with what you’re trying to deliver to the client. Whose interest is really in to tell a buyer that you’ve had 16 viewings on a property that hasn’t had a viewing in 3 months? Or to tell another that yesterday’s viewer made an offer on the house they are viewing, when they actually told you it wasn’t the house for them.

Think back to your recent conversations with your clients.

Have you displayed integrity at every single point of communication with them?

The last time you were late, did you spin a yarn about traffic, or that you couldn’t find your keys? Or did you just say, “I’m really sorry I’m late, I’m running late today”?

If you display integrity on a daily, moment-to-moment basis, you’ll attract clients to whom integrity is important and who are in fact, in integrity themselves.

This brings us to the subject of urgency.

Being in integrity doesn’t mean you are a soft touch, or that you bend over backwards for a client, or that you’re not hungry enough when it comes to the sale. By adding urgency to the mix, this agent proves his intention to hold his customers’ wishes – usually a quick sale – as the guiding principle in all of his transactions or communications. Because that’s actually what customers want, after all.

They want an agent with integrity that will sell or let their house quickly.

It’s hardly rocket science.

When you mess up, fess up. Integrity isn’t just a bullet point on your website ‘about us’ page;integrity is a way of being.

What a great time to be an estate agent

I believe that our generation, equipped with communication tools unimagined only ten years ago, has a golden chance of changing the customer’s perception of our industry. We’re each responsible for that perception; every single one of us, in our daily, hourly and moment-by-moment decisions and choices.

The next time you’re tempted to tell a little white lie to a client, stop and tell the truth, they will almost always respect you more for that disclosure. We all make mistakes. The truth is it’s how we first own up, and then rectify those mistakes that is the best measure of character and integrity.

“I did it and I’m sorry”

When my kids were growing up, I had a pact with them. If they came to me after some error of judgment: a broken vase or muddy footsteps on the carpet and said “Mum, I did it and I’m sorry” my agreement was that I would not admonish or punish them. Not always the easiest of agreements to stick to, I will admit – but it worked. By saying “I did it and I’m sorry”, and being genuinely regretful, they learned to take responsibility for their mistakes. That meant they were much more likely in the future to admit failures of judgement and misdemeanours, confident that the world would not crash down around their heads and that Mum would still love them.

When you do something wrong, try saying “I did it and I’m sorry”.

Just like PR firms tell our industry leaders and politicians. (Imagine how different Bill Clinton’s career might have been if he’d admitted his affair with ‘that woman’ right from the start.)

The next time someone asks you, “what do you do?”

…..I want you to answer with pride, confidence and passion about the privileged position you hold.

Richard Morris from Hartleys says “We change people’s lives”.

Isn’t that what you do? Don’t you make people’s dreams come true? Think about the last time you moved house, did it change your life? I’ve moved 41 times (yes, really) and my life has changed in so many unimagined ways in each and every one of those moves. Every change of home has changed my life, not always for the better, but mostly.

If you can genuinely say, hand on heart, that you feel lucky, privileged and honoured to do the job you do, think of the difference that sentiment could make to the public’s perception of our industry. Because you’re not alone; there are at least 15,000 agents in this country. We could start a movement, with a mission.

It all starts with one person – you.

What to read next: What do estate agents say when asked “What do you do?” 

What to do next: Do you get my Supertips? They’re jam-packed full of great tips and marketing strategies just like this one, and best still – they’re free! Get yours here ->www.samashdown.co.uk/samsupertips

Speak to Sam: If you’d like to know how I think you could improve your marketing, just answer a few short questions here and I’ll tell you if and how you could be more effective.

Sam Ashdown

Sam is an industry-renowned marketing strategist to estate agents. She helps agents grow and flourish, using her unique smart marketing techniques and strategies. Sam works with agents throughout the UK to help them gain more valuations, win more instructions and sell more properties.

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