With three months of lockdown behind us, commission income is vital, and sales progression is more important than ever.
Emma Vigus, Managing Director of mio, discusses the topic with a panel of agents and suppliers.
Why is sales progression important?
Tony Dobbins of Anthony Jones Properties says: “You’ve got a responsibility to your client to minimise the risk of a fall-through. You have a much better chance of avoiding a fall-through if you stay close to the process. Sales progression is a must-do in our business, but a lot of agents see it as a nice-to-do.”
Grace Wilkinson of Anthony Jones Properties adds: “We don’t get paid until the deal is completed. Getting a sale agreed is the easy part but it’s during sales progression that the niggly problems emerge.”
“To overcome those problems requires a really strong relationship with the buyer and seller. It’s the agent, not the lawyer, that has the relationship with both sides.”
“The positive impact of our commitment to sales progression is reflected in our Google reviews, where buyers and sellers often say that from start to finish, they knew what was going on.”
Iain White, who worked in Agency for 30 years before establishing a consultancy business and founding The Innovation Collaboration Group, explains: “Sales progression is vital because it is unsustainable to have a 17-week period between sale agreed and exchanging contracts.”
“Agents used to turn their pipeline over four times in a year – it’s now down to two. You cannot sustain a business on that model and the process puts people off moving.”
“Speeding up the process and delivering certainty and transparency will encourage more people to move and that creates a bigger market which all agents benefit from.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell, who worked in agency and for suppliers to the industry for over 20 years before setting up training business, The Able Agent, says: “Failing to effectively progress sales means you’re putting lots in the pipeline and then losing it at the end. Sellers want a sale to be secure and agents should be able to prove to their clients, using data, that their sales progression process delivers that security.”
“The ability to progress sales effectively should be a key differentiator, rather than just competing on fee.”
Why is sales progression under-valued?
Tony Dobbins says: “Agents don’t see the sales progressor as valuable because they aren’t ‘producing’, so they are seen as a cost to the firm.”
This might explain why, according to Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell, “deploying dedicated sales progressors falls in and out of favour,” but Charlotte highlights that “it’s very hard to be both a negotiator and a sales progressor as the roles require different skill sets.”
“To do both roles successfully, agents have to be really good at compartmentalising time so they can generate new instructions and progress sales.”
Tony Dobbins agrees: “The attention to detail required to progress a sale leaves a lot of agents cold. We naturally gravitate towards the things we like doing, so sales progression gets neglected.”
According to Grace Wilkinson: “That’s why our business places so much importance on my role. I enjoy the detail of sales progression; it’s about each member of the team playing to their strengths.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell explains that agents who don’t progress sales effectively could be missing out on revenue. “Agents are reactive, and they tend to take a short-term view of business development.”
“They don’t think about the opportunity that effective sales progression presents to cross sell and because of that the process is undervalued.”
What defines effective sales progression?
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell says: “It’s about understanding and managing expectations from the outset. What are the buyer’s and seller’s motivations? What are their timescales? What are they prepared to do to keep the deal on track and to speed up the process?”
Grace Wilkinson agrees: “Managing expectations from the start is really important and negotiators have a role to play, here, in terms of managing purchasers’ understanding of a property.”
“For example, if we’re selling an older property, we get a survey done before listing so potential buyers know everything about the property before they make an offer. This ensures there are no nasty surprises at a later date.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell adds: “Agents need to be very clear about what their responsibility is in the process and they must define what the buyers and sellers need to do and when they need to do it.”
“Lots of agents believe they have to control the Conveyancer, but this should be down to the buyer and seller and that should be made clear from the start.”
Grace Wilkinson says: “Regular contact and good communication is essential. Even if I don’t have an update for my buyers and sellers, I call them.
Sometimes there’s very little I can do to progress a sale, but I can keep everyone informed. It’s less about progressing the sale and more about holding the hands of the buyer and seller.”
“This helps to build a really good relationship with your client where they trust you implicitly to do what’s best for them.”
Tony Dobbins explains: “It’s the little things like making sure you return phone calls. It’s so easy but so many people don’t do it. Regular communication means that even if you have no news – people know you’re ‘on it’.”
The importance of good relationships and clear, accurate communication with law firms is also highlighted. Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell says: “Providing the conveyancer with accurate information, for example in the Memorandum of Sale, is really important as this avoids a situation where the solicitors are working from incorrect information or have to chase for further detail. This all helps to save time.”
Grace Wilkinson says: “Nine times out of ten, our buyers and sellers use a local law firm, so having a very close relationship with those firms is really important.”
“I’ve taken the time to meet with all the amazing local law firms and to understand how I can make their lives easier. This means that if something goes wrong at 4pm on a Friday, I can get through to them to ask a question.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell agrees: “Agents must understand what solicitors have to do behind the scenes and how long things take. For example, don’t chase for completion of the draft contract the day after it has been sent.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell also highlights the importance of having a good relationship with other agents in the chain. “We’re all trying to achieve the same goal,” she says.
How can agents improve sales progression?
According to Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell: “There’s a disconnect in the industry because listers are incentivised to get properties on the market rather than being rewarded when a deal completes.”
“This means that time is wasted on deals that are unlikely to complete which leaves less time to focus on progressing sales which have a realistic chance of completing. That leads to a higher volume of fall-throughs.”
She adds: “Improving the level of trust between agents and solicitors is really important.”
Grace Wilkinson agrees: “Solicitors need to be more open to having good relationships with agents. We’ve got those relationships in place, now, but when we first started, it was painful.”
“Solicitors and agents need to understand that we’ve all got the same aim and we’re all trying to do the same thing.”
Iain White adds: “The industry has to come to terms with the fact that it is has to collaborate to deliver change. Help your competitors to help your clients and create a bigger market where more people are willing to move.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell suggests: “Agents also need to recognise the difference between using a law firm because they offer a good referral fee and working with law firms who help get deals done.”
According to Iain White: “Agents are architects of their own problems because they pass leads to antiquated conveyancers in return for commission.”
Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell says training is also important. “There is a genuine appetite for a greater understanding of sales progression but it’s not something that agents are trained to do, and a lot of businesses don’t have a defined process in place.”
“Here at the Able Agent, we’ve recognised that and will shortly be launching a training module dedicated to sales progression.”
What about software solutions, do they have a role to play? Iain White says: “It would help if buyers and sellers insisted that the agents they work with use the right tools.”
“Platforms like mio clearly make a difference and if every single agent signed up to mio today we’d have faster transactions, and fewer fall-throughs.”
Grace Wilkinson adds: “mio has made my life so much easier because the milestones, notes and email storage make it really clear what’s happening.”
“That helps me but it also means that other members of the team can progress sales when I’m out of the office.”
*Emma Vigus is managing director of sales progression tool mio
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