The real estate market in Australia is experiencing tough times. And tough times often call for tough measures.
But before you do anything you may regret, consider that being focused, proactive, emotionally-aware and supportive of your team will stand your agency in much better stead and lay the foundation for a stable business and a great recovery.
Falling clearance rates, properties that are passed in, fewer listings and clients that are attached to selling prices that are no longer realistic, make the current real estate environment a challenge to the most experienced of agents. But for newer agents that have not experienced such a tough market before, the outlook can seem very grim.
With agents competing for fewer listings, trying to meet tough targets and earning less commission, they can fall behind and feel like they are no longer contributing to the business and as a result, may not feel valued.
As a leader, your approach to this difficult market may be to cut costs, lose some agents and double down on existing processes in a defensive move to save the business. However, there is a smarter approach that could ensure your team feel valued and productive, setting you and your business up for success in the longer term.
Be proactive and set yourself up for success
The tough market is affecting everybody and blaming others is not helpful. Instead, actively face the reality of the market opportunities, analyse your business performance and constructively plan your next steps. Set realistic targets and work together with your team to make the changes that will give you a better business outcome.
- Work your numbers. Work out what income you need to keep the business going. Don’t try to achieve the profits you have in the past; the situation is different now and you want your business to survive so you can continue to thrive in the longer term. But don’t be afraid of a few lean months, be realistic with what it will take to survive and use that to recalculate new targets for your agents.
- Take the opportunity to review the business and make it better. Are there things you always wanted to do differently? Implement them now. Refresh your brand, introduce new technology, invest in training, refresh the office space. Make this time positive and optimistic, not pessimistic and gloomy.
- Actively support and retain your people. Business leaders make employees redundant too quickly when a business is struggling, only to find it difficult to replace them when the business picks up. Find ways you can hang on to your people for as long as it’s practical.
Believe in your people
Today’s economy relies on great customer experience and that requires you to find and retain good talent. If you already have good talent, think hard before you let them go. Be aware that replacing them costs your business around 75% of their base salary between recruitment costs, training and time to get up to speed.
Be clear in your own mind what the value of your team is. If you believe it, so will they. Employees who feel valued and supported go over and above in their effort to make your business successful. They are happier at work, accountable for their achievements and contribute positively to the group dynamic.
- Be authentic, transparent and realistic about the business. Based on your numbers, set new goals until the market picks up. Setting achievable targets will motivate rather than deflate your team.
- Review the company culture. If you don’t have a strong team ethic where everybody feels responsible and valued, take the time to identify core behaviours that promote respect and trust and communicate with each person to ensure they feel they are part of this new normal.
- Identify projects that can be done at slow times. Whether they run a generic campaign for the business, update the website, create new collateral or hit the streets doing mailbox drops, ensure everybody is always contributing something.
- Can you cut hours? If the business really can’t support all the team, think about how many hours you need to cut and ask everybody if they could afford to go down to four or three days each. Allow them to agree between them who can afford to cut hours and who can’t.
Help them to help you
It is always disappointing to see leaders letting their staff fail. The theory of course is that each staff member should know how to do their job. But this black and white attitude helps nobody. The staff member fails and feels responsible and you do not get what you need. Instead, accept that everybody has weaknesses, every opportunity for learning is a good one and if you can help guide a person towards success, everybody wins.
Real estate agents tend to be hard working, committed and positive people. But faced with a tough market they will feel the stress of not meeting their targets and the reality of being let go. Those with less experience may lack the tools to turn their situation around. You know that getting more listings and making more sales will get your business back on track, so your job is to share what you know and give practical help to enable your team to perform better and work at full capacity.
- Spend time with each agent, once a week at a minimum. Review what they are focused on, give them the benefit of your experience and ensure they are being realistic. Lag times between a sale and closing that sale are much longer when the market is slow. Help them to plan realistically. If they have tough prospects, agree to go with them and help them win the business. Encourage them to negotiate their commission if it will help win the business. Support them in bringing listings to completion. Helping them, helps you.
- Focus on building prospect pipelines. Just because you are supporting the team with realistic targets, does not mean that you should accept anything other than 100% effort from them. Make sure they are following up on past customers for referrals and testimonials. Check they are implementing multiple prospect generation strategies and are not simply waiting for the calls to come in. If they are reluctant to pick up the phone, show them how it’s done.
- Invest in training to improve relationship building and communication. These are the most effective skills they can build, and even seasoned agents can brush up on people skills.
If you look after your team, they will look after your business; this is a philosophy promoted by none other than Richard Branson. But it misses an important ingredient. Your own skills and experience. If you can be authentic and open, bring your experience to the table, support your team to achieve their goals and don’t let anybody fail, that is where the real magic happens.
Because when you truly look after and develop your people, they pay you back in spades.
Thanks to Diana Terrones, MSc Psych, Business Consultant and Coach for sharing her expert guidance.