In my 22 years of selling real estate and now heading up a team of 200 for the McGrath company-owned offices, I’ve seen a number of real estate cycles with different challenges that have honed my skills, which hopefully may be of some assistance to sales agents and sales managers in the current market.
Total accessibility is definitely my most effective habit.
The biggest challenge in today’s market is keeping your team focussed and helping them achieve their professional and personal goals. I have found that 90 per cent of the time, the issues with your sales agents’ performance are related to personal issues outside of the work place.
Understanding what may be happening behind the scenes is essential in order to manage your team effectively. Sales managers often miss the mark in not realising that it is not only about making sales and closing deals, it is primarily a people business. With this in mind, it’s imperative to have an open door policy.
Moreover, it’s critical to be available for all negotiation challenges. It doesn’t matter how junior or senior the agent, they still require their sales manager to be accessible to offer counsel, advice and assistance with any challenge.
In the current market, a typical conversation I might have with a sales agent revolves around a negotiation challenge. Often my advice centres on finding a happy medium for both parties, and this could centre around price, timing or settlement terms.
Agents need more coaching and skills-based training to overcome negotiation challenges between buyers and sellers and to learn to empathise with and understand the emotional needs of their clients. This is particularly true in a market where some vendors remain wedded to values that many buyers aren’t willing to pay.
This approach to sales management links to the broader issue of mentoring. Many agents entered the industry in a boom market, where buyers were throwing cheque books at us to secure the sale. The market now is somewhat different. Each and every sale requires intimate knowledge of what both buyers and sellers need.
As the manager, you need to be around the detail of each and every transaction to be able to offer the right advice to your agents, should they need it. You also need to know what is happening in the market place. To this end it has been critical for me in my role as general manager of sales of five offices, in addition to being the sales manager for our biggest office (McGrath Eastern Suburbs), to know what the agents are going through in the sales process.
I check in with each of my managers three times a day, and daily with my sales team so I have clear knowledge of every deal. In this market, a good sales manager needs to have intimate knowledge of every negotiation in order to offer the support required to the sales agent.
And why would they follow my advice? Apart from my own extensive experience, based on selling more than $2 billion in property over 22 years by both auction and private treaty, for houses worth up to $10 million, experience is key to earn the respect and trust of your team. There is an English proverb, ‘Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’ It’s not about my ego, it’s simply showing them you have been there before, you know how they feel, and that you have ideas that may help them move forward.
It also fosters teamwork. Traditionally, we all know the sales environment is competitive. But while sales agents may operate as individuals, we always encourage teamwork because it benefits our clients to cross-sell more properties.
And, when all is said and done, that’s what we should all be focused on – our clients.
Of course, agents must work independently to some degree, and so it’s critical that each agent is motivated and organised enough – two valuable skills in their own right - to undertake a ‘health check’ of their own ‘business’, such as looking at their ideal week and year, and their training schedule.
One of the key focuses at McGrath is constant training and re-training of our new and current people to ensure that they are up to date with the latest skills in all facets of time management, negotiation, product knowledge, compliance and legislation. We are relentless in this approach, and we don’t slacken off when times are booming.
Consistency is, and always be, a key element of sales.
By Matt Lahood, Partner and GM sales, McGrath company-owned offices