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Mastering the skill of managing expectations

09 February 2018 Demii Kalavritinos
Adrian Oddi, BresicWhitney Estate Agent

Tim Neary is joined in the studio this week by BresicWhitney Estate Agent Adrian Oddi, where they unpack managing client expectations and keeping your clients for life.

Located in Balmain, the 95th ranked agent in the Top 100 Agents 2017 explains how he differentiates himself from other agents through empowering his clients, why trust is his main priority and how he’s fine-tuned his processes.

You will also find out:

  • Why product knowledge has a dollar value
  • How to understand your clients’ needs
  • Why you should “recharge your batteries” to build a longer career

Tune in now to hear all this and much, much more in this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents!

Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us now on iTunes

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Full transcript

Announcer: The top 100 agents are the best of the best, listing and selling more than any other agent in Australia. These are the practices, actions, and beliefs of the most successful agents in Australian real estate, raw, honest, and completely uncut.

Tim Neary: G'Day everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I am Editor of Real Estate Business, and Host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. Very pleased to welcome on the show today, ranked number 95 in the Top 100 Agents ranking for 2017, from BresicWhitney in Balmain in Sydney, it's Adrian Oddi. Hello Adrian and welcome to the show.

Adrian Oddi: Hi Tim. Thank you.

Tim Neary: It's a real pleasure to have you in today. Now, 2016, you sold 49 properties, but you didn't start out as thinking about being a real estate agent from the start. It was, if I have it correct, you were thinking of following your father into selling cars, and then there was some talk of being a policeman. How did that all work out?

Adrian Oddi: Yeah, well straight out of school I went into my father's business as a motor mechanic, and I got to a point a few years into it where it probably wasn't for me. As a result, I looked at my options and I think my first choice was to be a policeman. At the time, it was actually my mom that begged me not to do that.

            My best friend from school, he also out of school was a chef, and that was a bit too hard. Then he tried real estate, and as a result, I spoke to him about that as an alternative. I did a day work experience with him at the time, and I was hooked after that very first day.

Tim Neary: And five years later, you're now in the Top 100 list, and everything is going well. What does being a real estate agent mean to you?

Adrian Oddi: It's probably meant different things to me at different times, but I guess perhaps what I probably enjoy the most is the competitiveness. That's something that hasn't changed since day one. It's still a thing that I always revert back to. I love competing. I get a lot of satisfaction out of I guess the component where it's more about you take out what you put in, and trying to push myself all the time. That's probably the component that I enjoy the most.

            I mean, in terms of what does it mean? I don't know, it's hard for me to articulate, but it means different things at different times, but that's what I enjoy.

Tim Neary: Now you've been working on something quite interesting just recently. It was a property in a very sought after area, and it didn't quite go according to plan. Tell us a little bit about that.

Adrian Oddi: Yeah, there was a sale that went through on the weekend. It was interesting, 'cause it was a landmark home for one of the suburbs that we or that I work in, which is Rozelle. I think initially expectations were three mill plus, and the result was 2.64 on Saturday. It was just the whole journey of I guess what the client went through and how we landed there, and I think we got there, and everyone was okay with the result. I mean, disappointed that it wasn't more, but still okay with how we got to the finish line. That's probably the interesting thing.

Tim Neary: I mean, there's a good lesson in that. The client's got an expectation of a higher number that they achieve, but at the end of the day, still happy with what they've got. That would probably be some of the influence that you've had. What was the role that you played in aligning those expectations and coming away with a happy client?

Adrian Oddi: I'd say that's probably a common theme with most properties at the moment, and that's one of three examples I can give you in the last, say 48 hours, where a client's sold a property for significantly less than what they expected. I'd say for me, I don't really like the term vendor management, but if I consider how I communicate to my clients, I think I do it in a non-traditional way.

            So for example, I am very rarely negative with a client. I won't pepper them with negative results. I won't challenge them and say that they're wrong, or their house isn't what they want it to be worth. In fact, for me it's quite the opposite. So, I feel as though what I was taught was not to give the clients anything positive, but interestingly, that's all I give my clients. It tends to be positive news, and as a result, that can open up a conversation where if something down the road where I would say most agents would try and hide that result from their client, I will actually put that result to the front of mind and discuss it with them, and then talk around it.

            It's hard for me to go into specific details, but I think the term "conditioning" is something that doesn't resonate with me. The idea of manipulating information or trying to influence somebody to do something they don't want to do is just something that has never resonated with me.

Tim Neary: There's a lot of things that are coming up for me when you talk like that. I mean, there's a real skill to manage expectation. We talk to a lot of real estate agents, the top real estate agents, and it strikes me that the real good real estate agents have this balance between the fundamentals on one side, and understanding behaviour on the other side.

            When you talk about terms and conditions not resonating with you it sounds like you're more focused on the behavioural side of things, and understanding people and what they want, and engendering some kind of trust in the relationship that you have with your vendors.

Adrian Oddi: Yeah, I'd agree. Trust is very important, probably the most important thing. I think everything you say or do in a campaign will either build trust or takeaway. Perhaps just as an example, or I always work on the premise that my clients are intelligent people, and they can make up decisions that or they can make the decisions that are important for them. They don't need me to make that decision, so just as an example, if there was, and this is something that comes to mind, let's say for example a competitor had five auctions and all five failed.

            I think a lot of agents would have been taught that you should share that with your client and say, "These five properties failed." That's something that I just wouldn't do. I try and withhold. A part of communication process and representation is what I protect my clients from as well, and that is, again, another example of as you probably rightly say, it's all about trust.

Tim Neary: Adrian, 15 years in the game, and 49 properties sold. So what does being a real estate agent mean to you?

Adrian Oddi: I would say I think they're obviously different topics and different pieces of advice, but if we stay on the theme of vendor management, I think something that I never agreed with from the beginning was I remember my first year of real estate. I saw a real estate report that got sent to a client after the first open house, and it's actually been more than 10 years. I still see the same report that's being sent out, and I fundamentally disagree with it.

            I think someone for me who's being a huge influence on my career, Shannan Whitney. I think Shannan's advice probably about four or five years ago now, which was just treat people with a degree of respect. Just understand that they're intelligent, and that they can make their own decisions, and give them everything. You may be surprised to know what decisions they make.

            Again, another quick example that comes to mind is if you've got two buyers on a property and there's another buyer that is suggesting that they will pay more, and they may do that in 24 hours or 48 hours, I think a lot of agents may, I think, may choose to withhold that information. Whereas, I would give that to the client and say, "These are your options. You have a buyer today and if you're prepared to wait and understand the risk, you may have more in 48 hours from now. What would you like to do?"

            My experience is most people will actually make the decision that you want them subconsciously to make which is, "Let's run with the offer."

Tim Neary: I really like what you said a little earlier about take the position that your client is an intelligent human being, that they can make up their own mind. Your role becomes something different, and I think that that goes a long way, 'cause a person knows when they're being sold to, and when they're being pushed around a little bit.

            They know that, so that goes a long way to establishing that trust and that rapport, so when you say to them, "This is what I've got," they're going to immediately understand that you're coming from the right place, and then they make a whole different set of decisions around that which makes your interaction with them, takes it to a different level I would imagine.

Adrian Oddi: Absolutely. I think again, that also resonates with ... I've heard lots of dialogue around where to set a reserve for those that are operating auction environments. A reserve conversation for me personally, again, has never been something that I've ever really given too much thought. I'll, again, give the client the options on the day and say, "If you want to sell it, this is the price you need to be thinking about" or, "This is the price that potentially you need to be thinking about based on what we understand" but you can set the reserve wherever you like.

            I mean, today's not about what the figure is. Today's bigger than that. Today is do you want to sell the house, or don't you want to sell the house? Then, we can work through the motions and figure out what that looks like, either on the auction floor, or perhaps before or after.

Tim Neary: Adrian, I wanted to ask you, as you've gone through the business, you would have fine tuned your own skills, your own business process. Is there anything that you're doing more of today than what you used to do when you started out? Conversely, is there anything that you're doing less of today that what you used to do when you started out?

Adrian Oddi: Yeah, I would say maybe if I answer like this. When I was the absolute best version of myself, that was probably going back a few years ago, and that's when I left, I guess. I was in a comfortable position in an established office, to partner with BresicWhitney and open their Balmain office. I'll never forget the first two years, it was literally the hardest thing I've ever done. As a result, I guess there was certain channels that I switched on that weren't on at the time.

            So, my product knowledge was probably the best it ever had been. I could recite literally everything that was on the market. I could do that back to front. My ability to work with buyers and understand who was likely to make the next play was better than it has ever been. I'd also say that subsequently, as a result of confidence that you get from understanding the market and understanding buyers, your ability or your conviction when you're sitting in front of a seller is incredibly strong.

            I would say that's a journey that I went on. My skillset had absolutely no choice but to evolve and go to a level that it hadn't been, and that was something that I really enjoyed. I'm still there today, but not with the same intensity, but I would say in this market right now, where I suspect most agents would be experiencing a transition, one of the things that I've had to put more focus into, which I actually dropped off a bit, was actual buyer work.

            That is my understanding of who's bidding on things, who's basically likely to buy the next ... Who's likely to commit to a house next, and they're the people that we want to stay close to, so we can work with them.

Tim Neary      It sounds like when it got hardest for you, that's when you were challenged the most, and that's when you rose to that challenge the most, and that's when the growth occurred in opening up that Balmain office.

Adrian Oddi: Absolutely. Well, we went from an office that didn't exist in Balmain, to an office that is now one of the key players, with some amazing people in there. I think someone that you're likely to hear from soon is Andrew Liddell who's based in our office, and I think Andrew's probably gone on a similar journey, and his skillset at the moment is unbelievable.

Tim Neary: Yeah, Andrew's coming in next and we're going to have a chat with him in a little while, actually. Today. So, looking forward to that. In terms of habits that you've let go, things that weren't working for you, that you're doing less of?

Adrian Oddi: Unfortunately, things that I have let go of are probably as a result of complacency. So, I would say that I understand my strengths, but I also understand my weaknesses and sometimes my weaknesses can come in the form of just discipline, doing what I know I need to do, and doing it consistently. That can fluctuate. That fluctuates based on mood, based on time of the year, various reasons.

            There are some things that I probably don't do that perhaps I should do, that other agencies do, and I think other agencies do maybe outside of BresicWhitney, so I don't really have any profile work that I do. I don't promote myself in any way besides listing and selling, but it's hard for me to answer and say specifically what is it that I have let go of, because I don't feel like there's anything ... I feel like my practise has evolved and fluctuated, but not necessarily changed drastically for many years. I've stuck to the same formula.

Tim Neary: Now Adrian, you bring up something interesting. I wasn't intending to go there, but I'd like to just pursue it a little bit since you brought it up, and I think it resonates with just about everybody in the world. Strengths and weaknesses, and the things that you don't do well, the things that challenge us as humans. You clearly are a successful real estate agent. You're in the top 100 in the country, listing and selling a lot of properties.

            The things that you said, sometimes you get complacent about it, and you stop. What I wanted to ask you was when you realised that maybe you were being a little too complacent, and letting things slip a little bit too far, how do you turn that around? How do you get yourself back into the game, for want of a better way of describing it?

Adrian Oddi: I would say that's a feeling that I probably experience on a regular basis. So, it may be that my stock levels could be low and others may be high, and as a result, I have to stop and think and ask myself, "What am I doing?" I think just the way that I'm built, and I have been my whole adult life, is that I just work. There's a work button, so I'm always working, and I've worked six days a week my whole adult life, so there's that part there.

            But I felt like that probably a few weeks ago, and I used the long weekend just as an opportunity to go away and stop, and have a think about it, and I thought about me and my career, and my development, and where I'm at, and I actually stopped and thought about, "Well, what are my goals?" I very rarely reflect on the past. I'm always driven or motivated by the future, so I stopped, I took some time out, I actually allowed myself to breathe and switch off for a bit.

            Thought about what I love about real estate, set some new goals, thought about specifically I remember on the plane I wrote down why somebody would want to list with me, how I could help a buyer, and as a result, that recharged the batteries, and straight back into the office from there.

Tim Neary: Recharge the batteries, those are golden words, and it sounds also like you don't beat yourself up, but you just become self-reflective, have a look at the business, have a look at what you're doing, and go like, "I need to pull myself up here. I need to get going again."

Adrian Oddi: Yeah. That's something I would say as well as Shannan Whitney having a huge influence on me, so has people like Ivan Bresic and Will Phillips. In particular, as I got to know Ivan a few years ago, I remember Ivan would challenge me on things and I'd make excuses. He would always pull me up, as frustrating as it was, and he'd say, "That's an excuse." I'd say something else and, "That's an excuse." It got to the point where I actually had to have a good look at myself and say, "No more excuses." Like, literally no more excuses.

            That was something that Ivan taught me and I realised that was something that was a part of his life, and that's confronting. It is confronting 'cause I'm trying to validate or just why I am where I am, and when you eliminate those excuses and realise that it's just you, you start to think differently.

Tim Neary  It's a courageous thing to do to call somebody else up for making excuses, to make BS, but it's equally courageous when your mentor is calling you out, to then acknowledge it and then take on that responsibility yourself, where you look in the mirror and you go, "That's just BS. I'm just BSing. I'm just kidding myself" and to stop that, and to move on from there. But it's an important move to make, isn't it?

Adrian Oddi: Absolutely. I'm not sure if you know Ivan, but there's no excuses around Ivan, and he's great. 'Cause he gets the best out of you, and he knows you. Sometimes as a result of him calling me out, that really frustrates me and every time I feel that frustration, I know what comes after that is growth, 'cause it can be really frustrating when someone's calling you out.

            But for me, that motivates me, and I get perhaps not for everybody, that may not motivate them, and maybe some people just don't want to hear it, but for me, it's something that I'm happy to hear, I'm happy to be called out on, and I also learned, again in the early days at BresicWhitney, I stopped wearing a tie to some of the meetings. Because Ivan and Shannan would ask me some questions and I'd start to sweat, so I'd leave my tie away, so I didn't look like I was sweating. 'Cause they'd ask some hard questions, and the hard questions were statements that perhaps I'd made in the past, and they would hold me-

Tim Neary: Accountable.

Adrian Oddi: ... accountable to what I'd said. I had excuses, and they would say, "Okay, well let's not have excuses" and that's been my experience with people like Ivan and Shannan, who are high achievers, and Will as well, Will Phillips, who's been a major influence on me.

Tim Neary:  High achievers and I like the anecdote about the tie. It's about dressing smart, isn't it? You know when it's going to be tough that you want to be able to handle it. It comes from a good place, though, doesn't it? I mean, you know that, when they're giving you that critique. You know that it comes from a good place, so you know that they're not having a go at you, they've got your best interests at heart, so I guess for anybody out there listening that is in a position of mentorship, just make sure that the people you're mentoring understand that you're coming from a good place, and then that they can follow you and they can come up with you.

Adrian Oddi: I'd say trust is a key there, as well. So, I'm happy to hear any feedback from Shannan, Ivan, Will, Andrew, Callum Edmonds in my team, Jack Parry in my team, because I respect them, I trust them, and any feedback that they're prepared to give. I think for younger guys to give somebody more senior feedback takes a lot of courage, so I commend Callum and Jack who are in my team, when they pull me up on things, because I know that would be hard. It's hard.

            I think there's probably been two occasions when I've given Shannan feedback and it took a lot of courage, but I felt strongly about it, and his response was really good. I think trust is the key. Trust and respect, again. If it's coming from a good place, I think somebody knows. If it's not, you pick that up pretty quickly, too.

Tim Neary:  And what you've described there is the perfect team environment. Everybody's honest, everybody can speak brutally to each other, and everybody understands that it's for the greater good of the team.

Adrian Oddi: Absolutely. I feel very strongly that I've worked in three or four different office environments now, and I think it's absolutely imperative that where we work is an adult workspace, and I think it's important that everybody is on the same page. Now, not everybody wants to achieve the same thing so I accept and respect that, but I do and I would like to think that BresicWhitney and the guys in the office would feel like it's a very respectful, adult workplace, where we're all there to achieve something and be the best versions of ourselves.

Tim Neary: Adrian, we're coming to the end of the show now, but one more question for you just to bring it back to the business of real estate. Obviously the cornerstone of it is getting listings and selling the listings. When you're going into a listings presentation, what's your mindset? What are you thinking about? What is it that you go into the presentation with?

Adrian Oddi: I'd say my, I know there are different techniques and there are things that work with different people, and again, I fluctuate depending on confidence levels, stock levels, et cetera, et cetera, but for the most part, I tend to ask a lot of questions. I tend to ask a lot of questions. I do that for a few different reasons.

            When I was more statement based, there was several occasions where, and as much as it hurts to admit, I'd be perceived as someone who was quite arrogant, and that was 'cause I was making a lot of statements, and probably came across way too confident or too cocky. I found that when I started to explore a different technique, which was to understand the client and ask them questions, and really get some cut through, the feedback I got was very different. That was that perhaps I'd taken a more consultative approach.

            Now, I don't know. Perhaps someone, maybe I still may be perceived as how I don't want to be perceived, but I think at the moment what I do tend to do is I'm interested in understanding where the client's at, and there are all the key things that I'm interested in knowing, but I'll ask a lot. There's probably, if I had to tally them up, I'd say there could be up to 30 or 50 questions that I might ask at an appointment, where if I went back maybe five years ago or six years ago, maybe I'd ask only a handful, less than 10.

Tim Neary: Ask less and tell more, now it's the other way around? Ask more, and then answer.

Adrian Oddi: Yeah. I did my apprenticeship for a really good operator who's still around now, and he was basically all statement based, and he was brilliant. Like, his energy was incredible. I must have sat in about 100 listing appointments and every single time I just said to myself, "This guy is that good." That's what I was taught, and that's what I basically went out, but I feel like there's probably three or four times in my career now where I've had to literally reinvent myself from scratch, and that's because the competition gets better, or perhaps the competition catches on.

            So, the phase of my career that I'm at now, it's more consultative, it's more questions based. Sometimes it might be a leading question, so that something is said, and then you can go in and perhaps make a statement, but I would say, I used to hear it all the time, question based listing appointments, and I know John McGrath used to say that, but I actually didn't know what it was. I didn't know what it is was until I went to a listing with Shannan, and I actually went to a listing with Ivan, and I heard the barrage of questions. I was like, "That is brilliant. You guys know so much more than what I would have ever have known" and to me, that was powerful.

Tim Neary: And so just to be clear on that, a listings based presentation where you go in and you just ask questions. You're just asking the person what do they want, what are they anticipating, what are the things they're worried about, what are the things that they think could go right or wrong, what do they think the market's going to do.

Adrian Oddi: All those questions, yeah. I mean, a simple question at the moment, and perhaps if I relate this back to a buyer, and if you're ... Now again, this is my interpretation, and this is how I try and get on a buyer's level. I'll ask a buyer, "How are you finding the market?" I would suggest that 9 out of 10 buyers will say, "It's changed." You may ask them to elaborate on that. "How do you think it's changed?"

            "Well, more properties are passed in, there's more on the market." You may follow-up with, "Well, how do you feel about that? Is that going to impact your decision to buy a property within the timeframe that you'd previously suggested? Do you still want to buy before Christmas?" "Yeah, I do." "Okay, so what will be the trigger for you to buy?" The answer I tend to get now is, "We want to see good value."

Tim Neary: All the while you're building this picture in your mind, aren't you? You're building this profile around the potential seller in this case, and what they're looking for from a buyer.

Adrian Oddi: Absolutely. I've found that it helps you understand the client, and a byproduct of that which is a nice one, is it also helps you be a lot more competitive.

Tim Neary: Adrian, it's been a real pleasure to have you in this afternoon. Thank you for coming in, and hopefully we'll get you back in a couple of weeks, months' times, and see how your business is developing.

Adrian Oddi: Pleasure. Thank you.

Tim Neary: Nice one. Thank you, Adrian. Cheers. Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me, too, on Twitter, @TimothyJNeary, if you'd like to do that. If you've enjoyed today's show, please leave us a five star review on iTunes. It's the very best way for listeners to find us, and for them to hear the great content that we're putting out. As always, RealEstateBusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia, and on my guest today, Adrian Oddi. Thanks again for tuning in. We'll see you next week. Goodbye.




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