Have you ever wondered how to close more deals without needing to hire more salespeople?
Or are you hesitant when it comes to investing in expensive technology that could streamline your processes and provide your staff with more time to prospect landlords? There are ways you can improve without needing to spend money, and this starts by coaching your sales team.
During my time in the lettings industry working as a property consultant, I would often ask myself how I could create more time in my day to prospect for new business whilst hitting my monthly sales target and processing my tenancy applications. I identified one area which was the most time consuming. Viewings.
I estimated that it took 45 minutes on average to complete a viewing including the tasks associated such as gaining access, preparing viewing packs, organising the keys and travelling to the property. On average I would complete three viewings each day. This meant there were over 11 hours a week where I wasn’t at my desk replying to inbound leads or prospecting for more landlords. If your conversion rate is a healthy 35% then you’re going to sign up around five new tenancies per week, which is all well and good. But this also means that more than nine viewings are unsuccessful and you have effectively wasted seven hours that week which could have been spent on other tasks. Seven hours - that’s a whole working day!
Qualifying potential tenants
Most agents’ qualification criteria consists of the following:
- Budget and move date
- Basic property details, including number of beds, location and property style
- Employment status, with earnings over 2.5x the rent
With this considered, it’s no wonder that so may agents become frustrated and find themselves conducting viewings that never lead to a sign-up. How many times have you completed a viewing where the applicants have said ‘it’s a lovely flat but there’s no garden’ or ‘the bedrooms are of equal size but it doesn’t have the open-plan living area we want’. How many times have you stood their listening to this feedback either wondering why they didn’t tell you this before the viewing, or trying to convince them that they can’t afford everything on their wishlist and they have to compromise?
I wanted to avoid this situation, increase my conversion rate and reduce the amount of time out of the office. Fortunately, I had an experienced manager who helped me develop skills to do just that. The goal was to complete a mini-consultation of around 15 minutes with each applicant in order to fully understand their requirements, what they would compromise on, what they couldn’t comprise on, and then identify available properties to match their requirements. The approach is called requirement to requirement and most agents think their sales team is already doing it, but given my recent rental experience with both independent and large franchise agencies who supposedly 'qualified my requirements', I can assure them that the majority are not.
Call structure template
Here’s a template outlining the stages in my my call structure, the significance of each stage, and a brief talk track:
1. Obtain contact details
The easy bit.
2. Introduction and positioning
Make the applicant feel comfortable and explain why you are going to spend 15 minutes with them to fully understand their requirements and help them find their ideal home.
This is a good way to differentiate yourself against other agents too. It’s a service most tenants are surprised by and extremely happy with.
"I’m Ross and I take a different approach to most other agents. I want to spend 15 minutes talking about your dream home and then I’m going to go away and find it for you."
This is the perfect opportunity to understand more about the applicant’s employment status, salary and timescales for moving. Typically, you can disqualify most applicants at this stage. If they aren’t going to pass your referencing process, or they’re planning to relocate in four months then you probably don’t want to proceed with this call - let alone arrange a viewing - and it would be better to reach-out to them at a more suitable time. This not only saves you time by avoiding completing unsuccessful viewings, it also means you don’t have a pipeline of applicants who aren’t worth nurturing (and you can let another agency in the area waste their time instead!).
"Before we start, tell me more about yourself. Where you are living today, why are you moving, who are you moving with and what do you do for a living?"
4. Property requirements
This part of the call is your opportunity to understand more about the applicant’s 'dream home' requirements, evaluate if this is possible within their budget, get them to commit to their top three uncompromisable 'must haves', and identify the top three requirements which are important but ultimately they are prepared to compromise on.
Another point to make in this section is that applicants are likely to ask for things they think they want, or think they should be asking for, so the most important question to ask after each requirement is 'why is that important to you?' This will help you qualify what truly is important and what is simply a nice to have.
For most agents this seemingly intrusive consultative approach is very different to how they are used to operating, and they may find it uncomfortable. However, you can get all the information you need without the call becoming awkward and beginning to sound like a robot. Below is an example of a property requirements qualification, alongside the type of talk track you can use to keep the conversation natural and professional whilst getting the info you need:
- "Now here’s the exciting part, describe your dream home to me!"
- Victorian house with character
- Move date 27th January
- Two equally-sized bedrooms
- 10 minute commute to the train station
- Big garden with a pond
- Open-plan living area
- Close proximity to the shops and bars
- "That’s sound like a place where I’d like to live! Now, can you tell me which three things from that dream list you absolutely must have and why each is so important to you?"
- Victorian house
- Two equally-sized bedrooms
- Close to shops and bars
- "I’m going to aim to find your dream home with all the requirements you’ve mentioned. However, bear in mind that house prices do dictate the market and this isn’t always achievable, so what three things are you willing to compromise on in order to secure the three things you won’t compromise on?"
- Commute to train station can be 20 minutes
- Open-plan living area as long as it’s to a high standard
- A small garden without a pond
- The final step is to requalify the requirements the applicant didn’t include in stages 2 or 3 but which were in stage 1. You will find that applicants will typically leave out price and budget in stages 2 and 3 because they are willing to compromise on both of these in order to get their dream home - just like their dream car or a dream pair of shoes. But don’t find this out at the viewing - call it out now during the phone call so you are empowered to handle objections when you take them to viewings, you can hold them accountable and, ultimately, sign them up!
- To avoid wasting time chasing your applicants, ask when the best time to contact them is, and which method is most convenient for them. Phone? Email? Whatsapp? Ask them when they are able to view properties. Lunchtime? Evening?
- Ask them how many properties they’ve seen, and if they have other viewings booked.
- Tell them that if they view properties with other agents they are free to call you to get your advice - this will not only continue to build trust and get you a great review online but it means you can keep on top of the competition and continue to effectively manage your applicant pipeline
This approach provided me with so many benefits. It led to solid relationships with my applicants and they would always answer my calls or texts, and they trusted my decision because they knew that I knew what they wanted. This meant that they rarely asked for property details before committing their time to conduct viewings with me, so they didn’t ask for property particulars (including pictures) before they’d commit to seeing a property. Ultimately it meant I could influence their decision if they were caught between one of our properties or one of a competitor down the road. I would hold them accountable to their requirements, although I unfortunately took time to understand this - so learn from my mistake!
One final piece of advice. If you adopt this approach, you can 80-90% of the time predict whether a tenant will make an offer when they view your property. This means you can proactively call your landlords ahead of the viewing to verbally agree an acceptable offer should one be made during the viewing. You will then be in a position to take a holding deposit and provide an offer letter at the property. During my time in the industry I was fortunate that my company used Goodlord, which meant I could sign the applicants up from my mobile after the viewing within minutes. (Book a Goodlord demo here)
Goodlord provides one single online platform to streamline the lettings process for agents, landlords and tenants. By digitising tenancy creation and progression, Goodlord cuts pointless, time-consuming administration for agents while transforming the tenant and landlord experience so its more in line with the expectations of Generation Rent.