ONCE UPON A TIME PROPERTY managers could walk around a prospective client’s property, let the owner know they’d come back to them on pricing and sometimes leave the paperwork. The owner might have even handed over the keys there and then! Today competition has increased considerably and you need to be more prepared. Hermione Gardiner explains how to win the business in 2016.
WHERE ONCE mediocre performance was acceptable, today many landlords are seeing multiple agents to assess the most suitable to lease and manage their investment property. We are fighting for business against other well-trained, well-versed, experienced property managers or BDMs. And many prospective clients have already researched you online before you’ve arrived.
So we now need to work on our knowledge, dialogue and selling skills to step into every home armed and ready to pull off the perfect listing presentation. We have to become the salesperson for our property management service.
Every property and situation is unique and will come with their owner’s set of expectations and needs. Like us, landlords are more time-poor than ever. We need to be prepared with 100 per cent knowledge, but be skilled enough to need only 10 per cent of that knowledge to win their business.
How do we do this? We need to move to a strategy of needs-based selling. This means carefully paying attention and identifying their needs and expectations, then selling to them based on those requirements. Remember, it’s about them, not you.
RESPONSE AND BOOKING
The faster you can respond to an enquiry and get in the door the better. However, when booking the visit you can help create a desire for your service by saying, ‘This afternoon I am flat out showing tenants through my listings; however, I could come by tomorrow at 10am or 4pm – which would suit you best?’
CONFIRMATION AND PREPARATION
Sending an email and text confirmation to your prospective clients should be standard. Have a template ready that you can shoot off quickly and easily; they then have your contact details to hand and it shows them that you are thorough. Fully prepare for your visit well ahead of time, not five minutes before you run out the door; research comparable properties, the area if you are not familiar with it, the history of the property, any past dealings with the prospective client and perhaps even some research on him or her.
ARRIVAL AND RAPPORT
Making sure you are sharply dressed and presented is paramount. Check the mirror before you get out of the car to make sure the spinach from lunch is not still in your teeth, and ensure you arrive five minutes early so you are not flustered or in a rush. Confident body language, a smile and greeting with a firm handshake and eye contact will ensure some instant rapport. Offering to take off shoes and paying attention to pets can be another instant rapport builder.
TO TOUR OR NOT TO TOUR?
When you arrive it seems logical to tour through the house; however, if you suggest that you would first like to sit down to chat about them and their situation you will instantly have done two things. One, you have made them more important than the property, and two, you’ll be taking a different approach to the majority of agents.
Sit down and get to know the client. What made them decide to lease their property? Is this the first time they have done so? If they have done it before, what did they like or dislike? What concerns them most about renting out their property? What is their view of the rental market at present? Have they had any thoughts about the type of tenant they want?
Take notes. You don’t need to solve all their problems yet; we are just fact-finding. Now you can suggest a tour around the home.
Let them lead you through the property; you’ll get a better idea of how emotionally attached they are to it. Take notes and make comments that demonstrate your expertise, like: ‘Built-ins are handy as tenants are always asking us for property with storage’ and, ‘I notice that there are no smoke alarms; has anyone discussed the legal requirements for your rental property?’
PRICING AND MARKETING
You should have a good idea of what the property will rent for; it will not look good to say you need to do research, unless the property differs from expectations.
Ask whether they already have a rate in mind. Discuss the range of what the property could rent for, the current rental market, timing and factors that may affect it, as well as the strategies your agency has to achieve that price.
SELLING YOUR SERVICE
Explain how your service will meet their needs and expectations identified earlier in the meeting. For some this may mean running through the whole property management journey step by step. For a more experienced client, share certain aspects of your service that cover their needs. For example, if they are concerned about a tenant taking care of the property, talk about the thorough application process, the ingoing report, the routine inspections, the outgoing, landlord’s insurance – all the areas that show how you make sure their property is taken care of.
Always demonstrate the benefits, not just the features. For example, ‘Our regular routine inspections with videos allow 100 per cent transparency to see what is going on at your property, giving you peace of mind that the tenant is taking care of it.’
ASKING FOR THE BUSINESS
The close is the most daunting part for many, especially for those of us who aren’t born sellers. However, you can do this simply by saying, ‘Mr Landlord, based on everything we have discussed today, would you be happy for us to take care of the leasing and management of your investment property?’ Or for something more presumptive, ‘So from here I can get the photographer booked in for Friday if that would suit you?’ Once you have their agreement the paperwork is then merely a formality.
THE FEE DEBATE
When is the best time to discuss fees in the presentation? I would suggest it is left until last and that you’ve ensured the client wants to use you. Be sure to minimise the fees impact to the client – ‘For a very minimal cost of just x per cent of the rental income we will take care of everything we have discussed today.’
If they say ‘But the other agent is cheaper’, you can respond with ‘Putting fees aside, who would you prefer to use?’ Provided they say you, you have a leg to stand on to negotiate. Remind them that the cheapest agent will not always get them more money in their pocket, and that the strategies you’ve discussed today will ensure their return is maximised and their risk minimised, despite paying very marginally more.
If you are not able to get commitment on the spot, your follow-up is pivotal. Confirm and summarise the key items that were important to them as soon as you’ve returned to the office. Follow up again the next day and every few days thereafter; it needs to be methodical to show them that you are as focused on them as you claim. Many a business has been won by following up long after the other agents have dropped off.
THE LISTING KIT
These days I see a mixture of listing kits, from the faithful old document that’s been in use for 20-plus years, to the latest designer brochure, right through to the iPad presentation. The best is the one that works for you.
Ideally the listing kit should help your journey through the listing presentation, perhaps with examples and handy diagrams, stats or documents that explain what you are talking about. Think of it as a PowerPoint presentation; no one likes too much text, so consider what other imagery you can use to show your point. And consider that the listing kit you take with you and the document or brochure you leave with the client don’t have to be one and the same. There could be multiple versions that are abbreviated and adapted to suit their purpose.