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00:00 Introduction by Fiona Blayney
01:04 It’s the little things that count
In the next thirty minutes really I just wanted to share with you some tips and advice I’ve learned as a BDM. I’ve been in business development for about five years and just recently changed roles. We’re based in Canberra. Fundamentally I think what it’s all about, to be a successful BDM, is to simply stand out from the crowd.
I think we can overcomplicate that a lot, but I think it’s actually a really simple process because all we need to do is the one percenters, and we need to do them consistently and we need to do them really, really well. I think that’s where a lot of people fall down, because once you get used to doing the same thing over and over we become complacent and we forget to do those little things that really add a lot of value. For me as a BDM I think my success has come from really focusing on making sure every experience is personal. I think that’s how we can stand out from the crowd.
01:54 Talking points
We’ll touch on probably three core points today. That’s pre-listing, during the listing, and obviously after the listing as well, because that whole process is really important.
The second part I want to talk about today is how we can build trust and how we can add peace of mind for our clients. We all know that opinions are formed in a split second, and that’s unavoidable, but how can that first impression be positive, and then how can we build from that and make every future impression positive, so that’s really important to obviously win business.
The third thing I want to touch on today is knowing our stuff. I think in this industry in any job if we don’t know our stuff, we are going to fail. I think as a BDM it’s a really important part usually as a first contact for an agency to let the client know that we do know what we’re talking about and we are good at what we do.
02:43 Point of Difference and Adding Value
If I’m a client and I say to you, “What’s your point of difference? Why should I list with you over the agent down the road?” Because at the end of the day it’s actually not about what we’re selling. It’s not about us and what we can offer. It all comes down to what our client is looking to buy. What I mean by that is how to think about the tools in your toolbox. How many things can you pull out to potentially add value depending on what the client’s needs are?
We can have the best technology underpinning what we do. We can have the best statistics, but if your client doesn’t care about those things, you’re not going to win the listing. Don’t rely on one point of difference in your business because you will fall down. Even if you are the best, you will fall down if that’s the only thing you’ve got, because not everyone wants the same thing. To understand that, we need to understand what our client is buying. Then once we know what they’re after, what their concerns are, what their fears are, then we can make what our point of difference is really meaningful and relevant to them. Does that make sense?
03:40 Practical Ways to Add Value
I’ll run through with you some examples of what I’ve done over time and what’s worked really well in our business, and some of these are really simple. They’re really no-brainer stuff, but, again, it’s making sure we don’t get complacent or we don’t miss the integral parts that really add value to that experience.
For example, things like arranging quotes for maintenance or for blinds in a new property. Collecting keys on settlement; in Canberra that’s easy, but in Sydney and some of the other bigger cities, I imagine for a client to have to go and park at a solicitor and pick up keys – that’s a real pain! So let’s add value by taking that pressure off them. The fee structure. You may have a first time investor and those upfront costs might be a real burden to them. Do you have ways that you can add value by structuring it differently? You might have an all inclusive fee or you might split those upfront costs across a 3 or 4 month period. That’s adding value. That’s separating you from your competition.
04:32 Educating Clients
How can we educate our clients? Education is the most important thing, I think, when you’re trying to win business, because if they can see that you know what you’re talking about and you can teach them something new, you’re already a step ahead of your competition. For example, as well, that doesn’t need to be new clients. Once we get a client it’s really, really important that we continue to educate them. I think there’s a big emphasis on the business development part of it, and then they become part of the numbers game, and sometimes they fall out of sight a bit. We need to continue that education even when we secure a client so they feel that that value is always there.
For example, something we do, we run what we call our ‘insight session’, and we invite our clients to our office and we get different guest speakers in. Our most recent one was tax depreciation and a mortgage broker, just to explain how they can add value for their property. Ways we can educate and keep helping our clients learn.
05:26 “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory”
Also being thorough. Now when I say ‘being thorough’ I’m talking about things in the way that we report. Are your inventory and condition reports the best practice across the industry? Do they have all the details? If the client is comparing yours to a competitor’s you’ve got everything you need to know right there. My old boss always used to say, “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory,” and I totally think that is such a quote to live by. If we don’t write it down, if we don’t have the detail, the Devil is in the detail, so we need to show our clients that we can do that for them because that’s going to help build that trust and add value.
Professionalism. Who’s got professional photographers? I imagine you guys all use professional photography. The point is if we’re not providing the best option for our clients, the agent down the road will be, so whatever way that looks like or however that fits in your marketplace. In our marketplace, we were the first agency to introduce professional photography, and that made a hell of a lot of difference for our listings and the way that we’re perceived in the public because it was consistent. All our marketing, all our advertising, the structure of our ads was consistent, and we started getting more listings simply because this presence looks so much more professional. We need to look at how we’re perceived by the market.
06:40 Adapting to Change
In your business it’s really important to always be looking at how we can add value, how we can create points of difference because our market is always changing. We know that, and if we’re not being agile to adapt to those changes, we’re going to fall behind. I think the way to look at it, the most simplest way to look at it is if working with you doesn’t make someone’s life easier or doesn’t solve a problem that they previously couldn’t solve without you, then we’re not doing our job properly. If they’re coming up against three, four, or five different people to get the same advice, the one who stands out is the one who is actually making life easy for them. In every interaction you have with someone I’d encourage you guys to think about how you can make that difference.
07:16 Building Trust
Second part, moving along, building trust and creating peace of mind. I think it’s really vital in booking the initial appointment and ultimately securing the listing, because if we don’t build trust with someone, we’re not going to win their business ever, and trust builds speed, and in our business everything is so fast-paced. So the sooner we can build trust, the easier our life is.
I mean when I first moved into business development about five years ago, at the time most of referrals or most of our listings were coming from our sales team, over 70%, which is great but that’s actually showing that we’re fundamentally falling down as a business because the sales referrals should be the cream on top. We worked really hard to keep our current clients happy and to build and add value for them, which now means that our sales referrals account for only 20-25% of our growth, and the rest is organic from clients and from referrals. As businesses that’s really what we want to be looking to achieve. The sales stuff is just a bonus if we have it. Makes sense?
08:16 Address Concerns
I think we need to make sure that we do address concerns. It’s very easy, when you go into a listing presentation, if someone is worried or upset about something, it’s often easy to skim over that because that can be a bit of a difficult point in the conversation. But that’s really your opportunity to make an impact. If someone has a concern, really focus on that. Get them to talk about how they feel about it. They might have had a terrible experience, let’s say, with rent arrears or a tenant trashing a property. Once they’ve been able to feel that they can share that story with you, and then you can come back to them and explain that what systems we have in place and what processes to avoid that happening again. That’s how we build trust. Because they think not only has this person heard me, but they’re actually providing solutions, so that this awful experience I’ve had won’t happen again.
09:01 Listen more than you talk
We have to make sure we listen. We need to listen more than we talk. I like the quote, “Two ears, one mouth.” Use them that way. I think it’s really important when we are meeting a new client or we’re talking to a new client before we even book the appraisal, when you ask a question, shut up. How many people ask a question and keep talking, particularly when we get to the close? I still remember my first appraisal. It was the worst experience ever. It was dreadful and I built everything up and I went through all the books on the way I’d been shown. At the very end I get to the close, “So would you like to sign with us, because, um, you know,” I just start talking and it just keeps going and they’re just sitting there looking at me like, “What is this person on about?” If you’re going to ask a question just shut up and listen.
09:51 Do what you say you will
Also we need to do what we say we will. Simple, right? But how many us fall down on that? We lose credibility so, so quickly if we don’t do something we say we are going to do. Whether that’s “I’ll call you back before 3:00,” or “I’ll send you through the CMA this afternoon.” If for any reason that’s not achievable, you have to let them know. Send a text, “I said I’d call you at 3. Just caught up in a meeting. I’ll call you as soon as possible.” You’ll literally lose listings if you do not do those simple things. Again, how many of us are guilty of having done that?
10:23 Price correctly
Pricing correctly. I mean, that would, again, seem like a no-brainer, right? But how many agents potentially in your market area do you see under price or over price? Again, if you do that you’re just going to lose credibility right away. The owners aren’t going to respect you. You might secure them a tenant, which is great, but they’re not going to value your service and in 12 months time, you can bet they’re going to go elsewhere.
10:44 Tell 3rd party stories (anonymously)
I also think it’s really, really important when we’re building trust that we tell third-party stories. It’s very easy for us to sit in front of a client and rabbit on about we think is the case, but if you can share with them, again, relating back to their concerns and their experiences and tell a story that’s actually happened, that’s going to have so much more depth and meaning. For example, one of my favorites was when I was trying to get landlord’s insurance signed up with a client, and a lot of clients think, “Oh, well I don’t need insurance. I’ve got a property manager.” I’d always tell a story about a client of mine whose apartment burned down and the tenants were unfortunately injured in the fire, but she had insurance and as a result she was able to get brand new fit out and the tenants rent was covered, and they were okay.
You just see owner’s faces drop when they understand the potential risk, and that’s not my story. That’s someone else’s story, but the fact that they can relate to it is really powerful. Borrow other people’s stories if you need to, but third-party stories are really powerful to win the business and also upsell.
11:45 Be confident
Be confident. Nothing worse when you get to the fees and you’ve built up how great you are, or as you said, “We’re the best.” Nothing worse when you get to the fees and suddenly an owner can hint that lack of confidence when you say, “Oh, the management fee is 8.8.” Suddenly they think, “Hang on, you’ve just told me how good you are and now you’re not confident when you’re telling me what it’s going to cost me.” Confidence when you deliver the fees is so important. You have to own it, because if they get any hint of a lack of that, one, you’re going to lose that trust, and, two, they’re probably going to try to negotiate, so you really want to nail the fee part of it.
12:18 Follow up until you get a decision
One of the most important parts in my experience has been following up until you get a decision. I’m not talking about stalking people, but I’m definitely talking about continuing to contact them until they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I think it’s about setting expectations at the actual listing presentation, so whenever I meet with a client, I talk to them about how, if they didn’t want to sign on the spot or they were comparing a few other agents, I’d always confirm a time or a day that I would actually follow them up. By doing that, you’re sort of implying that you will be the person getting the listing. Not in an arrogant way, but it’s that subconscious acceptance of, “Yeah, you can come back to my home and we’ll have a second discussion.” If they’re not going to use you, they’re not going to agree to that.
And then they’re ignoring your calls, I mean that happens. There’s not much we can do. I’d just encourage you to try different channels of communication. SMS is a good one because if people don’t want to use you, often a text message is the easiest way they’ll tell you, so if they’re not answering your calls, flick them an email or shoot them a text, and you will probably get some answer that way.
13:17 Success from effectively following up
One of my most successful listings actually came from being told, “No. You don’t have the listing.” It was a developer client, and in Canberra there’s a lot of developer clients who are starting to retain whole sites which gives us a really great opportunity to go in and pitch for big numbers which we haven’t had in the past, so that’s pretty cool. I had this client and I pitched to them about six times. They had an existing property manager. They were really happy with them. They had the trust and the relationship, but they had this new development coming up of 75 apartments.
I went in for all these pitches. I was really confident and I did all the things that I’m sharing with you guys today. After about the sixth pitch just before I got up to do a presentation I was getting miked up, he called me and he said, “Sorry, but we’re going to stick with our existing agent because we trust them.” Which is great. I get that. I respect that. I said to him though, “Can I give you a call in four weeks,” because they had 75 apartments and I knew for any agent that’s tough to move that level of stock. He said, “Yeah. Sure. Give me a call. That’s fine, but they’re a very good agency.” I said, “Totally respect that.”
In four weeks to the day, gave him a call, I said, “Hey, Tom, just wanted to let you know that I’m following up. It’s four weeks to the day. You said I could give you a call. How is it all going?” He said, “Well, actually can you come and have a chat with us.” From that phone call they gave me one floor. I got 14 apartments from that call, and that was great. We were stoked. We also actually rented those 14 apartments super quickly, so I actually got another floor, and in the end we ended up renting 36 apartments in a development of 75 for a client we previously were told no because I made the follow-up call.
I can guarantee he would not have called me. That’s just not how it works, but I did what I said I was going to do and I followed up until I got an outcome. To go one step further, a couple of months ago they gave me another 20 apartments. Right now they’re building a development of 105 apartments they intend to retain. All for following up a month later. I can’t stress that enough, because now they’re one of our biggest clients, so just keep following up.
15:23 Be the market and region expert
For starters we need to be the market expert. If you can’t shoot off, currently, your average days on markets, your average rents, your vacancy rates, information like that, someone else will be able to, and that information and that understanding of your market adds so much value for clients that they’re going to go with the person who can give them that knowledge. I think equally as important is being the region expert. Local sells. If we’re not knowing the latest coffee shop or a great place to have a bite to eat or what’s going on in the community, again, especially for local owners, they want to know that you care about the community, because that’s where they live. That’s where their home may be, and it’s really important that we are immersed in that as much as they are.
16:06 Tracking Your Numbers
Tracking your numbers. Now this is something I could talk all day on. Business development is a numbers game. It’s just like sales. I won’t get into it too much. I know Fiona has done a great presentation already on goal setting, but I do want to leave one really important tracking suggestion with you, and that is ‘close rates’. In a BDM role, in a pure BDM role we need to be at least 85%, otherwise we’re wasting time. I’ve worked with agents who are working on 50% and that’s a hell of a lot of work to be able to achieve your numbers. I think it’s so important that you guys keep a really close eye on that. We track it weekly. You can essentially apply the same thing for leasing, number of exhibitions versus applications. I think fundamentally that’s the best statistic to track in business development, and that helps us work backwards to manage our goals. So the weekly, to the monthly, to the yearly. However you track it, the close rates will help you structure that.A lot of what I’ve talked about I’m sure you guys are doing, but I think if it’s really front of mind for you and you’re conscious about it, and you can commit to really doing that 99% of the time, your numbers will increase.