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Elite Agent - - CONTENTS - Barry Plant Man­ning­ham

PUTTING THE CUS­TOMER at the fore­front of the real es­tate equa­tion seems like such a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy, but it’s one that has made the Barry Plant Man­ning­ham team an in­dus­try leader. Kylie Dul­hunty spoke to Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Spiro Drossos about the se­crets be­hind the agency’s Gold AREA of the Year Award for Res­i­den­tial Agency of the Year and what’s next in 2018.

Barry Plant Man­ning­ham’s recipe for suc­cess is straight­for­ward: Keep things sim­ple, go back to ba­sics and put the cus­tomer first.

You might ex­pect real es­tate agen­cies to do this nat­u­rally, but it seems in re­cent years the KISS prin­ci­ple (keep it sim­ple, stupid) hasn’t al­ways been that easy. It’s some­thing Barry Plant Man­ning­ham’s Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Spiro Drossos was keen to change when he set out to shake up the way the agency did busi­ness two years ago.

“Our in­dus­try is ob­sessed with com­pe­ti­tion and what the com­pe­ti­tion is do­ing, and what we needed to do was ob­sess about the cus­tomer,” he says. “It’s our job to sell to buy­ers, ten­ants and land­lords, and to ap­peal to ven­dors. We had to start think­ing like cus­tomers and not like real es­tate agents.”

It’s a move that has paid div­i­dends. The agency has dou­bled its num­ber of ap­praisals, record­ing 100 more sales than the pre­vi­ous year and boost­ing its gross com­mis­sion in­come by over 50 per cent. The team has also taken out the Gold AREA of the Year

Spiro says the changes started with a new man­age­ment and lead­er­ship team, fol­lowed by ex­ten­sive train­ing and de­vel­op­ment.

Cus­tomer-ori­ented changes in­cluded es­tab­lish­ing an in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion to sup­port overseas clients, a new au­to­mated re­sponse sys­tem to han­dle ini­tial in­quiries and com­mu­nity part­ner­ships with or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Make-A-Wish Aus­tralia.

“Two years ago we cre­ated a new man­age­ment team and that was one of the big­gest parts of the change,” Spiro ex­plains. “I had to get the team right, de­velop the clar­ity around our di­rec­tion and then pro­vide the Award for Res­i­den­tial Agency of the Year.

“That was a great sur­prise,” Spiro says. “The other agen­cies that were fi­nal­ists in the cat­e­gory were very good. But we knew how hard we had worked to take our busi­ness to the next level.”

So what ex­actly did Barry Plant Man­ning­ham do that was so sim­ple but so spe­cial?

train­ing and re­sources for their de­vel­op­ment.

“We also ren­o­vated the whole build­ing to make it mod­ern. If my team is happy and well re­sourced they will take that to the cus­tomer.”

It may sound like a cliché, but Spiro says that defin­ing the agency’s val­ues and set­ting new stan­dards to be met paved the path to suc­cess, with clear di­rec­tion on what ev­ery stage of the buy­ing and sell­ing process would look like.

He says that cre­at­ing a new work en­vi­ron­ment where staff knew each other bet­ter and had ar­eas to work in ‘pods’, or even be­tween de­part­ments, fos­tered a united ap­proach and a vi­brant team cul­ture that spurred fur­ther growth.

“We looked at our stan­dards across the op­er­a­tion as a team, par­tic­u­larly the most im­por­tant tasks of prospect­ing, ap­praisals, open homes and auc­tions,” Spiro says. “We made com­mit­ments to in­crease prospect­ing ev­ery week with a goal to in­crease [ by] 20 per cent, and we ended up go­ing from 150 ap­praisals a month to more than 300.

“We ex­am­ined our ap­praisal process and how we pre­sented in­for­ma­tion to clients and did the same thing for our buy­ers, ask­ing our­selves, ‘What steps do we need to put in place to re­ally take care of our buy­ers?’ Peo­ple were hav­ing a lot of fun, but boy were we fo­cused.”

The lynch­pin in the agency’s fresh cus­tomer­fo­cused nar­ra­tive was the cre­ation of an in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion.

Spiro ex­plains that, at the time the di­vi­sion was for­malised two years ago, up to 70 per cent of po­ten­tial buy­ers in the agency’s mar­ket were from Asia. “We looked at what was hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket­place

“Our in­dus­try is ob­sessed with com­pe­ti­tion; what we needed to do was ob­sess about the cus­tomer.”

“When you walk through a house it’s not just four walls; it’s 30 years’ of mem­o­ries, heart­break and joy.”

and paid at­ten­tion at our auc­tions, and even at com­peti­tors’ auc­tions, to see how the Chi­nese mar­ket was in­ter­acted with,” he ex­plains.

“What we re­alised was we had a mar­ket that wanted to buy from us, but they were not be­ing ser­viced and there was con­fu­sion.”

Spiro says pro­cesses, such as the high­est bid­der hav­ing the first op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate with the ven­dor when a prop­erty is passed in at auc­tion, were not eas­ily un­der­stood, largely due to lan­guage bar­ri­ers.

As the son of Greek par­ents who pur­chased their first Aus­tralian home in the 1960s from a Greek agent, Spiro found the an­swer to the dilemma was right in front of him. “We hired peo­ple who could speak Man­darin and who came from a re­tail or hos­pi­tal­ity back­ground,” he says. “They pro­vided week­end cus­tomer service and came to the auc­tion just to help the buy­ers.”

The agency also in­tro­duced in­for­ma­tion ses­sions for Asian buy­ers, where the in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion would help ex­plain auc­tion rules and buy­ing pro­cesses.

Spiro says the agency’s auc­tion­eers also had to learn to slow down. “You couldn’t rush the auc­tions,” he ex­plains. “As an auc­tion­eer, every­one has to have a fair op­por­tu­nity to buy. That ed­u­ca­tion process saw auc­tion clear­ance rates in­crease, sell­ing well into the 90 per cent bracket.”

Barry Plant Man­ning­ham also in­tro­duced an au­to­mated re­sponse sys­tem to re­ply im­me­di­ately to buyer in­quiries. “In to­day’s buyer world peo­ple ex­pect things to hap­pen quickly,” Spiro points out. “Buy­ers ex­cited to see a prop­erty that has just been listed email us, not know­ing whether we are at an ap­praisal or in ne­go­ti­a­tions, and they just want a re­sponse.

“With our data­base we can au­to­mate the in­for­ma­tion sent to clients to tell them more about the house and the lo­ca­tion, such as lo­cal schools. We then fol­low up by close of busi­ness with a phone call.”

Spiro says other in­no­va­tions that have helped im­prove cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion in­clude the re­nam­ing of the re­cep­tion desk as ‘Cus­tomer Service’ and in­tro­duc­ing a concierge to meet and greet clients three days a week.

“We’ve also re­ally worked on tak­ing ‘agent dia­logue’ out of our busi­ness,” he says. “There can be too much re­liance on scripts and di­a­logues in our in­dus­try, and we want to have real con­ver­sa­tions.

“When you walk through a house it’s not just four walls; it’s 30 years’ of mem­o­ries, heart­break and joy.”

In­vest­ing in the story be­hind the prop­er­ties has also seen the agency give back to the com­mu­nity by sup­port­ing lo­cal schools and sports clubs, as well as tak­ing part in Wish­to­ber.

In Oc­to­ber ev­ery Barry Plant of­fice do­nates a por­tion of com­mis­sion on ev­ery prop­erty sold that month to Make-A-Wish Aus­tralia, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that grants the wishes of chil­dren bat­tling life-threat­en­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

De­spite the agency’s stun­ning suc­cess, Spiro says there’s no time to rest on their lau­rels and there are plans afoot to make 2018 the best yet.

“We’re look­ing at how we’re run­ning open homes, as well as how we can use tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments,” he says. “This year we’re also fo­cus­ing our en­ergy on coach­ing, men­tor­ing and pro­vid­ing value to the team to fos­ter every­one’s growth.

“It’s all about con­tin­u­ing to re­fine and per­fect the ba­sics. Small things can add up to great change.”

Barry Plant Man­ning­ham Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Spiro Drossos. “We knew how hard we had worked to take our busi­ness to the next level.”

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