THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE
Console user group panel discussion
methods do you use to attract landlords and tenants? “We have a referral program with our sales team that started in July 2013. For every listing they give us, they get a cash payment. In the beginning, we were running about 70 per cent sales referrals and 30 per cent from other business. But we thought we shouldn’t just be accepting these referrals; how can we actually improve our business so that the sales referrals are just the cream on top? So we’ve put in a whole lot of strategies to prospect and get out there in the market ourselves, and now we’ve turned that around we are running at 65 per cent from referrals other than sales.
“For the sales guys, it’s important that we do have a good relationship. I spend a lot of time just getting to each of their offices and driving training for them. We go to every one of their monthly meetings, and it’s all about educating them about the value of property management.”
Hannah continues, “We’ve got a pretty good team, and the sales teams are supportive of the program. I have recently put together a web-based referral system. They don’t need to email forms or anything. They can just submit things on their phone. We try to make things easy for the sales team, but then we also make sure that we follow through and deliver what we say we will. That builds trust for them and for the clients.”
So between publishing a magazine, creating other marketing programs, managing staff and staying on top of her game, how is it possible to fit everything in? I ask Hannah how she handles it all, especially balancing her own business development activities along with managing a team. “Yes, it can be challenging because you do need to give enough time to your team so they can grow and they can do their jobs better, but I’ve still got my targets that I need to meet. I try as much as possible to work to a structured ideal week. Most times that does work, but then there will be times when you go out to a conference, or you go for a course, and it throws everything a bit. In an ideal world, I’d prefer to be in the office as much as possible for my team, because even though the listings are ticking along nicely at the moment the team still need to feel supported.”
Next, I want to know - as many other BDMs would want to know - what her secret is to the perfect listing presentation, and how she maintain such a high list-to-lease conversion rate. Hannah replies, “I think the key thing is people get so hung up on what their points of differences are. They might have a great piece of technology or a great service guarantee, and that’s their whole pitch! My view is that it doesn’t matter what we can offer. It really just depends on what the client is after. By qualifying and asking direct questions and listening to what they need or what they want, my pitch will just completely change to target what I have heard from them.”
She continues, “If you do this, the prospect can relax a bit as you can put their concerns at ease. If they come to me and say, ‘I’m really worried about my rent arrears as I’ve just had this horrible experience’ and I say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got this great technology and we’ll send you your statements and you can log in and look at them online...’ that doesn’t actually help them. It’s entirely irrelevant to what their concerns are. I think your pitch or your presentation just needs to be adapted for what the client needs.
“Not only that, no two people are the same. I think it’s crazy that someone pulls out a folder or an iPad and just clicks through it for the sake of clicking through it. That doesn’t necessarily meet someone’s needs.”
Her passion for the industry is clear and I ask Hannah what she has enjoyed most about property management. “Well, I started in property management so I do understand that side as well as the BD side. For me, I think what I am passionate about is the chase; to be able to convert a single listing or a whole development that a client’s holding is seriously exciting. I like it because it’s an opportunity to build rapport and relationships with people and really get to know them. It’s even more satisfying when you see something realised that you started from scratch. I’ve recently converted a client who used another agent; we got our foot in the door initially, and now we’re managing half of one of his developments. For me that’s really rewarding. I know that that’s future growth for us as a business.”
Part of Hannah’s competitive nature and team spirit possibly comes from her love of sport; she has played AFL at state level, and is also a member of the SES. “Yes, I’ve played Aussie Rules for about eight years now, and played for the state and played in national tournaments up in Cairns and things like that; lots of fun. I also surf whenever I can get down to the coast, which is not too often, unfortunately. What sport has really taught me is the team culture. I think it’s so important to have the right attitude and the right culture. I’m a big believer in doing all the little things that add up for the team, because if you’ve got one person who is not a team player it affects everyone. That’s really something I
“THE STANDARD RENTAL LIST IS THREE OR FOUR A4 PAGES ROUGHLY STAPLED TOGETHER; I JUST DON’T THINK THAT CUTS IT ANY MORE. IF WE’RE GOING TO DO PAPER PUBLICATIONS, LET’S MAKE IT THE BEST IT CAN BE.”
try to instill in my team as well.”
What advice would you give someone who wanted to pursue a role in Business Development? Hannah smiles. “Over the years I’ve now learnt to make a point and then be quiet. Or ask a question, be quiet and listen to the answer. When you close, just ask and stop talking. I used to ask and then I’d keep talking! I never actually gave people an opportunity to answer. So I’ve learned over time that to say your piece and then shut up is way more powerful and it does create an impact.
“The other thing,” she says, “would be to put really good communication trails and follow-up systems in place, because the busier you get the more you need them. That way you don’t forget to follow up or touch base, even when you’re out of the office. If you don’t deliver on what you promise in terms of communication then you waste your previous effort, because you lose respect so quickly. By having those really structured systems it takes the work out of it for you, but it also takes your business to a whole new level.”
What do you see in terms of the market for Canberra in the next 12 months? “We’re lucky in Canberra. There is a lot in the media about buyer nervousness and the market dropping back. We do have the normal ebbs and flows in our market, as any market does. But we run consistently low vacancy rates, about two per cent max. Our average rents sit at around $450 per week or so at any given time. So the market is steady and the listings are there. We’re averaging between 60 and 80 new listings a month, so there is sufficient stock.
“Canberra itself is a huge growth area. At the moment we sit at about 3,200 managements. By the end of 2017, we’ll probably be sitting at about 4,500 with developments settling. There is a huge amount of builders’ stock in the pipeline. Much of that tends to be investment purchases. I think it will be interesting to see what effect the Chinese investor market might have on our market.”
Career highlight so far? “Winning the REIA award in 2014 was pretty exciting. Like everyone, I do tend to have a little bit of self-doubt at times, and it was really rewarding to know that what I was doing was recognised at a national level. Aside from awards, I think the career highlight for me is actually an ongoing thing. I simply love what I do, and when I get a great listing or when I see one of my team members achieve one of their goals, that for me is the most rewarding part of it. I think it’s fantastic when you see other people grow and succeed.”