An easy fix can re­tain clients

Irish Independent - Business Week - - COMMERCIAL PROPERTY - Paul McNeive

EN­QUIRIES for prop­er­ties, from pur­chasers, ten­ants and in­vestors, are the lifeblood of es­tate agency. Ven­dors and land­lords are pay­ing you for your ad­vice and to han­dle their trans­ac­tion, but your “en­quiry list” is prob­a­bly your most valu­able as­set. How­ever en­quiries need to be han­dled care­fully or you will miss out on deals and risk dam­ag­ing your brand.

The per­ceived value of “en­quiries” changes ac­cord­ing to the strength of the mar­ket. In a strong mar­ket agents will have more en­quiries than they need and most ef­fort is fo­cused on win­ning ven­dors in­struc­tions. In a re­ces­sion, de­mand is weak, there are lots of prop­er­ties avail­able and the key to do­ing deals is align­ing with the best en­quir­ers in the mar­ket. But, to­day’s en­quirer is to­mor­row’s ven­dor and I rec­om­mend pay­ing full at­ten­tion to your en­quiry list, in all mar­kets.

Read­ers of this col­umn will re­call my ul­ti­mately suc­cess­ful quest to buy an in­vest­ment prop­erty. This saw me con­tact­ing per­haps ten agents, ei­ther about a spe­cific prop­erty, or to reg­is­ter my re­quire­ments. I only ever heard again from three of those firms, all of whom called or e-mailed with an­other prop­erty they were han­dling which might suit me. In my mind, this au­to­mat­i­cally puts those three firms way ahead of their com­peti­tors. The im­pres­sion one gets is that they have a bet­ter or­gan­ised en­quiry sys­tem and they are pre­pared to work through that list to gen­er­ate more in­ter­est. And that au­to­mat­i­cally puts them on my short list for when I’m sell­ing.

In re­al­ity the lack of in­ter­est in my en­quiry from most agents is down to pres­sure of work and having plenty of my type of en­quiry. How­ever many en­quir­ers will form the view that those agents can’t be do­ing very well, as they don’t seem to be get­ting any prop­er­ties for sale, or worse still, that there is a pre­ferred list of en­quir­ers who are be­ing of­fered op­por­tu­ni­ties to the ex­clu­sion of oth­ers. That’s prob­a­bly not true, but it’s not an un­rea­son­able per­cep­tion to form if you’re never of­fered any­thing.

With most firms strug­gling for man­power, main­tain­ing the en­quiry list is one of those tasks that gets left be­hind. Your en­quiry list then be­comes clogged up with out of date data, which slows ev­ery­thing down. Firms some­times use the qui­eter sum­mer months to have a grad­u­ate or stu­dent on work ex­pe­ri­ence ring through the en­quiry list, but this can be counter pro­duc­tive, un­less that per­son has a ba­sic knowl­edge of prop­er­ties avail­able on your books.

I think there is a real op­por­tu­nity for agents to shine by mak­ing con­tact­ing en­quir­ers part of a monthly rou­tine. Not only will you be max­imis­ing in­ter­est in prop­er­ties you are sell­ing, but you will be pro­mot­ing your brand very strongly. A phone call is al­ways best, but an e-mail will suf­fice, every now and then.

An­other phe­nom­e­non you will dis­cover by keep­ing in touch with en­quir­ers is how of­ten their re­quire­ments change over time. So you’re not only de­vel­op­ing re­la­tion­ships but you avoid having an en­quiry list full of re­dun­dant in­for­ma­tion and miss­ing deals.

For ex­am­ple, it’s sur­pris­ing how of­ten it hap­pens that you con­tact some­one who reg­is­tered a re­quire­ment for 300 sq me­tres of of­fice space, to lease in Dublin 2 or 4, only to dis­cover that they bought 400 sq me­tres in Dublin 1. Or an in­vestor look­ing for an of­fice prop­erty for €1m, buys a re­tail prop­erty for €1.5m.

Which brings me to a weak­ness in many of the com­put­erised en­quiry sys­tems: Com­puter pro­gram­mers are ge­net­i­cally com­pelled to over- com­pli­cate every process, so many sys­tems have far too many “boxes” within which each en­quiry has to be de­fined. For ex­am­ple, does the en­quirer want to rent or buy? Lo­ca­tions are de­fined by post­codes or catch-all def­i­ni­tions like “Naas Road area” or “subur­ban of­fice park.” What f loor do they want in an of­fice build­ing?

Our ne­go­tia­tor en­thu­si­as­ti­cally de­fines the en­quiry into lots of fields, which in the­ory cor­re­spond with prop­er­ties be­ing listed un­der the same cri­te­ria, thus pro­duc­ing a list of en­quiries that match prop­er­ties. But en­quir­ers re­quire­ments change all the time and a rigid sys­tem will see you miss deals. A smart agent with a prop­erty for sale and a good ten­ant en­quiry, will find an in­vestor to put in the mid­dle and earn an ex­tra fee, and your com­puter sys­tem will never see that deal.

My ad­vice is to in­vest in main­tain­ing reg­u­lar con­tact with your en­quir­ers. You’ll sell prop­er­ties faster and you’ll de­velop new clients.

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