Yet this extraordinary global marketing phenomenon also has a downside which many agents are starting to realise as the economy slows. Property agencies – be they sales or lettings – need a website to maintain market presence. This vital tool has the capacity to bring in business which would not otherwise be generated by so-called "passing trade". In the same way those looking in the shop window might step inside for more information, an agency’s own website can still elicit a phone call, email or visit from an interested party.
That is the theory at least.
In practice, the result is often much different. Most people searching to buy or rent don’t start by browsing through the websites of individual agencies. Why should they limit their options when they can log into any of half a dozen property search websites and find all the buildings/accommodation available for sale or to let in the area in which they are interested?
These websites are great for those looking for property but a potential headache for sales/lettings agencies – and one which is becoming more painful in the current market. There is a view among some agents which may sound like a contradiction but makes a valid point nonetheless: A successful property business does not in itself depend on property, it is however totally reliant on people – buyers, sellers, renters.
But as more of these people search for property anonymously online they are becoming increasingly isolated from those whose business depends on them – the agents. People browsing in the branch window might be enticed off the High Street for a chat which is where the skills of the agency staff come into play. When a desired property is unavailable others can be offered instead.
Once through the door they become an asset.
Now though as increasing numbers use property search sites for guidance to the "shop window" there is no opportunity, virtual or otherwise, to bring them in and turn a vague interest into real business. Of course if they spot their dream property they’ll be in touch immediately – but what about those who haven’t quite found what they want? They’ll just click elsewhere. Yet if these same people wandered through your office door you might just have the right property for them in your desk drawer.
When the market is booming agencies can often live with losing passing trade – virtual or otherwise – but not anymore. Perhaps more than at any time in living memory agents need to seize every lead, exhaust every interest no matter how faint or vague in the hope that it will generate business.
Property search sites are the barrier stopping many agencies achieving this. After all how can you communicate with potential clients if you don’t even know they are there? Whether agents like it or not however, property search sites are not going to disappear.
So how can agencies overcome this obstacle – particularly at the moment?
The key is to be adaptable and to have a thorough knowledge of your existing clients and other individuals you do business with and to communicate effectively with them. The most efficient way to achieve this is to have a coherent, unified CRM system. This allows agents to keep on top of not only sales and lettings but also other aspects of the business which can be developed when the economy weakens – such as auctions.
Too often agencies waste valuable time and resources running a series of separate systems that don’t communicate properly and have no cohesion – as a result lucrative up-selling opportunities are missed. The current state of the economy means it is crucial to be sharper and take a new approach to running an agency.
Agents must diversify not merely to profit but in some cases simply to survive.
Steer clear of the media obsession with housing sales and the potential to make money from property depends largely on the way the market is perceived. When property sales are down, lettings and auctions are up – this applies to the commercial sector also. To make the most of this shift agencies need technology at their fingertips that allows them to adapt at any time.
A single CRM system lets an agency capitalise most efficiently on its most valuable resource – people. If an agency is in control of the people it is dealing with then the property element is irrelevant by comparison. One unified CRM system allows an agent to identify precisely what is generating the most income at any one time and offers a chance to adjust the business model accordingly to take advantage of this – exploiting the most profitable streams without the need to learn or switch to a new system.
In essence this is about putting agents back in charge of their own business by giving them the technology to help weather even the most violent of storms.
Breakout the box
Make technology work for you:
- Be pro-active – don’t rely on property portals alone to generate business in the current market
- Capitalise on your most valuable resource – people
- Be flexible and willing to adapt quickly
- Deploy a single CRM system to identify quickly and exploit the most profitable revenue streams. With repossessions increasing consider adding auctions to your business model
- Take control of your own business destiny