What makes a great property consultant
October 23, 2013
As part of my role I have the pleasure of working closely with Young London’s team of Property Consultants. Traditionally in the industry they are known as Letting Negotiators, but we see our team as being there to provide knowledge so that the customer can make an informed decision.
I use my time with the team to delve into what skills and attributes it takes to succeed in lettings as this helps me to inform our employment and training requirements.
As I thought about what to look for in a consultant I ended up recalling a quote in a recent edition of ‘Diary of an Estate Agent’ where the employee of another agency was described as being ‘young, flash, brash and possessing minimal knowledge of the sector’; a typical representation of the modern lettings negotiator. Not very complimentary and, sadly, an all to familiar description of many in our sector.
Traditionally, lettings staff are recruited because they have a background in sales. This means that they are used to the ‘hard sell’ to accrue as much commission as possible. Whilst commission can be a powerful tool to incentivise a team there is actually much more to the role than putting “bodies in beds”. The issue with this drive to complete as many deals as possible, to obtain higher levels of commission, is that it can lead to some staff using underhand tactics to get a tenancy.
At Young London we look for people with substance, an understanding of the importance of their role and a drive to learn about the sector. This is because we ask our consultants to focus on developing relationships rather than on chasing deals and transactions. In fact we reward our consultants based on the feedback we receive from our customers rather than on commission.
So, if you are looking to hire someone that breaks the stereotypical letting agent mold, the questions to ask are, ‘what attributes should a someone in lettings have?’ and ‘why are these attributes important?’
Why are certain skills important?
The qualification and referencing process involves asking for details that can appear quite intrusive and personal, such as; credit history, occupation, previous rental history, salary etc. This information will be used to assess whether the person can afford the rent and would pass our robust referencing. Collecting this data requires a level of tact and subtlety that can be hard to find.
Consultants also need to be able to draw out information from applicants to help match them to relevant properties. A good consultant will know the questions to ask to discover a customers requirements, sometimes ones that they hadn’t thought about before. This takes organisation, product knowledge and the ability to build a rapport; as sometimes customers, especially first timers, may not fully know what they want.
Anyone who contacts a business, lettings or otherwise, must end any engagement feeling that they have been listened to and are seen as a valued customers. Being able to do this is key to building a lasting relationship, which can be vital in securing an offer and deal. A positive and friendly attitude from a member of staff can only reflect well on the business.
Informing a customer of their failure to get the property of their choice is a challenge few would relish. However, it is an unfortunate necessity and the manner in which it is handled can affect what a disappointed customer may say about the business.
What is needed to make a good consultant?
Research by Chester L Karrass, in his book “The Negotiating Game”, looked into the core skills needed to be a successful negotiator. Of the skills he highlighted we believe these 6 are the most important:
- Planning Skill
- Ability to think clearly under stress
- General practical intelligence
- Verbal ability
- Product knowledge
- Personal integrity
The research stated that, in its simplest form, the best negotiators are found to be those with a good mix of organisational and people skills as well as experience of providing top quality customer service.
Being successful in lettings isn’t just about the stereotypical hard nosed sales approach. In order to succeed a consultant must be able to work with customers and take into account their wants, needs, feelings and expectations – all of them different.