Sunday 25 March 2018

The right moves: Selling smarts can make or break deals

Paul McNeive

Through the heady years of the Celtic Tiger, selling skills became semi-redundant as selling property became almost an order-processing exercise. In today's environment, however, the selling skills of estate agents are key to survival, both in how they sell properties – and in how they sell themselves to clients.

Yet, whilst trainee surveyors study marketing and negotiating, in my experience there is little practical training in the firms on selling skills. This is partly because, as in many professions, the art of selling does not come naturally to many professionals, and trainers tend to come from a background of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods).

Selling property is not a 'fast-moving' process. Because sales have to go through contracts with solicitors there is a long 'cooling-off' period, so high-pressure selling to get sales agreed simply leads to a lot of deals falling through. The experienced agent will know when the buyer is properly committed and will make sure that all details of the deal are agreed on before instructing solicitors.

The best sales people are probably born that way. They have a natural instinct for getting on well with any type of buyer. That's crucially important, as buyers don't tend to buy from people they don't like. That said, I believe that agents can greatly improve their selling skills with training. Here are a few tips:

Before showing a property to a prospective buyer you should do some research on them because you must tailor your pitch. For example, if you're showing an office building, the first viewing is usually the managing director and he/she will probably be driving a BMW or Mercedes. If they are accompanied by the marketing director, he/she will be driving the coupe version. You need to emphasise to them the high profile of the building, the signage opportunity and the impact of the building on their clients and staff. Tell them this while standing in the MD's stylish new office with en suite shower.

The second inspection is usually by the financial controller. He/she will be driving a Volvo. They are usually terrified that the company is expanding too quickly. Tell them about the savings in security and overheads because the estate is efficiently run and the actual saving in their energy bill because of the top BER Cert.

The same building is being sold to the same company, but with different sales pitches. Some agents make the mistake of gushing out as much information as possible. But viewers can only take in so much, so filter your pitch and make every sentence count.

In brochures and viewings you should sell 'benefits' and not 'features'. Agents are not good at this. For example, don't say that the building has "chilled beam AC and CO2 monitoring" – tell them how much lower their energy costs will be each year.

The agent must be enthusiastic and well-briefed, as this reassures a buyer. Listen more than you talk. Your integrity is paramount. Never mislead a buyer. In all selling, the buyer is buying the salesperson as much as the product.

Never be afraid to look for more in a deal. There is more to a deal than the price or rent. The art of finding a win/win situation in negotiation is to know which parts of the deal are most important to the parties.

Over the years, tenants usually made offers based on 25-year leases, when 20 or even 15 years was equally as valuable and acceptable to the landlord.

If you reach an impasse on price, the closing date can be far more important to one side than the other. Once you have a good deposit a long closing date costs relatively little but might get the deal signed.

The savvy agent has an instinct for when a deal is falling through. Even though the buyer and solicitors are still making the right noises, the top agent senses a change in momentum.

He/she now forces the deal through while there's still a chance or gets the property back on the market, saving their client time and money. This is a type of 'street-smarts' which the very best agents develop.

These topics, and how to turn things around when a property just won't sell, are covered in my book 'Small Steps'. Selling a firm to your clients is a longer-term game for another day.


The Limerick 2030 Regeneration Plan is visionary, comprehensive and admirable.

The plan aims to restore the city centre as the premier regional shopping destination by bringing more people into the city centre.

The Plan says there is no 'silver bullet' to guarantee success.

To succeed, the Authority will have to overcome the anti-car planning groupthink, which is killing many urban centres. Shoppers go where parking is easiest and cheapest.


It was a great honour to speak at the European Union of Supported Employment Conference in Croke Park last week. Over 500 delegates from abroad attended and Ministers Joan Burton and Phil Hogan lent their support.

In my experience, people living with disabilities have a tenacity and enthusiasm which are valuable qualities to any employer.

I've come across very few people with disabilities in property and the profession could be doing more.

Irish Independent

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