“The one thing we could not and should not do was dismiss the ability of any competitor to capture our customers.”

Howard Schultz (Starbucks)

Nothing stays the same. Stand still in business and eventually you will be overtaken by an ambitious competitor.

Never underestimate your opposition. You don’t have to like them, but you should respect them.

Always remember that they are out there. You might make the mistake and think they are sleepy, but it only takes one active person to join the company, or a change of ownership, or a change of business system, and suddenly you have an active competitor, somebody who takes business away from you.

Understanding that competitors can take our customers should inspire leaders to continuously work at reinventing their businesses, developing their teams, and working at being so skilled that competitors do not stand a chance.

Change at a snail’s pace

The good news is that the real estate industry changes at a snail’s pace. Really, has much changed in our industry in the past 20 years? Most of the changes in our industry have been through legislation. The industry itself operates in much the same way as it has done for the past two decades.

  • Advertising – agents still advertise heavily. The old fashioned ones still doggedly persist with print media, but most now spend large amounts on Internet advertising. Today, it is easy to spend more than $2,500 per property on web advertising and many agents do so. They don’t remember how expensive print advertising became; many are now complaining about the cost of Internet advertising. Mistakes from the past are being carried into the future.
  •  Auctions – nothing new. The downside to auctions that nobody seems keen to discuss is that auctions offer the agent no Point of Difference. One auction agent looks the same as another to real estate sellers.
  • Vendor Paid Advertising – again, nothing new. Take money from sellers, advertise their property (and the agency), and again, no discernible Point of Difference for the agent. Many real estate agents are not real estate agents at all: they are advertising agencies.
  • Open Inspections – I’ll leave this to you: where is the Point of Difference?
  • Staging – OK, this is becoming more popular as agents seek ways to look different from their competitors. A whole new industry has grown around this trend. Staging is relatively inexpensive now, but for how long?

I don’t argue that better presentation can assist in achieving a higher price, but it’s something else sellers have to pay for, which increases the cost of the sale, and is not always the wisest recommendation. Does anybody remember the days when we used to sell vacant properties?

Again, there is no Point of Difference for the agent.

Same, same, but claim to be different

Most agents are larger or smaller versions of each other, despite their claims to the contrary. Herein lies their weakness.

If you want to resist attack by your opposition, develop Points of Difference. These are also known as Unique Selling Propositions. Your team should be able to convincingly answer the question, “Why should we choose you?“, and impress the sellers with how much better than your opposition you are.

This impression should not be made by being larger or smaller versions of your opposition; it should not be made by being cheaper; it should not be made by giving away expensive concessions such as free advertising. Leave such concessions for untrained, weak, salespeople.

As always, we come back to skill. Author, Jerry Acuff, who wrote the book, “Stop Acting Like a Seller and Start Thinking Like a Buyer” calls Unique Selling Propositions the “Unassailable Position”. A good term.

Acuff says that a salesperson’s number one Unassailable Position should be his or her skill. They should be so good that a competitor cannot beat them.

This level of knowledge and skill takes time, money, and dedication to achieve, but once you’re there, you become the scourge of your opposition. What a good place to be!

Your opposition will come at you with a cheque book: they will try to out-advertise you, cut their commission, give away more than you do.

Seldom, however, will they try to out-skill you. That’s just too damn hard.

Knowledge and skill is your competitive advantage, if you study and learn your craft, and achieve the required skill level.

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