Is "Sales Progression"​ a dying art?

Is “Sales Progression” a dying art?

mio Account Manager Becky Howes takes a look at the truths and challenges of successful sales progression in 2019… 

The challenges of the current market

The high street estate agent faces more challenges than ever. With the time to completion being the longest in my memory at 18 weeks (*1) combined with fall through rates at 31% (*2), the estate agent seems to be working harder for less. 

When I started out in this industry circa. 30 years ago, if my Negotiator team were exceeding a 15% sale cancelation rate they would be getting ear ache in the morning meeting! 

So where did it all go wrong?

Could it be that the requirements of the high street lenders are just taking it too far? A property lawyer told me recently that she worked her way through a 40-point checklist before the file was even presented to the managing partner for sign off! 

Could it be that in a bullish market with optimistic sales prices being achieved over the last couple of years, that surveyors have struggled to find sufficient comparable evidence to justify the figures agreed, resulting in an increased level of down valuations? Just yesterday, a front line Negotiator told me she was trying to hold a deal together with a 20K down valuation on a bog standard town house!

Could it be that the rise of the online agent and pressure on traditional high street agent’s fees has contributed to the decline of the “Art of Sales Progression”? Is it that the appeal of winning more listings outweighs the interest in investing in thorough Sales Progression? 

What is Sales Progression for the unaffiliated?

Sales Progression is communication along the whole chain length and it keeps the deal moving on but is it a nice to have or an essential service? Some may say, “exchange of contracts will happen when it happens” but try telling your vendor that, when the new school term is fast approaching. Try telling that to your valuable new build client at the top of the chain at quarter end!  

I heard a real pearl of a story last week… A local Sales Progressor had been working down a chain as the vendor at the top was keen to exchange. They had a large onliner beneath them. They had been given some sketchy chain details, however due to our hero’s attention to detail and tenacity, she finally realised that this chain belonged to a completely different property being sold on the same street. She spent two hours advising key parties above, of the correct details and the very significant effect this would have on the planned exchange and completion dates. At time of writing, the chain is still holding together but it would have snapped clean in half without her quick actions!   

Your hard working estate agent will tell you that good Sales Progression is essential. Law Society rules prevent lawyers talking to anyone other than either side of a chain, so each chain link has no idea of the requirements, desires and wants of the parties involved – more than a link away. How many times has your client been ready to move with vans booked, only to be advised at the 11th hour that the first time buyer at the bottom has yet to get his mortgage offer? A valuable, time served Sales Progressor will eradicate these issues and keep relevant parties informed, saving abortive work, time and stress. It only takes one good Sales Progressor in a chain to move it on nicely. Abortive work is the thorn in the side of any decent cash flow prediction and should be avoided at all costs. 

Your hard working high street agent could also tell you that this valuable service sets them apart from any inexperienced upstarts, who may be contributing to this extremely high fall through rate. Or if you have an online agent in the chain or a conveyancing factory who have a very different attitude to traditional Sales Progression, it is often up to the vendor and purchaser to progress the sale for themselves. Or the high street agent on either side of their link, to assist and plug the gaps. I am “Gen X” and not a big fan of call centres, and I find waiting on the line to be worse than the “take a ticket” scene from Beetlejuice!

Your hard working conveyancer on the other hand could tell you that the Sales Progressor calls are a constant interruption and a necessary evil. I heard in conversation recently from a property lawyer that on a particular case he had taken 6 calls in the day providing information to different people in the chain! His point was that, without all of those calls, he could have actually got on with the conveyance! 

Another solicitor told me that they make it their business to always take the estate agents calls because at the end of the day the agent is the only player who can work the chain up and down, consequently holding it together. 

So who are these angels in disguise that keep the chains of England together?

Well they could be a dedicated Sales Progression colleague, often Maureen or Jean. Time served, experienced, often part time, dedicated to the role and that role alone.

They could be a centralised service, maybe Lizzie and Jo, who have an open plan space upstairs in the back room and use the clunky CRM and some home-made spreadsheets to put together a picture of the area’s sales pipeline and therefore free up time for the front line sales team to do what they are good at.

They could be a dual role Negotiator called Tim who after working hard to put their sale together is not about to hand it over to Maureen!

Nowadays they could even be outsourced.

So why is it a dying art?

Current challenges mean estate agents are making tough decisions on a daily basis, creating efficiencies across their business or making tough decisions based upon fluctuating profitability. Often the salary line is under scrutiny and a dedicated Sales Progressor becomes a luxury not to be afforded. In a complicated chain, it may only take one decent Sales Progressor to hold it all together, but it is a time consuming and an often complicated step by step process. Saving a chain can consume a whole day, running up and down the chain negotiating a completion date with multiple parties and the costs for this time investment are not shared with all agents. The costs sit with the single traditional high street agent who is desperately trying to get his fee income in before month end. 

Or maybe it is dying because the tacit knowledge of Maureen and Jean simply retires to be replaced with less experienced talent. 

Or the rise of the DIY offering which means that some of the links in the chains of England are basically winging it!

Or despite #proptech being invented at an ever increasing pace, the busy high street agent cannot see the wood for the trees and pick out the new tech that will enhance his Sale Progressor to do their job even more efficiently, saving both time and money.  

Whatever the reason for this high fall through rate and extensive time to exchange of contracts, the current state of Sales Progression has to be a contributing factor. 

Whatever you do to enhance your own Sales Progression, take a look. Effective Sales Progression has got to be the route to getting paid quicker and on more deals.  

Give your Sales Progressor a hug… and a message to property lawyers; Take their calls, you never know when the angel in disguise is going to keep the deal together for you. 

References

*1 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-house-price-index-summary-june-2018

*2 https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2019/1/shock-fall-through-figures-show-almost-50-of-sales-collapsing