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Leading and Developing the Capability for high performance

With Michael Murray, McGrath Estate Agents

We all need help and mentoring to be truly great. As part of the fresh, new future of real estate, Michael Murray skilfully helps real estate agents achieve routines to create high performance. He knows what routines work and how to quickly develop the most important capabilities in agents.

Recently awarded Sales Manager of the Year for the McGrath Group, Michael manages six offices, with 29 lead agents and 72 people in total. He says, “I don't get involved in the property management side of the business, or the accounts or operations. I just focus on the sales people and their people. It’s a lot of people and a lot of locations."

Based in McGrath's gorgeous Hunters Hill office, Michael is responsible for regions in and around leafy Epping, Ryde, Hunters Hill, Castle Hill and Lane Cove. Working with some of the most successful agents in Australia, in some of the most competitive markets, he says, “These people are cracking some big numbers. We have a very high concentration of high performing agents."

What he has learned is that high performance people need boundaries, not necessarily rules. He says, “The hardest challenge is, they like winning. They're addicted to winning. They will find a way, and sometimes that will not necessarily be in line with the whole team.” It’s Michael’s job to protect them and the team, so he says, “We've got to find a win/win in a business. You can't always have the high performers get their way, because what that does is destroy the culture. So we've got to create win/ win situations."

Michael Murray’s five brilliant, power points to being an outstanding Sales Manager

1. The agent is my client

need to coach the highest performance that I can get from that agent. Every agent I coach wants to be better. It doesn't matter how much they're writing.” They all want a better business and to add more people to that client base.

His objective is to provide a strategic business development overview for agents. He helps them focus on providing six star service and knocking agent marketing out of the park.

Michael says, “We use one of the old terms of ‘on the business, not in the business’. When I catch up with an agent, and we're doing a one-on-one, my one-on-ones are very much ‘on the business’. So we're on the business for the hour. And what we're doing is, we're looking at is what they're currently doing.” Michael will look at things like their database and make sure it is up to standard with the latest features, which make communicating faster and more effective.

He adds, “If an agent is In Launch - so let's just say, they were sub $500,000 - and then they've hit a purple patch in listings and maybe they've gone out and listed half a dozen. So obviously the energy's high, and they are very, very happy. In my head, I think that's great. My next step is, okay the frosting is going to hit the deck here. So the first thing I'll say is, ‘Okay, so what are we going to do now? We're going to manage six lives. First of all, who's going to help you on Saturday?’ That's a big one, nowadays.”

Michael will also help agents keep the prospect machine going. He says, “So they might need looking at outsourcing, for argument's sake. They might need to bring on a part time person, maybe a university student or something like that, to help them after hours. For example, Betty Ockerlander at Epping - she'll get high school kids in to help with things after school, with some of the stuff in the office. And she does a bit of a service for the area but she pays the students, and they're learning something as well."

2. Look at their strategy of acquiring business

Michael also helps his staff continue to focus on bringing in new business by making sure adequate attention is given to past clients, referrals and open for inspections. They are a gold mine of business sitting in the database. He says, “Obviously, at the moment the market's pretty tough, so some of the agents are not thinking so much about acquiring business. They're thinking about selling the stock. However, what's really important now is to not stop the machine."

So what he does is help agents focus on strategy to deepen relationships with existing contacts and clients. He explains, “What I've found with established agents, is that if you ask them what their number one lead source is, it's always going to be past clients or referrals. Definitely and without question. Number two will be their past market appraisals. Number three is their Open For Inspections. So what I want to do in their strategy is make sure that they have actually got programs in place for their past clients and for people who have referred them - what have you got in place for that?"

Michael helps his staff build a process of dealing with referrals and past clients. He says, “Most agents don't have one. So what can happen is they can effectively double or triple or quadruple that lead source. So even if they're doing quite a good job, they could be doing a lot better of a job. I remember sitting down with one agent and I think we got to question three. And I could just see the light bulb go off with that past client. He knew that there was probably half a million dollars on the table from last year, just through that component. Totally."

Open For Inspections are also never left untouched and are actively mined. Michael says, “Real estate is an Australian hobby. So if we go back 18 months, two years, where you could have been getting 50 in groups through - all the neighbours were coming through - those clients are still sitting there. If you don't have strong database practices, then you're out looking for the new ones. If you're still doing DLs, you're out there looking for new people, but they're actually already sitting in your database."

3. The action

Action is what matters. Getting on the phone and talking to people makes a huge difference to a career. Prospecting! Michael says, “What I've found is that every agent, no matter what stage they're at - their action could be better. If I look at high performance agents, and I look at habits, you see common threads, and a great example would be Phil Harris. At eight o'clock in the morning, I'm calling my vendors, at nine o'clock I'm having my team meeting. And then I'm on the phone doing my prospecting calls till midday, and then I'm getting in the car and I'm going out for appointments. If an agent does two hours worth of calls, to that database, it changes their world."

He adds, “Prospecting isn't about chasing strangers. If an agent is successful, but may makes less calls than they should, I might say to them, ‘Well, do you think you're the best agent in the area?’ And they will say ‘Yes’. ‘If your best friend was going to list with another agent in the area that maybe you thought was not the best agent, what would you tell them?’ ‘Well, I'd tell them, no way, you should be listing with me’. Well, that's effectively what's happening when you're not making calls. You're getting people to use other agents who are making the calls, and you're the best agent for the job."

Michael helps agents structure in time to actually make the calls, send the SMSs and get marketing campaigns started - so they do a two hour prospecting session in the morning.

He also works with agents to find what blocks them from action. He says, “But here's the big thing about action for an established agent: not training. It’s headspace. So what you usually find is, there's something stopping them wanting to make the calls. So what I'll tend to do in the coaching sessions is just to identify that. It might be even just changing the association of how they feel about the calls. So for some of them, I look at every call being a check – it’s one motivator I've found. Some people find motivators of, for example, accountability - they might like to have a penalty if they don't achieve what they're trying to do. I personally find, that if we work with why they're making the calls, and really break that process down, and schedule it – it’s very effective. If they don't schedule it, it doesn't happen. Everything drops in. I haven't met too many agents that missed their Open, or missed their call backs on Monday. But I'll meet plenty that missed their prospecting sessions."

4. Foster accountability

Michael believes that making yourself accountable really boosts performance. He says, “What I have found is that selfaccountability is most important. I've seen the penalties in place and I've seen all different types of things. What I find is, you're better off working with agents to work how they keep themselves accountable. So it's no different when it comes to diets or fitness or anything. Ultimately, they need to be selfaccountable, or they won't stick to it. So I do everything I can to help them be more self-accountable."

5. Work in the right area

Working in the wrong area can destroy careers. Michael says, “Here's the thing: some agents are actually in the wrong area. You want to win, find a way to win. Now you can beat the best agents out there, but I tell you, it's a lot easier to beat the ones that aren't the best agents out there. So what I find is that area and fees is crucial. I'll have an agent who goes, ‘I want to write a million dollars in fees’, because it seems to be the biggest dream that everyone wants to have. First thing we do is we pick up their sales, look at the fees and go, ‘Well you need 75% market share to write a million dollars in fees. And you're only marketing in that one suburb. It's not going to happen’."

He adds, “Agents shouldn't be scared of transplanting into a new area either. So I've had some success with this as well. What you've got to do is just make sure that with the area you've been writing business off, don't burn the boats on that one. Make sure that you still continue working that, because they should be in your database. And then what you do is move your new business marketing to that new area."

Success is not a fluke. It is made and Michael Murray knows how to coach to success.

To be a great sales manager

  1. Park your ego at the door
  2. Think about others
  3. The job is about helping others to grow and profit from your knowledge
  4. If you keep thinking, ‘But you know, I could earn more as a salesperson’, you shouldn't be a Sales Manager
  5. You have to be able to manage people. It’s not a 6 to 12 week proposition. People and managing does not go away. This is very important
  6. It's not much fun if you're not there for the right reasons.


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