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This week I sat down with Ian Bates, the Lettings Manager at a large sales and lettings estate agency. Ian is a hospitality veteran who began his career in Italy at the age of 17. After accidentally stumbling upon a family-run agency, his love for sales was obvious which helped with his eventual move to real estate in 2011. This is his story:
Thanks for taking the time today, how have you been over the second lockdown?
It has certainly been an interesting year, albeit a bizarre one. Some things have been positive though and this year I have found myself listening to clients needs a lot more and offering advice rather than pushing for the sale, which I believe has really been needed.
I wanted to make sure that the landlord was making the decision that best suited them, I don’t really have an agenda that I’m pushing, I just want to make them happy. To be honest, sometimes the customer service is lacking a bit in this industry and that’s something that I do my best to fix. As agents, we have a duty to care and spread our knowledge to potential buyers and tenants. Agents need to understand the position that they’re in and that they must provide the knowledge that is missing and helping guide them towards a suitable decision for them.
I know you have a bit of a story, but why don’t you share how you got started in real estate?
Honestly, it was an accident. I was working in hospitality for a very long time. I moved to Italy at the age of 17 and spent 9 years working different jobs in hospitality but I was never really sure if this was the right industry for me. I then stumbled upon a small real estate business over there, it was very different from the UK model but I found myself jumping through different sales roles in the company and spent a short time at a yacht brokerage as well. Which was incredible.
It was around that point that I saw the appeal of the sales-based industry. It was all about getting what you put in. It didn’t always feel like you were working for someone else but rather felt like you were almost working for yourself. I came back to London after 9 years in Italy and ended up in hospitality again. I spent about a year in a restaurant and I realised how unhappy I was and that it wasn’t really for me. From there it was my wife who encouraged me to take some time to figure out what I wanted to do. Wasn’t really great at sitting and doing nothing and it took me a week from quitting to joining Ludlowthompson.
I had tried so many different industries and opportunities and it was all really about finding the right thing for me. The whole thing happened by accident really, I went for the interview and the manager turned around and offered me the position right there.
At that point, I realised I was just really good at it. I always love the psychology of influence and understanding the value of time and kindness. I ended up breaking 6 records within 6 months and was promoted to manager after 6 months, which in hindsight was a bit of a mistake, I just didn’t have enough experience yet. So I then moved to the Assistant Manager at another branch.
From there I moved to Savills, and the main desire for that move was because I was hoping to work at a company where the mindset was a bit different. I had 2 great years with the company but it is such a big corporate company its easy to get lost and it is much harder to really progress.
From there I found myself here and its where I’ve been for the past 5 years and things are going great.
Over the past 8 months, we’ve seen so many new things come up, how do you make sense of all of that.
A lot of it is just keeping up with things as they come along. The problem with this industry is that there are so many changes happening continuously that you have to keep adapting as it comes along. A lot of times you just have to be the kind of person who can adapt and change to anything. That has been especially true during the pandemic. For me, I personally keep a daily track of what’s happening on the portals, everything that we are marketing has to be competitive. Landlords now are smarter as well, the best you can be is competitive. I prefer to be honest with my landlords and tell them the honest truth, it’s better to be competitive than try and get lucky. The key is to be prepared, every day.
With just a month left in a year, what are you looking forward to in the new year?
Really, just a sense of normality and to be honest the face masks make it difficult to be a salesman. I understand the reason we need it, but it just hinders how we connect and build a relationship with our customers. That handshake, those facial expressions make a huge difference in how we sell. And it’s unfortunate that when we can’t do that. But safety is of course the most important.
The positive of this pandemic has been that agencies are now preparing differently for the upcoming year by ensuring that each property has the virtual tours ready. And this will be really helpful in moving forward, especially for clients that are abroad.
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