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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sharpening realtors skills

DESPERATE times call for creative measures and as the country’s property sector has softened somewhat, it has become more challenging to close sales as realtors are increasingly rethinking how to do things differently.

For real estate agency Reapfield Properties Sdn Bhd, the current downturn serves as a good opportunity to train its agency force, senior vice-president Gerard Kho said.

From left: Reapfield Properties director Ronnie Fernandez, president David Ong, senior vicepresident Gerard Kho and director Roland Low at the company’s Annual Business Conference on Mar 26, 2009.

“This is the best time to do it because our agents will not be so bogged down with transactions. It is a great opportunity to sharpen our axes and be well prepared when the market picks up,” he said at the company’s recent Annual Business Conference.

Kho said one of Reapfield’s prime focus was to train its agents to better interact with its clients.

“We’re encouraging our agents to learn how to speak to clients in the right way and to portray themselves in the right manner to achieve the optimal customer experience. With the market now, we can’t just be good enough – we have to be excellent in what we do.

“We also need to teach our people to address the present concerns of buyers. If they are not well trained, they would not be able to pass on the message that now is actually a good time to invest in property, given the lower interest rates,” he said.

Kho also said Reapfield would be focusing on developing its relationship with its existing clients.

“In times like this it’s hard to get new customers. It is more important to look back at our old clients. In the last five years we’ve served over 30,000 clients. That’s 30,000 people that we have already and that we can work with right now. We cannot look for new people if we cannot take care of the clients whom we have transacted with,” he said.

Kho also said Reapfield would be incorporating new technological tools to allow its agents to track its exciting clients better.

“We want to lift the industry up to a very high standard so that people will be able to trust us and have the confidence to invest in property and be able to off-load it as well,” he said.

Reapfield currently has about 500 agents and over 30 offices in Malaysia. About 90% of its business is in the secondary market focused within the Klang Valley area.

Reapfield director Roland Low noted that there has been a slowdown in transactions since the last quarter of 2008 and first two months of this year. However, he attributed the slowdown to buyers being more cautious with their spending.

“It is because of the adverse news we’ve been seeing and reading everyday. But having said that the market is still active. We are still seeing a lot of activities in a lot of areas within the residential sector.

“There is a lot of focus on high-end areas like KLCC and Mont Kiara where you hear observers say that transactions have dropped,” Low said, adding that there were still a reasonable number of transactions for properties in prime areas like Bandar Utama, Subang Jaya, Damansara Heights, Bangsar and Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

PPC International Sdn Bhd executive director Thiruselvam Arumugam says the current downturn serves as a good time to ‘touch base’ with its existing and previous clients.

“We take the opportunity to get in touch with our clients now because during good times we hardly have time to do so,” he says, adding that his agents still had lots of work to do despite an economic slowdown.

“We are all still pretty busy. People still have money and are still buying. My office is near Sogo and I always see people with shopping bags,” he laughs.

Thiruselvam also says his agents were always subjected to ‘on-the-job’ training and constantly learning to stay ahead of the competition.

PPC International has offices in Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Penang and Alor Star.

SK Brothers Realty Sdn Bhd general manager Chan Ai Cheng says when there is an economic downturn, everyone just needs to work harder.

“Now would be a good time to focus on our strengths and focus on what we are good at. We need to improve our service quality because we cannot compromise on quality, especially during a downturn.

“Both buyers and sellers will need more assistance and we need to be more patient and help them to close sales.”

Chan says it was also hiring more people and plans to penetrate new markets this year.

“We are very Klang Valley-based and want to explore more outstation transactions,” she says, adding that it had regular training programmes for its people. “Training has always been our forte. We have half an hour training sessions everyday.”

By The Star (by Eugene Mahalingam)

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