Posted on Aug 30, 2011
There has been much written in recent days since Steve Jobs' announced his decision to step down from the role of CEO of Apple. There is no doubt he has remarkable insight and foresight, and that he has had an immense impact on the technology that forms part of our daily lives.
Amongst the many paragraphs written was the reminder that Apple does not use focus groups. For the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) industry, and indeed for many other industries, focus groups are a well used tool which supposedly give the manufacturer/marketer insights into what consumers want, and therefore what they will buy.
But Apple takes the view that consumers can't tell them what they will buy if they don't know what doesn't exist. The argument is that focus groups selecting products for the future is like driving as you watch the rear view mirror - it tells you where you have been, not where you are going.
There are some real similarities, although not immediately obvious, between the way focus groups are used, and the way much industrial real estate is sold. The clients don't know much about the product. They don't know it's possibilities, and they don't know it's functional values.
Most clients are performing a service or selling a product. They have little or no exposure to industrial real estate except in that they are accommodated in it, and usually think very little about it's attributes and functionality except when there is a problem. I could even take the analogy further and compare the Harvey Norman salesperson - who is only concerned with his commission and how much discount he is giving away, to many industrial real estate salespeople.
We know that knowledge is power, but how often do we see that knowledge being used as a selling tool? How often are we ascertaining the customer requirement before we try and sell or lease a property?
It's often disturbing to find that the basic skills of selling (qualify the client, find out their needs and wants, identify their budget etc) are so often ignored.
Perhaps it is time for the industry as a whole, and individual companies, to wake up to the fact that there has been a knowledge wave, and many are being left behind. The basic reason there are so many young people unemployed is that they don't have the skills !
Selling and leasing real estate should not be at the same skill level as working behind a fast food counter. But it's up to us to make sure we have the skills to prevent that.