Meet the woman behind Tranio’s sales department: Marina Filichkina
Marina Filichkina is the Director of Sales at Tranio. Since her arrival three years ago, she has gone from strength to strength, both building and managing the sales department and closing dozens of transactions worth millions. She specialises in the British and Swiss real estate markets and looks after top priority buyers. Marina told us what makes a good overseas real estate sales manager and what the ideal property buyer looks like.
Property expert Marina has closed 55 deals totalling €27M
In a time before Tranio…
— Marina, what were you doing before Tranio?
— I graduated with a degree in Teaching English and German and went to work in a school in my hometown, Bryansk, a small city near the Belarus border. I would moonlight as a travel agent and a visa assistant too. But really, working with children wasn’t my thing and the travel agency didn’t offer any career progression.
In 2011 I was trying to figure out my next move and applied to a few places… Including Tranio, as a journalist. I had started to do a test job but work got so busy that I only finished half of it. So I went on vacation and forgot all about it until I got back and found an email from Tranio in my inbox, offering me a job as an assistant. I decided to give it a go, that’s how it all started… And for the next 5 months, I worked three different jobs: teacher, travel agent and assistant.
— How did you get from an assistant job to sales director?
— I used to work for Tranio part time and remotely, data processing and a little work here and there for George Kachmazov, Tranio’s managing partner. Out of my three jobs, this one was the best and the project took off quickly. My colleagues were so enthusiastic! We were going to have an interesting future, that was for sure.
After six months, George asked me if I wanted to look after buyers for overseas property. Of couse, I accepted, left my job at the travel agency and went to work full time in Tranio’s Bryansk office.
Building the business model
— What was Tranio like back then?
— At the beginning of 2012, Tranio had only six office staff: three in Moscow and three in Bryansk, and people working remotely. We didn’t have a sales department back then and didn’t offer the full cycle customer support we have now. Our website would generate applications automatically sent to our overseas partners, and my job was to trace them.
— What made you change strategy?
— We took a general decision to change our attitude to how we did business and give personalised advice, support negotiations with partners and pay closer attention to how they followed up with clients. That's how we got the idea of creating an international overseas property broker. Customer care scenarios were one of the main innovations. We designed the first of them literally from scratch and then monitored buyer reactions. The results were stunning! Before introducing the standards in 2012 we only closed 30 sales, and in 2013 we made about a hundred.
— What was the most difficult part of your new job?
— Speaking over the phone: I couldn’t see people’s faces and detect their reaction to my words. Not to mention that the major property investors all seemed like millionaires to me. Naturally, they are people that you don’t meet in the street. We didn't have a clear strategy for negotiations, so we often had to act on intuition.
That, and it wasn’t easy to grasp everything about overseas real estate markets, but my colleagues helped me a lot to overcome these things, so really I never felt isolated. Not once. I’m sure that support is a real motivation to do a good job.
— Do you remember your first transaction?
— Oh yes! I closed it back in April 2012. A client bought an apartment in Montenegro for €153,000 with me. I was slightly nervous about our partner’s performance as that was our first collaboration, but the whole thing went smoothly.
— And the biggest transaction?
— That was in 2012 too, just after I joined the Bryansk team. There was a client looking for a flat in London for his son who was a student. After nearly a year of searching (he wasn’t in a hurry), he finally decided on one for €7M. I’d never closed such a big sale, but George and our British partner were really helpful.
Another big sale I’m proud of: In 2013, a client approached me and told me he was interested in property for sale in Côte d'Azur (France). I helped the client find a fantastic luxury villa for €4.2M. And thanks to the client’s recommendation, several other people contacted us about buying property.
Overall, I’ve closed 55 sales worth a total of €27M so far.
Growing with the role
— How did you become Head of Sales?
— In 2013, I left Bryansk to work in our Moscow office. The sales team was small and we had an overseas partner relationship specialist. That’s when I got promoted to Head of Sales. At the beginning, it was like being normal sales staff, just with a lot of extra duties. On top of helping clients, I had to develop our team, talk with our overseas partners and monitor our new property listings. Now I only have a few clients and dedicate most of my time to running our sales department.
“I don’t like the word ‘head’ much, it doesn’t feel very accessible. I prefer the word ‘mentor’, I encourage people to ask me questions. My team often say I’m more of a tutor, probably because of my education and teaching experience.”
— Your schedule’s probably pretty intense. Do you get time to relax?
— Weekdays are really busy, so I try to keep myself some quality time on weekends, mostly with my friends, going for a stroll in one of Moscow’s great parks, eating out or seeing a movie together. I also love travelling, but obviously, it needs to fit around work, but I even got into yoga lately.
— Do you get to travel for business?
— About once or twice a year. My first trip to Europe was to France in 2013, and it was the first time I got to meet a European partner, property owners and of course view the properties in person. I also went to Montenegro and Vietnam, and finally this year, my dream came true: I got to visit London.
Travel for business or pleasure is a great way to get
— Do these trips help your work?
— Definitely. I meet our partners, visit the properties and I have enough time to explore different regions. Clients much prefer to work with someone who has
In an ideal world
— Marina, what do you look for when you hire new people?
— Ah well, it’s going to look like quite a long list, but really, most of these things you can tell as soon as someone walks into the room.
Confidence is a must. Speech reflects any doubts, fears or lack of knowledge and clients can feel that in communication. But it’s a careful balance, because you have to be able to listen and learn from more experienced peers. Proactive too! Nobody will be hovering over them or planning their schedule. Impeccable communication and interpersonal skills are a must because you have to work with people and understand them, their motivations, needs and personalities.
As for knowledge, I look for people with expertise in local pricing, laws and real estate markets for the region I’m recruiting for.
From my experience, previous experience isn’t really necessary… At Tranio, I think we focus on developing people’s skills, so it’s really the right attitude that we’re looking for!
“When I was a sales manager, I really enjoyed closing deals… But now, honestly, it’s my team’s success. It’s a great feeling to know that you have contributed to that moment!”
— Is there such thing as an ideal client?
— There are a few traits that do help. For me, honesty is crucial. Let them decline my offers and say they don't like the house or the flat as long as they talk. It's all right to take time to choose if they visit the properties. That said, a client who buys a property in a week is always great. I had a buyer like that once. I only offered flats that matched his criteria and in a week he’d made his mind up and was ready to buy the property.
As a general rule, good clients are active and motivated. You don’t have to know where you want to buy or how many rooms, that’s my job to help you and make the dream come true!
Anna Bugayeva, Tranio