In today’s tough new-home sales environment, the absolute competence of a home builder’s sales organization has never been of more critical importance. Sales and management expert Bob Schultz outlines 11 strategies for transforming your home sales operation.
In today’s tough new-home sales environment, the absolute competence of a home builder’s sales organization has never been of more critical importance. Consider this question: Doing what your sales organization is doing, the way your team is presently doing it, how many sales are you missing?
Throughout 2011, I will be providing insight into sales and management strategies to help you transform your new-home sales operation. Here is a list of 11 strategies and activities that, when implemented with a high level of accountability, will get you started:
1. Perfect their presentation. Many sales representatives believe that a charismatic personality will drive them to success, but personality alone will only suffice for about the first five minutes. After that, a professional sales representative must have a process. A significant difference between an average salesperson and an exceptional one is that an average salesperson simply engages the customer in a conversation until the customer is ready to conclude it. The consummate professional has an organized, planned — not canned — presentation that they control, while at all times remaining conversational.
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2. Adopt behavioral-style selling techniques. Many salespeople tend to “sell” using the same style as they do when they personally buy things. Therefore, it is critical for them to learn to adjust their presentation to the behavioral style of each individual customer.
3. Master selling to diverse cultures. It’s important for your salespeople to be aware of and respect the various cultural backgrounds of your customers. By properly adapting, they’ll capture sales that otherwise would be lost.
4. Develop differential selling skills. Differential selling is the ability to sell what makes your homes and your community different from the competition. The average customer may look at 20 to 40 homes when shopping, and after a short while most of those homes begin to look alike. Unless your salespeople can quickly cause the customer to experience how and why your homes and your community are different, the customer is going to keep looking and you lose sales. Your team must present unique selling propositions (i.e., something that is particular to your company that can also be perceived as a benefit to the home buyer).
5. Measure and improve the ratio of sales by customer visit. Are your salespeople generally selling a home to customers after the third, fourth, or fifth visit? More often than not, the visit in which the sale is made has more to do with the attitude and expectation of the salesperson than it does with the attitude of the buyer. For instance, many salespeople believe that a customer will not buy on the first visit. On the other hand, they are very excited when they see a customer return for a second or third time. If your salespeople are making the most of their sales on the third or fourth visit, they’re most likely losing sales they should be capturing.
6. Implement a customer-in-process analysis program. Use logic and facts when ranking your prospects. Salespeople may tend to rank a customer high if they enjoyed good rapport. But that prospect may not be willing, able, or ready to buy, while others with whom the salespeople might not have “bonded” are — they just need to be brought back in and sold by implementing a well-thought-through strategy, specific to them and their situation.
7. Sort out the pipeline. Every 60 to 90 days, communicate to everyone in your prospect database with a personal, follow-up phone call. The communication should cause the prospect to take action, especially if you mention a pending price increase or provide some other incentive for the buyer to make a decision by a certain date. The important thing to remember is that this activity alone will probably not turn non-buyers into buyers, but rather will make those who are buyers buy sooner than later.
8. Get in the retail business. Implement an assistant (associate) program. Just as retailers “staff up” between Thanksgiving and Christmas, home builders should do the same during their busy times, typically weekends. Consider this fact: In the same location, over time, one good salesperson with an assistant will outsell two salespeople without an assistant.
9. Conduct simulated selling on a consistent basis. Selling is a performing art. Therefore, role playing and having your sales team consistently and properly demonstrate appropriate skills in front of their peers is something every salesperson must be willing to do. Until a salesperson can “show it,” they are essentially saying they don’t know it. Oftentimes, when asked to role play, salespeople will say something like, “Don’t make me role play, it makes me nervous.” What they’re really saying is, “I’m not competent with my process.” However, that statement is usually followed up by, “But you ought to see me with the customer. I’m really good!” What they’re saying here is, “In my comfort zone, when I’m not being evaluated, I’m good.” Well, customers do evaluate the salesperson and they judge by either not buying or returning.
10. Mystery video shop the sales team. Just like video recording skiing or golf lessons, allowing a salesperson to watch a video of themselves working in their comfort zone with a buyer shows them what they’re doing correctly and where improvements are needed. At a minimum, video shopping should occur at least two to three times a year and be used as a critique and training tool.
11. Raise the level of accountability. Constantly raise the bar, while at all times measuring and improving each activity.
Bob Schultz is president and CEO of Bob Schultz & The New Home Sales Specialists, a management consulting and sales firm based in Boca Raton, Fla. Schultz is the author of two best-selling books, The Official Handbook for New Home Salespeople and Smart Selling Techniques, and was named a Legend of Residential Marketing by the NAHB. He can be reached at email@example.com.