Myers Barnes' Editorial Archives
Most home or home-site sales occur as a result of multiple contacts. Many prospects choose to own on their first visit, and some salespeople and communities achieve a high ratio of first-time buying decisions. But it's important to understand that our business usually requires multiple calls, and most sales are completed on return visits to the community.
Strategy #1: Building a Business Relationship
Because purchasing a new home or home site is long-lasting, the relationship will be long-term. Initially, the relationship is far more significant than the home or home site. Customers view products and services as commodities available from any source, and they can choose among competing builders and developers. Therefore, before they decide where to buy, they decide from whom to buy. The salesperson they most trust will be the one they select.
Strategy #2: The Responsibility of the Appointment Is Yours
Have you ever said these seven deadly words to a potential customer?: "Come back any time. I'm always here."
Do you realize how that destroys your chance for a sale? Telling somebody to "come back anytime" depletes all urgency you might have created. More important, you inform the prospect that you are a nonprofessional who sits around all day with nothing better to do than wish and hope for business to come your way.
Whether by phone or in person, if prospects refuse an appointment, they are telling you they are not seriously interested at this time. If a second or third appointment is necessary but they are unwilling to commit, they are, by their lack of commitment, telling you their true priorities. If there is a valid reason and you have a qualified buyer with interest, that buyer always will be open and receptive to additional callbacks and appointments.
Strategy #3: Withholding Information by a Controlled Release
Surveys show that only a handful of prospects come back to your sales center and model homes on their own. The psychology of a follow-up is that your prospect must have a reason to come back or call back, and the salesperson must have a reason to call and invite back.
Though all your product information is designed to intrigue a potential customer, the worst mistake you can make is to mail or hand-deliver a blizzard of information, including every brochure, floor plan and data sheet you can cram into a folder.
In new home and neighborhood sales, there always will be a request for information and with it the probability of more appointments. The request for information is the perfect reason for another appointment or call.
If you give all your product information -- price sheets, terms, availability, floor plans and renderings -- on the first visit, they do not need to see you again. Also, they will use your information to compare your community and homes with the competition's and possibly cross you off the list.
Strategy #4: Follow-up and the Telephone
The primary disadvantage of the telephone is that you are limited because your voice is the only vehicle carrying your message. Before a phone conversation, remember that your voice must substitute for a firm handshake, stylish clothing, a friendly smile and other clues visible in face-to-face selling. Research shows that when people can't see you, your vocal quality, tonality and delivery account for 80% of your believability.
Strategy #5: The Facts About the Fax
One of the greatest ways available today to contact a prospect is via a facsimile. A fax conveys a sense of priority and importance. People screen and avoid calls and discard their mail but seem to always read faxed correspondence. Many people even have home fax machines.
Remember, you are striving to differentiate yourself from the competition and build trust and establish confidence with potential customers. Use the fax to confirm appointments and phone conversations. A follow-up fax immediately after a phone call confirming your discussions and appointments sets yourself apart from the competition.
Strategy #6: The Mail Follow-up Campaign
It is essential in a productive follow-up campaign that your prospects see and hear your name countless times. In advertising, this is called a saturation campaign because an area is flooded with one message.
There is one grave danger with letters as a follow-up. Most people read their mail by the wastebasket. Don't you normally scan your mail and quickly determine what you will open first? Many letters or packages that are addressed with computer labels and stamped with a postage meter are thrown away without being opened because they are perceived as junk mail.
If you expect your mail to gain a prospect's attention, don't send it with a computer label or postage meter stamp. If it's meaningful correspondence, hand-address it and put a stamp on it, and your letter should make it through the sea of junk mail and be opened and read.
Strategy #7: Follow-up and the Internet
The days of going out with a real estate agent and spending valuable time driving around are quickly diminishing. The Web site is beginning to replace the personal visit, and the Internet helps you stay in touch with your prospects and customers via e-mail.
A good Web campaign delivers the same things virtually that the buyer can get by walking into your model home center. Your Web site can immediately replace the meet-and-greet portion of a personal visit and says to the informed shopper: "Let's talk about the area. Here's where the neighborhood is. Here's the school district and school stats. Here are the nature trails and fitness center. These are your driving times and routes to work. Basically, here is all the information you need to decide if the area and our housing designs are for you."
The Internet is a powerful way for consumers to shop the entire world for a new home. Gathering information, though, is just the beginning of the home buying process, and this is where you come in. In a sense you become an information handler. You display information for their use on your Web site. You sift through the information they have gathered and brought to you. And you condense and redistribute it so it applies to their unique circumstances.
Expertise is the core value you bring to a good follow-up sales campaign. Although prospects can do a good portion of their shopping online and get details about home loans, they still need and expect your participation in the sales process.
Strategy #8: Ranking Prospects
All prospects are not created equal. Prospects are ranked by their motivation to buy in direct correlation to their time frame to buy. A simple way to do this is to rank your potential customers by the A, B, C method:
"A" prospects are hot. They are qualified and have a genuine interest and the need to own. They also have the financial resources and the authority to render a decision. "A" sales leads will own within 30 days.
"B" prospects are warm. They will own within 60 days. These prospects are interested but are not in a position to own because of a condition. Remember, a condition states that one area of qualification cannot be immediately met. Perhaps finances are not yet available, or a presentation to all pertinent decision-makers is set for the future. Whatever the condition, you want to initiate a regular follow-up program.
"C" sales leads are neither hot nor warm. "C" leads are normally 90 days to a year away from owning. Periodic contact is all that is necessary to keep your name fresh in their minds should their conditions change.
Strategy #9: The Keys to Follow-up Are Organization, Routine and Habit
Your potential customers are also another salesperson's prospects, so persistence and consistency in contacting them build trust and a meaningful business relationship. The moment you stop calling or writing is the moment they might become involved with another salesperson.
Strategy #10: Follow Through on Your Promises
Whatever you promise, you must deliver. Sometimes in the exuberance of a sales presentation we make promises with the best of intentions. We might judge ourselves by our intentions, but our prospects and customers judge us by our actions. The proverb "actions speak louder than words" is true. Another one states, "What you're doing is so loud I can't hear what you're saying." Your credibility is established or lost based on your performance, not on your good intentions or what you say you will do.
Remember, the purpose of follow-up is to build trust, establish a business relationship and maintain momentum until a transaction is complete. So in pursuing your prospects, don't make excuses ... make good!
Next Installment: Referrals? You Are the Marketing Department
Myers Barnes writes articles for many of the nation's top sales-related magazines and trade publications. Myers is also the best-selling author of Reach The Top In New Home & Neighborhood Sales  and Closing Strong: the Super Sales Handbook.  He is a nationally known motivational speaker and a consultant on new home and resort property sales. You may visit Myers' web site, www.myersbarnes.com  or reach him at his e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org .