New home sales consultant Rick Heaston takes a look at the sales process from the customers' perspective
With a new critical path for buying, it only stands to reason that we need a new critical path for selling. To get that, we need to figure out if how we sell matches how customers buy. It's the most important question and answer in our industry today.
Let's take a look at your sales process from the customers' prospective to figure it out.
What have you always been told about trust and rapport? I'm sure you've heard that it's the key to the sale and that you have to sell yourself before someone will buy from you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rethink things from your customer's point of view. How many customers visit your community, intent on building rapport with you? Do you believe that that's their objective? Of course not. And with so many builders to visit and so many decisions to consider, they don't have time to bond with each and every salesperson they meet. They have a stress level during each of their touch points (see graph to the right) you help manage, too.
Customers want and need rapport once they decide they like what you have and put you in their “keep” pile, so that means that comfort should be your objective to create a strategic advantage.
Customers don't like to be qualified. Consider what I've said before: everything that a customer experiences is the result of a process. That means you have to ask yourself the source of the qualifying process. Questions are the source of the process. And they almost always seem to be the same: Is this your first visit? What brought you out today? What's important in a new home? What size home? What price range? Do you live in the area? How soon are you looking for a new home? And so on.
The questions here aren't what's wrong; it's how they're used and when. Read back through each question and ask yourself whom the answer benefits: you or the customer?
I'd be surprised if you answered anything but “me.” On one hand, in the initial customer meeting we say that we need to sell ourselves first, and on the other hand we signal that it's “all about me.” You can't have it both ways. That means you have to quit worrying so much about yourself and start worrying more about your customer.
If you're qualifying early in your customer's visit, what signals are you sending? Whatever qualifying signals you're sending tie together with your comfort process.
Qualifying needs to come later in your selling process.
Have you ever considered how many model homes your customers will visit before they make their final purchase decision? That's how many presentations they'll have to endure. Once you think about it, you'll realize that your customers' biggest shopping problem is confusion. That's your biggest problem, too.
Your customers are hearing multiple benefit presentations. But how in the world can we believe that our customers are so dumb they need to be told what the benefit is?
Value building is important. In today's market, you need a value building approach that gets your customers discussing what they will gain and what that gain means to them. We continue to sell by telling our customers what the benefits are, yet we all agree that customers are smarter than ever before. Interactive value building is a good idea if you're selling a low-priced product.
Neil Rackham, in his revolutionary 30-year sales research study, provides proof that features and benefits actually cause your customer to become price-sensitive rather than value dependent. He goes on to prove how presentations for a high-priced product actually bring customer objections. His research shows that the more you present, the less value your customers perceive, and the less value they perceive, the more objections they will have.
I once hired a gentleman by the name of Phil Thompson of the Strategic Planning Institute. His job was to teach me the art of value mapping, a process of determining consumer value attributes whereby you could graphically compare yourself against your competition.
Once finished, Phil invited me to attend the institute's value council meetings. Wow. What an experience. It was here that I learned what was happening in the world of sales outside the home building industry, in the world of selling high-priced products. My thoughts on selling changed forever.
I was immersed in a group of Fortune 100 managers and the new sales research that was surfacing in their universe. I was astounded. It was completely different than anything that I was ever told or taught. Matter of fact, it was hard for me to believe, especially with what they had to say about closing the sale.
Each and every manager had the same thing to say: it was the work prior to the sale that created the results and made closing easy.
The Fortune 100 managers believed that the differentiating, interviewing and matching processes produced the sale — not the closing question. They also said that if these processes worked, closing was a snap. They found that the fewer closings you used, the more sales you captured.
These managers used Rackham's studies to illustrate that trial closes, tie-downs and final closes had no effect on the sale, especially with the high-priced product; even if you get a customer to say yes a hundred times, it doesn't matter with a high-priced product. This threw me through a loop and taught me that, with today's customer, the closing process must also be a value building process. And you must have a closing process that causes them to participate.
Value building today must include the closing process and can't be limited presentations of times past. Besides, customers are too smart to consistently respond to the instant reverse close.
If you think about it, today's market is really easier than it seems. You need to change … or listen to what you've always been told. The choice is yours.
|Rick Heaston is president of R.A. Heaston and Co., a sales-training and marketing firm. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .|