Category Archives: Real Estate

Video Mystery Shopping: Stay Connected with Your ‘A’ Team – the REALTORS!

You know, one of the great mysteries to me in the new home industry is why there is oftentimes a huge disconnect  between new home sales associates and Realtors. It’s as if they live on two different planets yet have one common goal – to sell houses!

Your Realtors are a vital part of your marketing plan! They are your ‘A’ team! They have the clients, you have the product! The quicker you realize this and begin to build a marketing system that includes your real estate comrades the quicker you will sell new homes.

Let’s look at the facts for a moment, shall we? As a new home sales associate, you spend a great deal of your time in your sales office…..waiting (and praying) for walk in traffic, correct? A general real estate agent typically spends a great deal of their time on the streets, showing clients potential homes for purchase…..OK, call me crazy, but doesn’t it make sense to have the REALTORS show their CLIENTS your new homes??

Now, let’s look at it from the Realtor’s perspective. A Realtor gets paid a commission once a home closes.  They do not make money ‘hand-holding’ a buyer through the long (and often tedious) process of closing the home. So, call me crazy, but isn’t a NEW HOME transaction easier, quicker and more cost-effective for the REALTOR? Their client buys your home, and the Realtor gets paid at closing, but they don’t have to be involved in the time-consuming minutia that occurs during the process….that becomes YOUR job.

So, how do we get Realtors to help us ‘sell’ our new homes? Here are 5 quick tips that you can begin using today to increase your Realtor business.

  1. Identify the top real estate firms and realtors in your target market area. You need to know WHICH realtors are actually selling homes in your area. Once identified, create a database with their contact information. You have now created your ‘A’ team!
  2. Meet & Greet – Now that you know WHO you are targeting, get out there and meet them! Offer to attend a sales meeting at the top real estate firms. Bring some bagels and plenty of collateral materials. And, get specific in your presentation! Let the Realtors know exactly why they should bring their clients to your community.  Better yet, hold an open house at your community so the Realtors can actually see your product.
  3. Educate and Engage – Don’t assume your Realtors know everything about your community or the new home sales process. Oftentimes Realtors don’t show new homes because the process (and commission structure) is unfamiliar (and scary) to them. Why not offer to conduct a brief workshop on how the new home process works? Create a partnership with your Realtor ‘A’ team.
  4. Keep in touch – Make sure you keep in touch with your Realtor ‘A’ team. I know a new home sales associate that schedules a lunch once a week with a top producing Realtor. It’s all about building relationships! Also, be sure to keep your ‘A’ team posted on events in your community, new inventory homes, special promotions or incentives. Make it EASY for them to sell your product!
  5. Appreciate and thank your Realtor community – Remember, people do business with people that they KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST. Let your Realtors know that you appreciate their time, their business, and their referrals. Thank them! I know a very successful new home sales associate that gives every realtor who brings a prospective buyer into her sales office a $10 Starbucks gift card. This is a great way to say ‘thank you’ for your business.

Bottom line, Realtors account for a VERY large portion of new home sales, well over 60% in many areas, can you really afford NOT to have a Realtor ‘A’ team in place?

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Selling Against Re-sales and Foreclosures, or the Case of the Missing Toenail!

OK, unless you’ve been living under a rock the past several years you KNOW that the re-sale and foreclosure housing markets have had a serious sales impact on the new homes sales industry. People can buy a re-sale, a foreclosure or a short sale home often for much less money than they can purchase a new home. That’s a fact, Jack. But, does that mean the new home industry is going to shrivel up and blow away??? No! And, why is that? Because people BUY homes based on emotion, and then they justify their decision logically.

So, what this means for new home sales consultants is you’ve got to get your clients to ‘fall in love’ with your product, not your price! I call this ‘romancing the home’! When they fall in love with your new home, they can easily justify to themselves all the reasons they did so.

I remember many years ago, a friend of mine was getting ready to purchase her first home and had decided to buy a re-sell, due to the established neighborhood and the excellent school systems. After sharing her exciting news with a group of us at a party, one of my good friends in the new homebuilding industry turned to her and asked: ‘Are you really going to buy a toenail house?’

We were all a bit confused by his remark, and asked him to explain his strange comment. He went on to tell us that somewhere lurking in the newly steam cleaned USED carpets of my friend’s recently purchased home there were most likely the remnants of the previous owners toenails! OK, GROSS! That story (and mental picture) has stuck with me for years! Now, while I am certainly NOT encouraging you all to prepare your sales presentations and use old toenails as your ammunition, I am suggesting to you to really think about ALL the benefits, value and emotional satisfaction that comes from buying a new home. But, in order for you to do this successfully, you first must identify from your buyers what their specific wants and needs are, and then paint the mental picture of how those needs are going to be met by purchasing YOUR new home. Romancing the Home!

Most importantly, you need to ask your prospects if they are considering re-sales, and if so what they are finding in the market. More often than not, they will give you all the information you need just by asking this question. They may tell you that the price is right, but they will have to replace a roof or an air conditioning system; or that while the home is in the perfect neighborhood, the 1960’s ranch style design isn’t really working for them. Now, here is YOUR chance to sell against that! But, until you know what you are up against, you are fighting a losing battle.

Remember, value is MUCH more than a number at the bottom page of a closing statement. It’s the emotional value of knowing you are purchasing and getting EXACTLY what you want at a price that is fair. And for me, as I learned long ago, value is also the peace of mind that comes from walking barefoot on your new carpet and not worrying about stepping on someone else’s toenails!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: The Power of Product Knowledge!

Last week I was watching several Video Mystery Shops and I was stunned by the lack of product knowledge that some new home sales people exhibit.  The fact is, in order to be really successful in sales; you have to be passionate about what you are selling. In order to be passionate about what you are selling; you must be confident in your sales presentation. In order to be confident in your sales presentation; you must have extensive product knowledge. It all begins with you! You must become the product expert!

When you become the product expert, you create a high comfort level with your prospects. They TRUST you because you have the answers. For most people, buying a home is the single largest purchase they will ever make. And they are looking for an expert to guide and lead them through the process, and that my friend, is YOU!

A few years ago, I was in the market for a new computer. Now, I consider myself somewhat techie, but I don’t have a clue about the inner-workings of the latest and greatest products that are out there. I needed some ‘expert advice’. SO, off I went to Best Buy to get my information so I could make a smart buying decision. Salesperson Sam greeted me, and after I explained what I was looking for, he led me to the computer section of the store and *showed* them to me.  I started asking him questions about the capabilities of the different machines, and which one would work best for me and my business. He got a blank look on his face, as if I had just asked him to recite the Greek alphabet….backwards. It became PAINFULLY clear he did NOT have a clue about his product!

Thankfully, Salesperson Sarah came to his rescue! Sarah explained to me the advantages, benefits and capabilities of each machine; she discussed the operating systems, memory capabilities, and everything else under the sun that pertained to each computer. By the end of the presentation, I was ready to *drink the kool-aid*! Sarah was my HERO! I confidently purchased my computer from her and never had a moment’s regret!

So, how do YOU get the product knowledge that you need to be an expert in the new home sales industry? Here are four easy tips!

  1. Spend time with your community builder! Ask him (or her) questions as if you were the buyer. It is important that you understand the entire construction process, the types of materials and products that go into building your new homes. Your clients are counting on YOU to be their resource during the entire building process!
  2. Scripts /role play.  Create a notebook that includes all the features and benefits of your homes. Write down information about each feature and why it is unique and important to your prospects. Practice with your peers, your sales manager, or even with your dog! Just be sure to practice.
  3. Spend some time in your design center with a design consultant. Ask them to go over different options and selections with you.
  4.  Know your competition! One way to help you learn more about your product is to know about your competition’s product. This will allow you to point out differences and unique selling points that make your new homes the superior choice!

There is no excuse for NOT knowing everything about your product. Your prospects and clients will quickly be able to tell if you don’t know what you are talking about. Trust me!  Last time I was at Best Buy, I noticed poor Salesperson Sam was no longer working there…….rumor has it he took at job at MacDonald’s…..I guess he figured out it would be easier to gain product knowledge about Big Macs instead of Mac Computers!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Set Realistic Goals – or – Why you can’t lose 10 lbs. overnight!

My high school senior picture

Next month I am heading to Long Island, New York for my high school reunion! There is something special about going to a high school reunion. It’s as if you are stepping back in time!  It’s always fun to see old friends and reconnect.  So, in preparation for my big trip I have decided I want to lose a little weight. I have given myself one month to lose 10 lbs. I should easily be able to attain my goal of dropping 10 lbs in a month, right?  

In order to achieve my goal, I have created action steps, like: exercise daily, eat nothing but salads and drink enough water daily to launch the Mayflower, the Pinta Nina, and the Santa Maria!  At the end of each week, I will weigh myself to measure my success. If all goes according to plan, I should be able to fit back into the same jeans I wore in high school, who cares if bell bottoms aren’t in style anymore??   I have set my goal and I am going for it!

In new home sales, we are constantly setting goals for ourselves. How many homes are you going to sell this month? How many prospects are you going to call? How many realtors are you going to reach out to? Our professional lives revolve a lot around our professional goals. But, these goals must be realistic! If your professional goal is to sell 10 homes per month, yet your traffic is only 2 people a week, you may want to rethink your goal!

So, how do you go about setting your professional goals? Are they realistic? Or, are they too high or too low? When setting personal and professional goals, I like using the SMART goal system.

Specific – Get crystal clear and focused on your goals. General: ‘I want to sell a lot of homes this year’

Better: ‘I have sold one home a week or 52 homes a year’. (I also state my goals in the past tense as if I have already achieved them!)

Measurable – Establish a system for tracking your progress with each goal.

Attainable – Once you identify your goals, and write them down, it is easier to devise a plan to attain them. Do you have all the tools and resources you need? If your goal is to become a stronger closer, yet this is an area where you are not strong, you may want to consider sales training, working with a sales coach, or reading books on how to improve your technique.

Realistic – Are you really going to be able to accomplish your goal? My goal of dropping 10 lbs in one month is realistic. However, if I had made my goal 10 lbs. in one week, it would not have been!

Timely – What is your time frame for achieving your goal? In setting goals, you must have a beginning and an end. It isn’t enough to say ‘I want to sell 10 new homes’. Instead your goal should be: ‘I have sold 10 new homes by December 1st

So, make sure when setting YOUR professional goals you are being SMART. Have an action plan in place to achieve your goals, and stay focused on the end result! As for me, my goal for the month is to keep working the plan! And, I have my bell bottoms hanging in my closet just waiting for me to do it!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Sharpen Your Saw! The importance of attending industry events

Next week is the 33rd Southeast Builders Conference in Orlando. There will be over 300 exhibits, 50 plus idea-rich educational programs, and a wealth of peer-to-peer networking opportunities. Are you planning to attend?

Many times I am told by new home sales managers and sales people that they would love to attend these types of industry events, but they don’t have the time, or the budget, to do so.  I say you can’t afford NOT to attend.

In Stephen Covey’s highly acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, his seventh habit is: Sharpen the Saw. This means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. I love his analogy of the saw. What happens if we don’t sharpen our saws? Well, probably the same thing that happens to the knives in my kitchen drawer when I don’t sharpen them! They get dull and can barely cut through a stick of butter!

Now, there are certainly many ways for you to ‘sharpen your saws’ in all areas of your life: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. But, one of the best ways to do so in your professional life is to get involved and attend events that support and enhance our industry!

By getting involved and attending these types of events you are able to grow and improve your greatest asset – YOU! Whether you have been in new homes sales for 20 years or 20 minutes, you will benefit by attending events, conferences, expos and other training programs specific to the new home building industry.

Three ways to ‘sharpen YOUR saw’ at industry events:

  1. Networking – Use these industry events as opportunities   to expand your sphere of influence. Connecting with others is probably the single most important reason for attending industry events of any kind.
  2. Training – Register to attend some of the educational classes being offered. Industry experts are being brought in to share their knowledge with YOU. Our industry has changed dramatically over the past five years. You have got to keep up with the latest and greatest techniques and practices that are available to you.
  3. Resources – Take the time to walk through the exhibit hall. I feel like a kid in a candy shop at industry trade shows. There are so many new gizmos and gadgets on the market for new home sales people!

So, where will YOU be next week? Will you be ‘sharpening’ your saw at the Southeast Builders Conference?  You just never know who you will run in to, what you will learn, and what an impact it can make on your career. Keep those saws sharp!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Need a Secret Sales Weapon? Sell Your Builder!

What makes one new home builder better than another new home builder? I mean, really, aren’t they all about the same? They use the same types of building materials, they typically offer new homes in similar price ranges at a similar square footage, and most builders have some type of warranty or guarantee to back up their product, right? So, what is the big deal about telling your new home prospects your builder’s story?  

Well, for starters, your builder’s story is your secret sales weapon! Think about it, your builder is your brand! OF COURSE you want to tell your prospects all about your builder!

Face it, not all new home builders are created equally! Let me give you a non-industry related example: when you need to go to the grocery store, how do you select the store where you will shop? After all, most grocery stores offer the same selection of canned food, produce, meats and other products, right? WRONG? My guess is that you will go to a specific grocery store because of its ‘brand’. You trust the brand! You like the brand! You are loyal to the brand!

 There is a reason that Publix is the dominating grocery store chain in Florida and there is a reason Winn Dixie is closing stores quicker than you can say ‘The Beef People’. It’s all about the brand and what that brand represents to people.

By selling your builder you not only gain credibility and trust with your prospects, you are able to affiliate yourself with a brand that is much bigger than you are alone! So, why do some sales people have a difficult time selling their builder? My guess is they don’t really know how to do it properly without sounding like they are reciting a speech they memorized for ninth grade graduation. Your builder’s story needs to come naturally and not in the form of a Shakespearean soliloquy! Here are a couple of tips to get you started!

Three Tips to Selling your Builder:

  1. Always ask your prospectswhat is important to you’ in a new home builder? This takes the pressure off of you and allows you to get some very valuable information from your buyer! Once they answer the question, you can build your builder’s story (no pun intended) to address these items. If, for example, quality construction is a hot button, adapt your presentation to include information about why YOUR builder offers the best quality construction in town!
  2. Use the pronoun ‘WE’ when talking about your builder. It isn’t an ‘us vs. them’ scenario. I can’t tell you how many times in video shops I hear new home sales people saying: ‘Well, I can always ask them if that change can be made’. Remember, you on the same team as your builder. Use this to your advantage.
  3. Do your homework – KNOW your Builder’s Story! Know who the key players are (by name), know when they opened for business, how many homes they sell each year, how many communities they build in, and what sets them builder apart from the rest! What is your builder’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? If you need help, call your marketing or sales manager.
  4. Practice – do some role-playing with other sales team members. Sales Managers – you may want to make this a focus of an upcoming sales meeting. The more comfortable you are in your delivery, the better you become in your sales presentation!

We all know that in sales, in order to really be successful, you’ve got to believe in the product or service you are selling. In new home sales, that product is your builder! Make it your secret sales weapon!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Training Your Team to Listen MORE and Talk LESS!

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey

I stumbled upon this quote the other day, and I really liked it! OK, I may not know who Robert McCloskey is, but I certainly like what he says! This quote SPEAKS volumes in the industry of new homes sales. It could make the difference between showing a prospect a model home AND selling a prospect a NEW home. 

After many years of watching video shops, I have discovered something about sales people –we like to talk. Shocking, right? Well, because we do like to talk, this sometimes can make it more difficult for us to do the opposite of talking….which is listening.

When prospective buyers come into our sales office, the first thing we naturally want to do is ‘tell’ them everything we know about our new home communities! We want to tell them how spacious our floorplans are, how beautiful our homesites are, how fabulous our builder is, etc. There is SO much information in our going on in our brain that oftentimes we do what I like to refer to as the ‘Information Dump’. We want to tell them EVERYTHING we can, whether it is important to them or not!

Now, we may occasionally ask the prospect a question or two, but instead of REALLY listening to their responses, our minds are already racing at the speed of light wondering if we remembered to tell them that granite is an included feature and that if they purchased this month they get a free washer/dryer.  We do this because, in many cases, this is what we have been trained to do. We are in SALES, after all.

However, I challenge you to look at this process from a different perspective. What if instead of ‘information dumping’ we took the time to simply ask our prospects questions and really listen to their responses. I tell my clients all the time that when you do this, it actually makes your job easier! You see if given the chance, your prospects will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about their buying motivation! I promise you!

And, there is an added bonus! Once they give you this important information, you will be able to personalize and tailor your sales presentation so that you are not ‘information dumping’ but instead providing them with valuable information that is important to THEIR needs! It’s all about zeroing in on and focusing on what the PROSPECT wants.

Remember, buyers BUY on emotion and justify later with logic.  So, it’s your job to connect with them to find out what their emotional triggers are. And, the best way to do that is to LISTEN.

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Realtors And Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – The Power of the Perfect Parternship.

Do you remember those old commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Two people are walking along (one eating chocolate and the other eating peanut butter) when all of a sudden, they collide and the peanut butter and chocolate mix together and EUREKA, the best tasting candy bar in the world is born! All because of the successful partnership between the peanut butter and the chocolate!

Well, if you are wondering what this analogy has to do with new home sales people, let me tell you. YOU are the chocolate……and YOUR local Realtors are the peanut butter! Oftentimes as new home sales people, we forget what a valuable asset our realtors are to our business. Think about it.  How awesome is it when all of a sudden a realtor pops into your sales office and delivers  a QUALIFIED prospect that is ready to buy today! Voila! The magic of the successful partnership!

So, why is it that we new home sales people often forget to include realtors in our overall marketing plans? I believe it isn’t because we don’t want to; it is because we are not sure exactly HOW to do it. Here are five simple suggestions to help you build strong relationships with your area realtors!

  1. Visit the local offices – sponsor a breakfast, offer to do a presentation for the office, make yourself visible to the realtors! People do business with people they know, like and trust. Make yourself that person!
  2. Offer your community clubhouse, or design center as an option for a sales meeting. Or, hold a realtor open house. Try to get the realtors to come to the community, this way  they become familiar with you, your community and your homes, so it will be easier for them to offer them as an option to their clients.
  3. Get involved with your realtor association – Network with the realtors. Again, this would be a great opportunity for you to offer to give a presentation about your community to the group.
  4. Create a program to reward the realtors who are bringing you business! This could be as simple as giving a Starbucks gift card to every realtor who brings a prospect to your office. Everyone likes to be recognized for their efforts.  
  5. Set a goal!  How many realtor offices will you visit this month? How many realtors will you take to lunch? Set a personal goal for yourself and write it down. And, when you do meet with the realtors, ask them how YOU can help make their job easier. 

Working with your realtors really makes both of your jobs easier. From the realtor’s perspective, once their client decides to purchase in your community, their job is basically done!

Remember, just like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, when two good things come together, the effect can be phenomenal!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: The Fine Art of Negotiation or Things you can learn from Old MacDonald!

'With a MOO MOO here, and a MOO MOO there!

Remember the old children’s song ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’? Ee I ee I oo? Well, as I was watching several new home video shops this week, that song kept playing in my head. Not because my clients were selling farms in rural Tennessee, but because I saw so many sales people giving away the farm, the farmer and the farm animals when they are negotiating a new home sale! Ee I ee  I oo NO!

People, we’ve got to STOP the MADNESS!  Sure, every home buyer is looking for a good *deal* on their new home, however many sales people seem to equate a good deal with giving away every incentive and back pocket dollar they have before they ever even have a deal on the table!

Before you can ever sell a new home to a prospect or client, you have to allow them to *fall in love* with the community, the home site and the floor plan. If you don’t, you aren’t really selling a new home; you are negotiating a contract for a tangible item. Now, if you were in the widget selling business, I might say that would be OK. But, we aren’t selling widgets. We are selling the American dream! We are selling a lifestyle, a future, and a dream.

So, what do you do when your prospects walk in the door demanding to know what’s the best deal you can give them? Well, you think about Old MacDonald, his farm and his menagerie of farm animals!

You see, Old MacDonald knew that the farm and the animals that he kept on the farm were his livelihood. He depended on those cows, sheep, goats and chickens to provide him with the basic necessities he needed in order to live happily with Mrs. MacDonald. He wasn’t about to give them away! He followed the Ee I ee I oo code of ethics!

Let me introduce it to you: E I E I O

Everyone is looking for a deal – get used to it. But, remember it’s your job to get your buyers to see past the initial dollar signs to truly appreciate the value of the home.

Instill value – Home buying is an emotional decision. Your buyers may tell you they are looking for a bargain, but I can guarantee if you ask them what is more important,  price or value, the answer is always going to be VALUE.

Evoke emotion – Allow your buyers to ‘fall in love’ with the community, the home site and the floor plan. Have them *mentally* move in to the home! Customize your sales presentations so that the buyers can imagine themselves living there!

Introduce trial closes – Start building that emotional bond by introducing trial closes during the sales presentation. Overcome any  objections the buyers might have along the way. This way, by the end of the appointment, they have had time mentally to embark on the idea of moving forward with their buying decision!

Open your ears, close your mouth – This is the only way you are going to determine your buyer’s true buying motivation. Ask questions and listen to what they are saying to you. Your buyers will give you every piece of information you need to close the deal! You just have to listen to them.

So, there you have it! The Old MacDonald recipe for successful negotiations! Ee I Ee I oo – YES!!

Guest Columnist Meredith Oliver: WALK the LINE: Why salespeople should avoid religion, sex, and politics in social media

Meredith Oliver

 Social media networking sites are wonderful tools to connect salespeople with their prospects and existing customers. These days, you can even engage in a political discussion with your prospects/customers on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. However, you’d be treading very dangerous waters if you do! 

If you wouldn’t normally make a sales call and start talking politics, then you shouldn’t do it on a social networking site either.  Remember, it’s not just sales people who are using social media to do research. Buyers use social networking sites too.  If you post all of your political, religious and other controversial information on your business site, then a potential buyer that does not share your political views may not want to do business with you. Not to mention that you place yourself in a weakened negotiating position.

 That’s not to say you can’t engage in “hot button” discussions with your friends and family on Facebook. Just keep these personal discussions separate from your professional life. Create a business page on Facebook and use it strictly for business. Limit comments to your personal profile and adjust your privacy settings so your comments aren’t shared with anyone beyond your immediate circle.  

However, you should probably still be careful what you post online. While you can control who YOU share your information with, you can’t control what your friends and family share. As a result, there is still a possibility that whatever you post online can be found by someone conducting a Google search.

 Unless your business happens to involve politics or religion, the safer course to follow is to avoid discussing these subjects online or in-person with your professional contacts. Remember what happens on Facebook, doesn’t always stay on Facebook! 

 If your sales team needs social media training, Meredith Oliver’s Social Media Boot Camp can teach your salespeople click-by-click how to use social media to increase sales. Call, e-mail, text or send Meredith Oliver a carrier pigeon for more information – whatever works for you!