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Industry Update 2017

I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 International Builders Show in Orlando a couple weeks ago. By all accounts, the show was an overwhelming success! The trade show floor was a flurry of vendors and builders like no other I have seen. The training and educational tracks were in most cases, standing room only! The many people I had the opportunity to speak with were all highly optimistic about our industry in 2017! All excellent indicators that the building industry is ready for a strong, successful and profitable year!

A key point for new home builders to consider this year, more than ever before, is the needs of their buyers. Today’s buyer is smarter, savvier, and more knowledgeable than ever before!

There are five critical things that today’s buyer expect….and demands…during the sales experience. In order to be successful, you’ve got to be willing to provide them with the following:

  1. Information
  2. Ability to ask questions and listen
  3. A personalized presentation
  4. Be the problem solver
  5. Passion

Video Mystery Shopping: What was your name again?

dissatisfied angry young woman haired girl in red dress emotion isolated on white backgroundOn the Video Mystery Shopping scoring sheet, there is a question that reads: “Did the SA use the prospect’s name more than twice during the visit?” Now, initially you might be thinking, “That is a silly question to ask! Of COURSE the SA used the prospect’s name AT LEAST twice during the sales presentation!” Well my friends, you would be surprised!

In about 75% of ALL the video mystery shops we review, the SA DOES NOT use the prospect’s name more than twice….in fact in most of the video shops the SA doesn’t even use the prospect’s name once!

How can this be? I have asked SA’s countless times why they don’t use their prospect’s names, and  the first response I normally get is ‘Oh, I am HORRIBLE at remembering names! And then I am too embarrassed to ask them again what their name is.”

OK, I get that. But, let me ask you this….can you honestly tell me that you would be comfortable asking someone to purchase a $500K home without even knowing what their name is? I can just picture it now ‘Hey, what’s your face, do you want to move forward in the purchase of this home?’

If you are not good at remembering names, here are a few suggestions for you that will help.

  1. During the sales presentation, carry a clipboard with you. Write the prospect’s name BIG AND BOLD on a sheet of paper that is on the clipboard. This way you can easily glance down and see it.
  2. Try using the prospect’s name a minimum of 3 -5 times during the first 20 minutes of the presentation. For example, “Sarah, tell me what’s important to you in your new home?” , “Have you ever built a new home before, Sarah?’
  3. If your prospect has an unusual or hard to pronounce name, ask them to say it for you. This can be done by simply saying “You have such a unique and beautiful name, would you mind repeating it again for me?”
  4. Use an Alliteration Memory tactic. For example, if your prospect’s name is Sam, notice something about him that also begins with an S. Sam is wearing sunglasses. Sunglass Sam. This may sound silly but it really works!

The bottom line, do whatever you need to do to remember your prospect’s name and USE IT.

 

 

Video Mystery Shopping: Meeting Unrecognized Needs

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Customer Service, he discusses the 3 levels of service.

Level one is Meeting Expectations. For example, you need to purchase toothpaste. So, you go to Walgreens and buy a tube of Colgate. Your expectation has been met, and you are satisfied. Not a thrilling or memorable experience, but you got what you came to get. You are satisfied.

Level two is when you not only meet expectations, but you also Meet Desires! This is the level where most new home sales associates are. You meet with your prospects; ask questions to determine what they are looking for in their new home. You then find them the home that successfully meets their desires. This creates a loyal customer!

However, the third level of Maslow’s Hierarchy is referred to as creating a ‘transformation’. This is when you meet your prospects Unrecognized Needs. This creates EVANGELISM!

What is an unrecognized need? It’s a need that your prospects never knew they had! You can only get to this level of service by finding out everything you can about your prospects and how they live. This takes more than basic discovery and questioning. It takes empathy, understanding and out of the box thinking. Let me give you an example, in a shop I watched last month the SA was working with a couple. They had scheduled their first meeting, but the husband was unable to attend the first meeting due to health issues.

The SA spent about 20 minutes at the beginning of the presentation asking questions, and building trust and rapport. The wife shared with the SA that the husband had some long term health issues that would eventually cause him to be in a wheel chair. The SA began discussing options on how to build the home so that it would accommodate his future health needs. She even went so far as to suggest the option of adding a hidden elevator in the home.  The wife was ecstatic! She had not thought about these options and was thrilled with the recommendations. The SA had met unrecognized needs for her buyers. This is your job as a new home sales associate.  In doing so, you will create Evangelism with YOUR buyers!

 

 

 

Video Mystery Shopping: We’ve been building quality homes since 1902…. Perfecting your Builder’s Story

graphic-book“The SA mentioned that her builder was one of the best in the area, except for the illegal stuff that happened at corporate a few years ago”

This is an actual quote from my book They Said WHAT??!! Behind the Scenes of 25,000 Undercover Video Mystery Shops.  Sadly, we can’t make this stuff up! For the first time in 30 years of mystery shopping the builder’s story ranked dead last in our 2015 Benchmark Study. Only 46% of those we video shopped last year even mentioned their builder. I was shocked! Your builder is your brand!

When I talk to Sales Associates many of them tell me they ‘forget’ to tell their builder’s story. Or, they don’t know how to properly introduce the builder without sounding ‘canned’. Here are a couple of tips to help you incorporate your builder’s story with every one of your prospects.

  1. Ask them if they have ever built a new home before. This is one of the best questions you can ask! If they have built a new home, ask them to share with you what they liked and disliked about the experience. This will give provide you with their ‘hot buttons’. Once they give you that information, you can craft your builder’s story to address their issues.
  2. If they have never built a new home before, they are probably pretty clueless about the whole process. This is your opportunity to share with them how YOUR builder does things differently and better than the others. Again, an opportunity to explain your process
  3. Ask them what is important to them in a new home builder! Are they concerned about value, reputation, quality of craftsmanship? By asking them this question, they will tell you what they are most interested in getting from their builder.
  4. Trial close on your builder! After sharing your builder’s story, ask them if your builder is one they would feel comfortable with moving forward in the process
  5. Identify the top 10 things that set your builder apart from the competition. These are called Unique Selling Propositions (USPs). This is your brand! This is WHY people would build with you versus other new home builders.
  6. Make your builder’s story engaging and vibrant! No one wants to hear that you are a quality builder that has been building homes since 1902. BORING!
  7. When discussing your builder or your building process, always use the pronoun ‘WE’ instead of ‘they’ or ‘them’. In your prospects’ mind YOU are the builder!

Bottom line, your builder’s story is your secret weapon. Not all builders are alike. This is your opportunity to shine!

Video Mystery Shopping: That was then….This is now!

People Buy From People They Trust Reminder MessageI was having a conversation with a client last week and we were discussing the many ways the process for selling new homes has changed. While some things remain the same, many things are very different. Technology plays a large part in this transformation, as does the customer’s expectations of the process.  It’s very important for you to be aware of these changes and adapt your presentation accordingly.

Here are a couple of my key observations.

  1. Structure not Scripts: Remember when scripted sales presentations were all the rage? If you followed the ‘critical path’ and used your scripts you were doing a great job! But, sales people don’t LIKE scripts. They want to do their own thing. However, even if you are doing your own thing your presentation still must have structure. This is different from scripts. Structure is having a plan from start to finish as to what you and your customer will be doing during your time together. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of video shops I watch that are sloppy with not structure and no purpose. If you don’t have a plan (or structure) you are not in new home sales, you are a tour guide.
  2. Internet Leads are ‘be backs’: Technology and the internet have given a great deal of power to our prospects. They are doing their research BEFORE they walk into your sales office. In fact, they use the internet to determine which builders they are going to narrow it down to. If you have an internet lead come to your office, they have obviously seen SOMETHING on your website that they like. It might be the location, a particular floor plan, or even a review that a past client gave you. Regardless, they have made the conscience decision to visit your community. It is your job to find out what sparked their interest. It is no longer acceptable to just ask IF they have been to your website. You must now take it even further and ask WHAT they saw on the website that brought them to your community.
  3. Discovery upfront: In the past most sales people asked discovery questions throughout the entire sales presentation. They collected bits and pieces of information along the way. Nowadays we are seeing more and more sales people actually say at the beginning of the presentation ‘Before we look at homes, let’s sit down and talk for bit so I can get to know you a bit and determine what your needs and wants are.’ Great discovery questions include: What are your expectations for our meeting? What’s important to you in a new home, community, home site, and builder? What’s your current situation? The more information you get up front, the more likely you are to Personalize & Customize your presentation to meet the specific needs of your customer.
  4. Exceed expectations 100 plus 1%: We have become a nation of people with high expectations. Call it entitlement or whatever you want, but most people are not satisfied with status quo service. They want to be ‘WOWED’. They want you to not just satisfy their expectations and desires but to go above and beyond that and meet their unrecognized needs.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Customer Service refers to this as Transformation! In order to reach this level you have to give 100 plus 1% every time.

 

Video Mystery Shopping: REALTORS are our friends!

image of sold house 3d illustration

I was speaking with a builder client the other day and he mentioned that his sales people did not like to work with Realtors. He went so far as to say that his sales people NEVER communicated with Realtors and preferred dealing with only walk in traffic. WHAT???

In most markets the percentage of Realtor co-broke deals is well over 50%. So, if you are not working with your Realtor community you are in essence losing sales! New home sales associates need to look at Realtors as their friends! Cultivate these relationships! Last I checked….Realtors worked with buyers! Ready, able and willing buyers! Why wouldn’t you want a chance to showcase your community and product?

Here are a couple tips for you when it comes to building relationships with Realtors.

  1. Identify the top 10 Realtors in your market area. Who are the movers and shakers? These are the ones you want to get to know and develop a personal relationship with. You don’t need to know the entire Realtor community. Remember, 20% of Realtors do 80% of the sales.
  2. Cultivate personal relationships with your top 10. By this I mean take a personal interest in who they are and what they do. Don’t just try to ‘sell’ your community to them. Care about them as a person. Remember, people do business with those that they know, like and trust.
  3. Incorporate social media into the mix when marketing to Realtors. If they have a Facebook page, LIKE it. If they are on Linked In, LINK IN with them. 91% of Realtors use social media in some form to market themselves.
  4. Engage them. Think outside of the box and get creative. You could have a wine and cheese reception at your new model. Or, you could have a lunch & learn and invite your design center manager to come and give a presentation about design and decorating trends.
  5. Be where they are. Are you active in your local Realtor Association? How about the Women’s Council of Realtors or your Builder’s Association?
  6. Make them feel special and appreciated! Sometimes it is the little things that can make them feel appreciated. A hand written note, tickets to a sporting event or cultural happening, or maybe a gift card….all these things go a long way in making someone feel special!
  7. Develop their trust. In most cases, Realtors are apprehensive about working with New Home Builders because they fear they will lose control of their client. So, keep them in the loop when working with their clients. Ask them how they wish to be communicated with. Work together as a team to gain their trust.

 

Video Mystery Shopping – Seven Steps to Closing

logo 30 years finalOne of the things we have been preaching and teaching a lot to our clients lately is that the ‘closing process’ does not happen at the end of the sales presentation. It actually happens the MOMENT your prospects’ walk in the door! You are ‘closing’ every step of the way! Many sales people don’t understand that closing is more than asking them at the end of the presentation if they are ‘ready to move forward with the paperwork’.

Nine out of ten times when I ask a sales associate why they didn’t ask for the close during the video mystery shop, their response is ‘I didn’t think they were really ready to buy a home yet.’ The truth of the matter is this; the Sales Person didn’t do a thorough enough job in their presentation to earn the RIGHT to ask for the sale.

So, how do we do that? Below are 7 simple steps to help you become a stronger and better closing machine!
•Set the stage: When your prospects come in ask them what their expectations are. Find out when they will be making a decision. Tell them how you will be spending your time together. And, finally, introduce the close. Let them know that you will be returning to the sales office after viewing the models to sit down and discuss the process for moving forward.
•Personalize & Customize: Find out what is important to your prospects in a home, a community, a home site and a builder. Then take that information and tailor your sales presentation around it! If they are not interested in golf, don’t spend 45 minutes telling them about your golf course. Find out what is important to them.
•Trial & Assumptive Closing: This is your secret weapon in sales! Trial closes get your prospects comfortable saying YES. Assumptive closes allow them to start visualizing themselves living in your home!
•Explain the process: Don’t assume your prospects understand the process for purchasing and building a new home. Ask them if they have ever built a new home before. If they have, ask them what they liked or disliked about the process. If they haven’t built before, explain to them how building with your builder is different. Either way, let them know what to expect.
•Suggest moving forward: If you have done your job of finding them the perfect home in a community that will work for them, you have done your job. You would be doing them a disservice by not suggesting they move forward.
•Plan B: If they are not in the position to move forward, the next best plan is to get a firm follow up appointment. Don’t tell them to call you if they have any questions. Ask them to set up a time to return to the office.
•Follow Up: It amazes me the number of sales people who don’t follow up. Trust me when I say this….if you DON’T follow up, someone else will.

Video Mystery Shopping: Benchmark 2015 The Results are in!

 

Melinda-Brody-Logo (2)

 

benchmark2015

From January to December 2015, Melinda Brody & Company gathered scorecards from more than 1000 video shops representing 36 different builders / divisions from across the country. We then compared 6 key questions. The graph above shows the percentage of new home sales associates that discussed the Builder, Demonstrated the Model, Demonstrated the Home Site and or Gained Agreement of Home Site, Asked for the Sale, Registered their prospect and Followed Up with the prospect.

These are the national results of our 2015 Benchmark Study. So, what does it mean? Well, let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The Good – Sales associates are registering their clients! A whopping 95% of them are doing this! Yeah! Also, the model demonstration has improved! 93% of the sales associates successfully completed this portion of the shop!

The Bad – Scores dropped this year in the Builder story, home site demo, and follow up. This tells me that these are areas that require additional training with your sales teams. I was shocked that the builder’s story dropped 15 %! This is a critical part of the sales presentation. It is also a part that the builder needs to be involved in providing. What’s YOUR USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? What sets you apart from the pack? Important questions

The Ugly – Our sales associates are still NOT closing. The score dropped to 47% in 2015. That means that 53% are not closing! This is particularly upsetting because the shoppers we send into your sales offices are READY, WILLING, and ABLE buyers. In the 30 years I have conducted video mystery shops, closing has ALWAYS ranked dead last. This year is no exception. This is an area that really needs to be focused on in your training and sales meetings. How do you ‘earn the right’ to ask for the sale?

If you need assistance in conducting training programs that can help your sales team in these areas, give us a call. We provide personalized and customized sales training for your team.
Want to learn more? Click here to view a short video.

Video Mystery Shop: The Power of Personalization

cokePersonalize and Customize. Personalize and Customize. I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to do this in every sales presentation you give. In fact, you should never, ever give the same sales presentation twice. Each one should be specific and focused on your prospect’s specific needs, wants, and desires! The experience you create for your prospects can either make or break the sale for you!

And, this is not just true for new home sales. Many businesses today are finally embracing the concept that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ sales and marketing strategy. My favorite example of this comes from Coca Cola. A couple of years ago Coca Cola introduced its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. Instead of just having the company name on the cans and bottles of the soft drink, they started incorporating individual names! It created quite the buzz! Everyone wanted to find ‘their’ coke can or bottle. Facebook was a flurry with pictures of people holding their personalized cans of Coca Cola! It was fun, it was clever, and it was pure marketing genius! Not only that….it was profitable!

The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was single handily responsible for turning profits around for the company after a decade of decline. That’s right! After ten long years of losing money, Coke made a profit by simply adding a person’s name to a can of soda! The first step in personalizing your presentation is building rapport in order to find out what is important to your customers. One of the best ways to do this is to use your prospect’s name. Yes, I know it sounds easy, but in about 75% of the video shops I watch the sales person NEVER uses the customer’s name. Not even once!

In his book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie writes: ‘A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language’ . Don’t forget that! And, if you are like me and have a problem remembering names…..WRITE IT DOWN. Use a clipboard to take notes and write your customer’s name on the top of the page. Try to use their name 3 – 5 times in the first ten minutes of your presentation so that it becomes natural to you.
The Power of Personalization….if Coke can increase sales after ten years by simply putting a name on a 75 cent can of soda, imagine what would happen if you started personalizing and customizing in your sales presentations on a $500,000 home!!!

Video Mystery Shopping: Setting Expectations

Outdoor business meetingOne of the things I have noticed lately in watching video mystery shops is that many seem to lack structure. In some cases, the presentations go on and on forever, but there is no rhyme or reason to the presentation. As I watch, I have to wonder what is going on in the mind of the sales associate. Do they not have a plan for how they are going to spend their time with the prospects? Do they not realize that in our business ‘time is money’? Why don’t they set expectations with the prospects?

I’ll give you a real life example. I was watching a shop last week that went well over 2 1/2 hours. At the end, the shopper was visibly drained. The SA had not asked her at the beginning of the presentation how much time she had to spend nor did she ask what she hoped to accomplish from the meeting. It was like she was on the Gilligan Island’s 3 hour tour….to nowhere!

How much time do you have to spend with me? What do you hope to accomplish today? These two questions asked upfront will allow you to set the stage for the entire presentation.

“I understand you have about 1 hour to spend with me today, and I want to be respectful of your time. So, let me suggest how we can best use our time together to meet your expectations.”

This not only sets the stage with your prospects, it gives you control and structure of the presentation. It also let’s your prospect know what’s going to take place throughout the presentation. And, added bonus…it allows you to introduce the close at the beginning!

“Once we’ve viewed the models and toured the community, I would like to then return to the sales office and discuss options for moving forward with the purchase of your new home.”

I see WAY too many shops where the sales associate ‘runs out of time’ at the end of the presentation and literally has to close the presentation standing in the sales office parking lot because the prospect has to leave! By setting expectations, you are giving ample time for all parts of the presentation, including qualifying, community/model/home site demonstration, and closing.

All sales presentations have a beginning, middle and end. It’s a sales strategy! Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. In other words, set expectations.