Tag Archives: Mystery Shopping

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: Be Your Personal Best

massageOver the past few months I have noticed a DANGEROUS new trend among new home sales associates. They are working themselves TO DEATH! I spoke to one sales associate last month that said she had not taken a day off in over 28 days. Another sales associate told me he had not gone on a ‘real’ vacation in over 2 years! And yet another told me she had not worked out or gone to the gym in 6 months and had subsequently gained 35 lbs. because of it! I hear stories like these almost on a daily basis!

OK, people…here is your wakeup call! It’s time to start taking care of yourselves! How can you be expected to perform at your best if you are not taking the time to relax, recharge, and rest! Let’s start with your smart phone…..it’s OK to turn it off at night. I have actually heard sales associates tell me they SLEEP with their phones. I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of a new home sales emergency taking place at 2 a.m. Suggestion: set a designated time each night to turn your phone off! Also, if you are in the practice of keeping your phone on when you are eating dinner with your family, at least put it on silence or vibrate. If calls come in, let it go to voice mail and return the call later.

Secondly, most new home sales associates are given two days off during the week. These are called ‘days off’ for a reason. You are not supposed to work. However, almost every sales associate I speak with says they literally work through their days off. I certainly understand if you have to check voice mail, return a few emails, or maybe even write a contract on a day off, but your entire day off should not be about working. Suggestion: set aside an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to do these tasks (excect the contract writing!). Also, plan something special for your day off. It can be as simple as reading a book, getting a massage, or having lunch with a friend. Enjoy your time!

Third, don’t put your health in jeopardy. I know it can be easy to blow off exercising, but it is important that you take care of you. Suggestion: use a day timer or calendar program and SCHEDULE your exercise the same way you would schedule an important appointment. Also, when it comes to eating properly (going through a Mickey D’s drive-through does not count as healthy!) plan ahead for the week. Suggestion: Always have healthy snacks on hand in the sales office. Also, when you do your weekly grocery shopping have a plan for what you will be eating for lunch and dinner for the entire week.

Some of these suggestions might sound elementary to you; however, I can promise you that by incorporating them into your life you will improve your well-being! New home sales is not an easy job. It can be stressful, demanding, and overwhelming. So, it’s up to you to set boundaries and standards by which to live!

 

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: 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 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.

Video Mystery Shopping: Objections are directional signs leading you to the close!

problems and solution signpostBuyer’s objections can often derail sales people and end up blowing up the sale. Objections CAN be deal breakers if not identified and overcome quickly.

The problem with objections is that most new home sales consultants view them as a negative. They don’t want to deal with them or, if they do, they just want to provide an immediate solution to the objection and move on. We have actually seen sales consultants IGNORE objections presented by their prospects. Obviously, this is not a good way to handle objections.

Objections are actually powerful selling signs which, when handled properly, actually lead the sales associate closer to the sale. The goal with handling objections is to flush them out early and respond in a calm, convincing way that neutralizes the prospect’s concern.
Below is the 4 step process that we recommend using each time you are presented with an objection.

STEP 1: Validate/Show Empathy – This lets your prospect know you have heard them and validated their point. ‘That’s a great observation!’, ‘I understand what you are saying’, ‘Thank you for pointing that out to me’

STEP 2: Question/Clarify – This allows you to clarify exactly what they are objecting about. Believe it or not, many times there can be a miscommunication between what the prospect has said and what the sales consultant actually interprets. ‘So, tell me specifically what it is about the kitchen layout that isn’t working for you’

STEP 3: Offer Solutions (if possible) – Not all objections will have a solution, but if there is one, this is the place to provide it. ‘Here are a couple of suggestions that may work for you’.

STEP 4: Confirm it is resolved or not a deal breaker – At this point you want to make sure that this objection is no longer going to persuade them regarding the purchase of the home. ‘So, do you think that idea will work for you regarding the kitchen layout?’

BONUS TIP: Another great way to handle objections is to ask the prospect at the beginning of your sales presentation to name their 3 MUST HAVES in their new home. This way, if you are presented with an objection during the model demonstration, IE. ‘These secondary bedrooms seem too small’, you can simply remind your prospect of what those three must haves were (assuming one wasn’t large secondary bedrooms!). This reminds the prospect to focus more on what they REALLY want in a new home, and not get caught up in the smaller details.

Video Mystery Shopping: Follow up can make or break the deal!

A tyPortrait of a smiling businesswoman with phonepical scenario I see often in video mystery shops has to do with following up. Here’s what happens, we send our shoppers out as an ‘A’ prospect. They are ready, willing, and able to buy. Their home is sold, they’re the sole decision maker, they LOVE what you are showing them, and they correctly fill out the registration card. After visiting the community, they check their email inbox and…..NOTHING, NADA, ZIP!

Shopper ‘A’ is an ideal customer. It amazes me that they don’t receive follow up from the sales associates. If the ‘A’ prospects are not being followed up with, I seriously doubt the B’s or C’s are!
Houston…..we have a serious problem here. Think about it….when you are shopping for a home, chances are you are going to visit SEVERAL communities. You are going to see SEVERAL sales associates. You are going to become overwhelmed with everything you have seen and heard. Chances are you may get home and not remember who was who and what was what.

But, when you receive follow up from the sales associate that you met at Windsong, who thanks you for stopping by and then provides you with the information about the surrounding schools you requested, all of a sudden you remember!

Then a few days later, you are checking your mailbox and lo and behold….there is a handwritten letter from Mary at Windsong with a $10 Starbucks certificate (because you had told her how much you love their Frappuccinos). Wow. You are impressed! In her note she also invites you to come back the following Saturday because the neighborhood is having a pool party and she wants to introduce your family to some of the other families and their children. You see, Mary remembered your 10 year old daughter Kelly was anxious about moving and making new friends. See where I am going with this? Follow up helps you build the relationship with your prospects. It allows you to continue to build rapport long after they’ve left your sales office.

My question has always been WHY in the world would you not follow up??? I’ve heard every excuse in the book. In most cases, I have found that laziness and lack of creative follow up ideas are the primary causes for no follow up.

Follow up must be engaging, informative and personalized….just like your sales presentations. Take the time to find out interesting things about your prospects. Do they have children or pets? What do they like to do in their spare time? What’s their favorite dessert? This will give you information to create great (and memorable!) follow up!
Remember, if you don’t follow up, chances are someone else will!

Video Mystery Shopping: The New Rules of Qualifying

Business people in officeBack in the day, the qualifying process for sales associates basically consisted of two things. First, you had to make sure the prospect had enough money to buy the home, and secondly, you had to find out if they had a house to sell. It was a pretty simple process. Once you had answers to those two questions, you could sell them a home.

My, how things have changed! Today, qualifying your prospects has taken on a whole new meaning! You see, your role has changed and evolved over the years. You are no longer a new home sales associate…you are a new home advisor! Your role is to determine if your product, community, and builder match up with what your prospect is looking for. So, in addition to finding out if they can afford your homes and that they don’t have a home to sell, you have to learn how to qualify on everything!

Also, qualifying used to be something that you did throughout your sales presentation. You might do a little qualifying at the beginning, a bit more in the middle, and even some at the end of your presentation. This has also gone by the wayside. In today’s world, it is imperative that you qualify your prospects at the beginning of your presentation. This is done so as to not waste your time or your prospect’s.

I was in the field last week visiting clients throughout Florida, and every sales person I spoke with said that Qualifying had become the most important aspects of their presentation. For example, I visited one very large community in SW Florida that offered 69 floor plans and 6 different product lines! In addition, because of the uniqueness of the community, people from all over the area stop by just to look at models, take the complimentary boat ride through the community, and eat the free chocolate chip cookies! Needless to say, this is a community that gets a lot of traffic. Add to that, the community is very large and on average a sales presentation can take up to 2 hours.

It didn’t take long for the sales associates to realize that if they were going to invest 2 or more hours of their time with the prospects, it was very important to know they were ready, willing and able buyers! In addition, they also realized that due to the multiple product lines and numerous floor plans, they had to use strong qualifying questions to narrow down the options for the prospects based on their needs and wants. Whew! What a process!

I watched the sales team in action, and was very impressed with how they managed all of this qualifying. In most cases, the sales associate had the prospects sit down and before they began discussing the amenities, product lines, and builder story, they started off by saying: ‘Before we get started, we are going to spend about 20 minutes or so talking to determine your moving motivation and time frame and conclude if this community, product line, and builder are the right match for you. We are going to go over what your needs and wants are, and also what type of lifestyle you live. This will better allow me to narrow down your options.’

Awesome stuff! This line of qualifying and questioning allowed them to determine if the prospect was really interested in moving forward or if they were just there for the free cookies and model tours. In our industry, time is money. It is better to invest the time upfront qualifying your prospects before you play cruise director for 2 hours showing models.

Negotiation Pitfalls: Avoid These Deal-Breaking Mistakes!

John A PalumboGuest Blogger: John A. Palumbo, The Sterling Group

At a Jan. 22 International Builders’ Show seminar in Las Vegas, John Palumbo, CEO of The Sterling Group based in Jacksonville, Fla., provided several strategies to help builders to seal the deal more often than not by demonstrating the biggest and most common negotiation deal breakers:

No Differentiation. Most small builders are not doing research that shows why they are better than their competitors, said Palumbo. “If you do what everyone else is doing, you are missing sales.” One example he cited that makes a community stand out is a food truck that comes three days a week to serve the local residents.

Negotiating With Your Customers. “Consumers don’t like ‘aggressive’ salespeople but they love ‘assertive’ salespeople,” said Palumbo. The most successful are those who use information, charm and the power of persuasion to maximize sales. Make the customer feel like they made the right choice in their home purchase without being talked into it.

Treating All Sales the Same. Salespeople who sound automated and like they are reciting from a script come off as insincere to the customer. The most successful, he said, are “unsalespersons” who are spontaneous, casual, authentic and relaxed and who use their own words and stories. They are able to observe, uncover and predict their prospect’s behavior, thereby evoking emotion and communicating more effectively.

Not Using Third-Party Endorsements. Companies that properly use third-party endorsements can increase their sales by 25% to 30%, said Palumbo. When it comes to the bottom line, customers who have seen written correspondence, videos and social media endorsements are better positioned to buy your products with less negotiating and feel as though they have not been persuaded at all.

To make the endorsement process easy, ask a satisfied customer for a few short words or sentences on why they were happy with their home purchase and then write it up yourself and get it signed off by the customer.

Not Hypnotizing the Customer. Customers don’t want to be informed, they have already done their homework on the Internet. They want to be guided and given a reason to feel good about their purchase so that when they go home at night, they are thrilled about the decision they made earlier in the day with you.

Quitting too Soon. “Call me if you have any questions, here’s my card, let me grab a brochure.” These are all examples of salespeople who quit too soon and never make it across the finish line. Don’t throw in the towel on your next customer so soon. Do not let “feeling pushy” stop you from making one more call or letting your customer walk out the door without a contract in hand.

Being a Good Listener. The ability to interpret what you hear from the customer is vital. Most deal breakers occur because of a disconnect between what the customer is actually saying and what the salesperson thinks they are saying. By honing in on the customer’s needs and desires, you can use that information to initiate a solid purchase decision.

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