Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
The Sales Process
We're finally here. The last installment in our series of Sales and Marketing LEARN articles.
We're finally here. The last installment in our series of Sales and Marketing LEARN articles. As promised last month, we will now direct our attention to reviewing the sales process itself. Afterward, we will present a final examination that spans the entire sales and marketing course as presented in Professional Builder beginning with the July 1999 issue.
The Sales Process
In article 4 (see PB October 1999, page 117) we reviewed the various steps involved in effectively developing the proper sales setting. Preparing a comfortable sales environment sets the stage for an effective sales process. Throughout the entire sales process, your mission is to create and heighten desire for your product in the prospective buyer’s minds.
Few buyers ever truly need a new home they buy it because they want it. By helping them become discontent with what they currently have, you heighten their levels of want. The more intense their desire, the higher your chances of capturing the sale.
An effective sales process is well-thought out and planned. The process is logical and easy-to-follow once you have internalized the basic methodology. It’s a journey it has a beginning, pauses and adventures along the way, and a destination. The more prepared your are, the more enjoyable the journey becomes for everyone.
Proper preparation involves planning your sales presentation. This does not mean memorizing a script or canned speech. It means studying, understanding and internalizing a strategy, and following a prescribed path.
The prescribed path involves six important steps:
As the name implies, the first step in the selling process involves professionally greeting the prospective buyer. Professional greetings begin with a warm, enthusiastic welcome, and an exchange of names. Sales professionals should remember to always stand and greet the prospect immediately after they enter the sales environment.
Professional attire, direct eye contact and genuine smiles all help to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Remembering and using the prospect’s name during conversation helps to project a sense of genuine interest and concern and conveys a helping attitude. This personal approach also helps to make a prospect more comfortable in what can be an overwhelming situation or environment.
Once you have properly greeted the prospects, you are now ready to discover their specific wants and needs, their urgency, and their financial ability. Relax your prospects by asking non-threatening, rapport-building questions before diving into the When will you be ready to close? question. Use open, positive body language, listen attentively, and take notes as needed. These skills all help build rapport between you and your prospects.
Qualifying questions should be asked in a conversational manner, taking time to listen carefully and demonstrate empathy. Sample qualifying questions include:
- Are you familiar with our company and community?
- Do you currently own your home, or are you leasing?
- What do you like most about your current home?
- What do you like least about your current home?
- What price range of home would you feel comfortable with?
- Do you have specific size requirements that we need to consider?
- What type of profession are you in?
- How many people will be residing in the home?
- Do you have any special time requirements that we need to consider?
The answers you receive to your qualifying questions help you determine how you will direct your product demonstration.
Buyers are not interested in what’s important to you; they’re interested in what’s important to them. During your qualifying and needs analysis, you should discover some specific likes and dislikes, wants and needs, of each specific prospect.
Use this information in your demonstration. Instead of mechanically pointing out features and amenities, personalize your presentation by demonstrating the specific features and accompanying benefits that are important to them. Help them visualize themselves living in and enjoying the home. Gear your presentation style to their personality type, and remember to keep them involved by asking lots of how do you feel about this questions.
If you are selling in a pre-construction environment, use floor plans, potential sites, and support materials to involve the prospect. Know your offerings and specifications well, so that you can easily and intelligently discuss them with your potential buyers.
Regardless of the number of homes and optional plans you have available, each buyer will only buy one. By carefully qualifying your prospective buyers and listening attentively, you will be able to narrow the choices for them. Zoning in on a one-of-a-kind is what siting is all about.
Narrowing choices creates a sense of urgency. Too many alternatives create confusion and frustration. Focus your attention on the one or two alternatives that offer the buyer the best of everything price, floor plan, location, possession date, and amenities.
Maintain control of the sales process by acknowledging objections, and professionally handling them. Never allow yourself to become callous or indifferent, and remember that objections are not personal attacks. They are simply opportunities to discover more about your buyer’s motivations. The decision to purchase a home is a very significant one. Expect objections, they are a normal part of the process.
Use the following steps to handle objections more effectively.
- Listen carefully to the entire objection.
- Rephrase and restate the objection.
- Make a softening statement, such as I understand how you might question that.
- Answer the objection.
- Obtain agreement.
- Move forward with the selling process.
Closing is a constant state of mind. It actually begins during your qualifying and needs assessment and continues throughout the entire selling process. Gaining small commitments along the way makes asking for the final commitment seem natural, for both you and the prospective buyer. Handling objections is a closing step. Closing is simply the culmination of many acts. Your determination to serve your buyers by skillfully assessing their needs and desires, and then matching those needs and want with the right home, determines your success as a professional closer.
Keen organizational skills and preparation are invaluable when asking for signatures and final commitments. The more prepared you are with your documents and the more professional they appear, the easier and smoother this stage will be. Don’t allow missing documents to interrupt your flow at this crucial moment.
Just because you have been effective in obtaining commitments and signatures doesn’t mean you’re ready to spend the money! Purchasing a home is a very emotional experience. Remember that you are in the people business. You are dealing with thoughts and emotions that often resemble a roller coaster ride.
Your involvement in every step of the process is extremely important. Prepare yourself to be a problem solver and counselor. Servicing your customers after they have signed the contract builds strong referrals, as well as, helps to create a more satisfied homeowner. There is no advertisement as effective as a recommendation from a satisfied customer.
The sales process can be both fun and challenging. The information outlined above certainly doesn’t cover the subject in detail in fact, it barely scratches the surface. There are numerous courses available through the NAHB National Sales and Marketing Council and the Home Builders Institute that provide information and training tools for sales professionals. There are also excellent seminars, publications, and audio and videotapes available through the NAHB. Anyone interested in sharpening their sales and marketing skills should definitely take advantage of these tremendous resources.
In closing, I would like to thank the Home Builders Institute for allowing me to be part of this important new educational venture, and Professional Builder for their excellent industry publication. And lastly, I thank you, the readers for your participation, and most especially, for your commitment to excellence in this incredible industry.
This material is based on the CGB course, Sales and Marketing, developed by Home Builders Institute, the education arm of the National Association of Home Builders, under the auspices of the NAHB National Sales and Marketing Council.
The article was written by Beverly Koehn, MIRM, CSP, GMB. She is president and owner of Beverly Koehn & Associates, a San Antonio, Texas-based new home marketing and consulting firm. Koehn has more than 18 years experience in marketing management and sales training, with a special emphasis on value-centered sales techniques and customer service.