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Successful sales, marketing, and profit management requires constant focus and proactive involvement to know the cost and to analyze the results of your marketing expenditures. (Photo: Pxhere)
This article first appeared in the PB October 2014 issue of Pro Builder.

As the ebb and tide of the housing market flows, some builders are reporting a slowdown in traffic and sales. Others report things are just fine. Regardless of your circumstances, helping you capture the sales you are missing is always my mission. I’m a believer in W. Edwards Deming’s theory that “you cannot manage, nor improve, that which you don’t accurately measure.” Understanding that builders take big risks each and every day, one of my mantras is that it’s always better to out-think your competition than to outspend them.

With that said, extraordinary sales, marketing, and ultimately profit management requires constant focus and proactive involvement to know the cost and to analyze the results of your marketing expenditures. For example, how would you answer these questions?
—Overall, and on average, how much does it cost your company for each prospective customer contact?
—Do you have a builder-specific automated CRM system to collect pertinent data and analyze traffic and associated costs?
—Are all members of your sales and marketing team properly trained to use this system consistently and correctly to provide the accurate information needed?
—How is the above process measured?

A Money-Saving Strategy

First, increase individual sales representatives’ conversion ratios to a respectable and consistent level. Then, spend money to increase traffic in the most cost-effective manner. Here is one way to do just that:
Raju Uppalapati, a successful North Carolina home builder, CEO of Paveya Inc., and a practicing social media, SEO, and internet marketing expert, knows more and more homebuyers are using the Web as a primary source of gathering information for their new-home search. To maximize the possibility of capturing a large number of these potential buyers, he suggests offering helpful content on your site that answers the questions your audience is searching for via search engines and social media. For example, think of all the common questions customers have asked and create blog posts that answer those questions.
Also, offer free downloadable information on your website, such as buyer’s guides. Appropriately require (invite, entice, suggest, inspire) your website visitors to provide their contact information via various landing pages in order to download the free content. That way, you’ll have good information for a well-trained representative to contact and make an appointment that leads into the buying process.

Selling New Homes Is a 'Contact Sport

Kristi Allen, internet marketing manager at McArthur Homes, also a practicing expert, offers this advice. Once you have captured prospects’ information on your website, the game is on. A dedicated online sales counselor who quickly responds to prospects using a complete follow-through system is the key to moving the highest percentage of website leads to scheduled appointments in your model homes.
This person should utilize a builder-focused CRM system that encompasses both automated and personalized responses. The system should track key data regarding the prospect’s situation and motivations. Once the prospect has set an appointment to visit a model home, this information is passed on to sales agents in the field. Imagine how effective your sales team could be if they were frequently sent scheduled appointments with motivated prospective buyers and given all the information necessary to close those prospects. Implement a system and you won’t have to imagine. You will be able to track and measure each step of the process from website leads to scheduled appointments to sales.
Sales success_pattern_Pxhere.png

The Next Level

For the analysis of traffic, costs, and ratios to have validity, the information that goes into it must be accurate. Teach your salespeople and hold them accountable for continually using these discovery questions in their interactive dialogue with customers:
Motivation: Why are they here?
Representative: “How did you hear about (name of company)?”
The customer will probably respond with any one of these answers:
a. An ad
b. The Internet or website
c. A sign or billboard
d. A friend or relative
e. A Realtor
f. Driving by
Proceed with: “I’m just curious, what in particular” ...
a. In the ad...
b. On our website...
c. On the sign (or billboard)...
d. Did your friend or relative tell you that...
e. Did the Realtor tell you that...
f. As you were driving by...
. . . attracted your attention?”
The answers to these questions will be very helpful and can now be entered into your customer information card and CRM system.

Bonus Tip

I’m sure this doesn’t happen in your sales offices, but I have experienced the phenomenon in which not all of the traffic that shows up on any given day, and in particular busy days, gets recorded, let alone with accurate contact information being obtained.
But, if you have a suspicion this might be occurring in your business, here’s how to increase registered traffic by 10, 20, or 30 percent without spending additional money in advertising, and at the same time, have more people respond to telephone messages left by your sales representatives. Just as you most likely have done during a Parade of Homes or other high-traffic events, give the customer motivation to register. Hold a monthly drawing for a prize with a perceived value high enough to cause them to register, and display a picture of the previous month’s winner.
A highly effective marketing-to-sales process requires that the primary objective of these interdependent disciplines is to obtain sales. Period. Add to that a congruency of effort and a willingness for open accountability to each other and to management as far as results. With that as a basis, continue with an advertising strategy that includes appropriate social media that attracts attention and drives traffic and can be measured. Couple it with a proven sales process to convert that traffic to face-to-face contacts with sales representatives. Overlay a follow-through system to maintain contact and customer involvement after the first visit if a sale does not occur, and you are now fully functioning. Each of these actions should be accurately measured though a CRM system designed specifically to evaluate and report all activity, costs, and ratios with reasonable accuracy.