Adapting to Change

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ImageHow have you and your company adapted to the changes in the marketplace? Change is hard. It requires one to think differently, to let go of the comfortable and embark upon a new path.

The one thing we should all be old hands at accepting is change. Life is about constantly changing.

The tide of change has swept into the new home sales arena and brought with it a distinctively different method of selling and closing the sale. Throw out those old tapes and videos! The revolution is here! Sales personnel who sell the old way will be left in the dust of unrequited commissions.

So what’s new? With today’s markets, everything is in a state of flux. So change is inevitable. However, knowledge of the game with its new rules, new playing field, and new players is critical to success today. Has selling really changed? Perhaps not that much. The blocking and tackling are still the same, but boy, has the playbook changed.

John Kotter wrote a short book, a business fable about a colony of penguins, Our Iceberg is Melting. One astute penguin notices the iceberg is melting. He must use all the tools in his arsenal to convince the town elders, the critics, and the masses that the iceberg is melting and that they need to move.

He gathers a group of penguins each with a different skill set and infuses them with eight principles of problem solving. After much problem solving and communicating, the colony did move and was saved.

The eight principles Kotter espouses are:

  1. Set the stage – create a sense of urgency.
  2. Pull together the guiding group – make sure there is a powerful diverse group guiding the change.
  3. Decided what to do – develop the change vision and strategy, clarify how the future will be different from the past.
  4. Make it happen – communicate for understanding; make sure that as many as possible understand and accept the vision and strategy.
  5. Empower others to act – remove as many barriers as possible.
  6. Create short term wins – create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.
  7. Don’t let up – press harder and faster after the first success.
  8. Make it stick – create a new culture; hold on to the new way of behaving.

Use these eight principles to pull together your sales team and head for more profitable grounds.


The Seven Buying Stages

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There are seven distinct buying stages through which buyers must travel en route to the sale, and they must hit each stage in succession, if only briefly. Those stages are:

  1. The buyers’ first uneasy feeling that they need a new home.
  2. The buyers begin to look at new homes.
  3. The buyers begin to relate the needs of their family to a home or homes they’ve seen in the marketplace.
  4. The buyers find a logical fit or fits (one home or several homes).
  5. The buyers’ emotional desires heat up and they want the home.
  6. The buyers work out their problems and buy.
  7. The buyers get buyers’ remorse and want to cancel!

Why is it beneficial to qualify for buying stage? Because if you know what stage the prospects are in, you know precisely how to handle them. For example, if they are in Stage 2 or 3, you know they are early on in their house hunting, and you expect they will want to visit other communities before making a final decision.

National surveys used to tell us that buyers visit 14 different communities and return 4.3 times to the location of the home they eventually purchase. With the advent of the Internet, that statistic has changed dramatically. It is now eight communities or resale products with a 3.2 incidence of return visits.

Do not make the mistake of thinking you can’t take the prospects through all stages in one afternoon. You most assuredly can, though this will be the exception, not the rule. In this case, they have probably done the bulk of their shopping on the Internet.

Now, if you get lucky and snag one that’s well up in the buying stages, say Stage 4 or 5, you have a walking contract in front of you. All you have to do is convince them that your home (the logical fit) satisfies their needs better than the ones seen elsewhere. When you do this, you have a sale. But beware; you must nurture this sale carefully after the deposit goes down to prevent buyers’ remorse and a possible cancellation. Logic converts to emotional euphoria as the buyers commit to purchase.

In how much depth should you close a prospect in these stages? As long as you revert to heart selling, not hard selling and use the close – ease off – close – ease off principle, you can keep closing. If they throw out nine objections and you counter with ten, you’ll get the sale.

Remember the exception is the internet-driven buyer who will buy fast. One of the first questions you should ask is, “Have you visited our website?”

Complacency in your office?

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“Of all the dangerous traits of celebrated leaders, one stands out: complacency, the idolization of things that have been accomplished – like alcohol it numbs their senses, blurs their vision, and makes them lose sight of the ‘Big Picture,’ the grand goals, the big dreams, and aspirations of the people they lead. In a rapidly changing world, leaders cannot afford to be complacent even if they are doing extremely well. They must always have the urgency of crisis and prepare themselves for the unexpected.” (Panos

Has complacency taken up residence in your office, among your staff and sales management? Are you succumbing to the view that low sales are due to the economy? Are you resting on the laurels of past accomplishments thinking things will turn around and be back to normal?

Wake up people! Our normal has changed! The selling environment we have today is different from yesterday and if we don’t adapt, we will be left in history’s dust. Too many of our comrades in the housing industry could not adapt to the new world and are no longer in the housing business.

Sales managers, you need to be in the field conducting Planned Encounters with your sales staff. You need to be training them how to discover the buyer’s agenda, how to handle objections and negotiations, how to properly present the housing product, how to follow-up with prospects. if you don’t know how to train these skills into your people, you cannot expect them to do it.

Evaluate yourself against this standard. Do you:

  • Have Planned Encounters with the sales people at least weekly?
  • Motivate to keep raising the expertise of your sales people?
  • Set goals, monitor results?
  • Insure that adequate time is available for Planned Encounters in the field?
  • Resist loading up the your job description with sidebar tasks?
  • Provide leadership by knowing when to empower and when to direct?
  • Insist that training is a continuing discipline?
  • Emphasize customer service in all transactions?
  • Constantly evaluate the talent and performance of the sales people?
  • Know when and how to exercise probation?
  • Have a termination exit plan that is litigation proof?

Sales people, you need to be honing your presentation skills your social skills via discovery and questioning. You need to be fluent in objections handling, dealing with negotiating prospects, and skilled in all the financing aspects of a sale.

Take the following quiz to determine your level of expertise:

  • Did I have a  planned presentation?
  • Did I take command with sensitivity?
  • Did I conduct a tour of the model and/or home of the prospects’ preference?
  • Did I take prospects into inventory?
  • Did I close in inventory?
  • Did I do a financing set up?
  • Were sales aids used effectively during the presentation?
  • Was I well-informed on location, community, product, financing, and competition?
  • Did the presentation close?
  • Would I buy a home from myself?
  • If yes, why?
  • If no, why not?

Only the strong survive. Only the great thrive!

How would you like to be a millionaire?

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A while ago, Money Magazine did a survey about people who became millionaires. Here’s what they found in order of importance:

Number 1: 95% – Hard work
Number 2: 83% – Smart investing
Number 3: 81% – Frugality
Number 4: 67% – Risk taking
Number 5: 47% – Luck

Other tidbits: 90% are college grads, average price of car is $31,400, and they save or invest $39,300 a year.

What does this mean for the sales professional in the housing industry besides you wanting to be one? Look at what the Number 1 reason is – hard work. Do you think you can be even half a millionaire without hard work? How much time are you spending every week on perfecting your salesmanship? Did you notice that 90% of the millionaires are college grads? How much time and money are you investing in your education? Are you increasing your financing knowledge? How about your closing prowess?

If you are not a better salesperson, sales manager, builder, developer, or executive today than you were yesterday, then you mostly likely will not be in the millionaire’s club.

What are the personality/character traits of a millionaire? Here are a few:

  1. First and foremost, they believe in themselves and have faith that they will succeed
  2. Bold, unafraid to take action
  3. Able to step out of their comfort zone
  4. Positive attitude – can see the good in a situation no matter how bad it is
  5. Patient, persistent
  6. Has a solid business plan
  7. Loves what they do
  8. Creative, can come up with good ideas
  9. Has a burning desire to succeed
  10. Discipline and good work ethic
  11. Good social skills
  12. Powerful determination
  13. Hard working and committed
  14. Can efficiently manage their time
  15. Takes 100% responsibility for their actions

You may not have all these traits, but the ones you don’t have, you can work towards. Whether you actually become a millionaire by incorporating these characteristics into your life may or may not happen. But, what I can tell you is that you will experience success in your career.

Positive Mental Attitude

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It is amazing to read the same news story at different sites. Each site will have a different slant. Last week I read a story about home construction. One site talked about the low housing starts and gave you the impression that it was all bad news, “glass half empty” kind of talk. Another site, reporting on the same news story, gave it an upbeat “glass half full” kind of spin. I guess it is in all how you want to view your world.

What this world needs now is a large dose of “positive mental attitude.” We are tired of being in the dumps and hearing depressing news. We need to feel the sunshine and see the blue sky. How much sunshine are you spreading in your workplace?

Few people can be successful without a positive mental attitude. It is the synergistic force that moves mountains. It is the motivator of men and women, rich and poor, humble and great. it is the energy that overcomes most obstacles. Positive mental attitude, or PMA, should be the middle initials of every sales manager and salesperson in the housing industry. There is an old saying that “there is nothing as old as yesterday’s sales report.” Sales people are in the crucible and under the gun every single dan and every week and every month of the year. There is never room for letdown nor is there cause for euphoria. Sales is a pressure job and that is why pressure players produce. They thrive on that pressure. To work best in this environment, the sales pro must be positive and lead others to that charisma of positive thinking. The power of “yes I can” far exceeds the mealy mouth sidestep of “I think I can.” PMA is the soul of movers and shakers. You must have a positive mental attitude which exudes enthusiasm! Smile, laugh, and sing a little. It’s a great day and you’re going to sell a home.

A positive mental attitude moves mountains.

A positive mental attitude attracts buyers like bees to honey.

A positive mental attitude is a championship attitude, the zest, the zeal of winning!

A positive mental attitude is the oil in the machine or the leavening in the cake.

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

How are you viewing your world? Is your glass half empty or half full. You are the only one with the power to give the answer to that question.

Getting Out of the Rut

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I was sitting at my desk plowing through the never-ending pile of paperwork when it struck me how easy it is to get stuck in a rut concerning how we do our work. This report is the same report I’ve done hundreds of times before. This issue is the same issue I’ve dealt with many, many times before. How do we get out of our rut and see the world differently?

This dilemma reminded me of Sally, who saw her world with fresh eyes and thus created a fabulous opportunity for herself.

Sally noticed an Orange Julius  vendor in Southern California who marketed to employees of the giant TRW Systems Company. He sold his Orange Julius drinks from a small, nondescript soft drink stand right at the entrance and exit to the plan. Sally, an enterprising new home salesperson, thought since he was right in the main stream of traffic when the shift workers entered or left the plant, what a great place to put her brochures. So, she visited the Orange Julius man and asked if he would put her brochures on his counter and motivate people to visit her homes. She would stamp his and her names on the brochures and reward him when a sale was made. What kind of reward would make him happy?

The Orange Julius man thought for a moment and then said, “Well, don’t tell my wife, but from time to time I like to take a little nip of Vodka with my Orange Julius.”

So, Sally, the prospecting pro, said that every time a prospect arrived with her  brochure in hand and they bought a home, she would bring over a bottle of vodka. “What’s your favorite brand?”

“Smirnoff” was the answer.

Now Sally said, “I won’t bring you just a fifth of vodka, I’ll bring you a half-gallon. How does that sound?”

“That’s the best deal I’ve heard all day,” and the motivated Orange Julius man went to work.

A year later, the Orange Julius stand had generated fourteen sales to that enterprising sales professional and she had reciprocated with fourteen half-gallons of vodka! Rumor has it the Orange Julius man was the happiest vendor in Southern California.

What is your Orange Julius opportunity? As for me, this next report is an opportunity to motivate a builder to change his emphasis which will result in a better trained staff, which leads to more sales for the builder, which leads to a growing economy, which leads to a more healthy housing industry, which leads to a stronger United States of America. I am changing the face of the United States of America by this report!

Creating Your Own Breaks

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Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get all the breaks in life and others insist upon taking the broken road regardless of all the encouragement NOT to go that way?

It is too easy to look at the top performing salesperson in your group and wish you were in their shoes without actually taking the steps they took.

Sometimes those steps will demand you getting out of your comfort zone, enthusiastically participating in role plays to refine your presentation, setting aside your hesitation and boldly asking for the referral.

The top performing salesperson did not get to the top by maintaining status quo. They shook things up within themselves in order to reach new heights.

I read an article about Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, and about how he turned Starbucks upside down from a sleepy little coffee roasting company to the mega corporation it is today. Do you think it was easy in the beginning? No. I’m quite sure many feathers were ruffled. But, look what his perseverance produced!

What will your perseverance produce? You could see sales increase, customer satisfaction soar, and your own satisfaction and joy about your career overflow.

What are you waiting for? Start taking those steps!

First step – Truly know the ins and outs of your business and why you are in it. No matter what obscure question a prospect may throw at you about your homes, are you prepared with the correct information? The only way that is going to happen is if you study, study, study. Educate yourself on all aspects of your home, your community, your builder, your financing, your competition.

Notice I added ‘why you are in it’ to what you need to know. The why you are in it is to sell homes. It’s not to make a lot of new friends, although that may happen. It’s not because you wanted a career that wasn’t behind a desk. The goal of our profession is to sell new homes. It is remarkable how many times I mystery shop a person who does not have that goal in mind.

Second step – Make an emotional connection with your prospect. Meet, greet, bond, and connect. Think about it from the customer’s perspective. They want a sales professional who is extremely knowledgeable, personable, and very sensitive to their needs. If they sense you are truly on their side, they will stick by you through thick and thick. You have to LIKE your customers. You have to really want to help them find the perfect home.

Third step – Tell your builder story. Tell the customer why your builder is the best, why their homes are better constructed, why the customer can count on your builder’s homes. If you cannot stand behind your builder’s homes, then perhaps you need to find another builder. After all, when you sell your builder’s homes, it is like you are putting your name on the contract as well. You have become the trusted advisor and you’ve given your endorsement to this purchase. If the home is not up to par, then your credibility is shot. They will not buy from you again even if you go to another builder.

Now, are you on track to becoming a top performer? It is as simple as steps one – two – three. The broken road part comes in when you ignore experience and wisdom and try to plow your own road. Reach out to that wisdom and experience so you can become the top performer in your group.

Questions for Profitable Growth

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Saw an interesting article on titled “The Three Most Important Questions for Profitable Growth.” The first question really challenges one to have a clear and focused strategy for achieving the desired result.

Do we still have a compelling mission, vision, and differentiated strategy that the entire company fully understands and accepts?

Keep in mind a good mission statement needs to include not only what you want to get out of the deal, but what you are willing to give as well. For example:

“My mission is to enhance people’s lives by helping them find the right home and home-site at the right price and terms and in the process consistently earn a six figure income.”

That is a mission statement.

A vision statement is: “My vision is to be the industry’s top producing sales professional through continual learning and refining of my sales professional skills.”

See how this vision statement fits hand and glove into the mission statement? How else will you be able to earn a six figure income unless you are continually learning and refining your skills?

Now to the differentiated strategy part. What are you going to do to stand out from all the rest? What makes you any better than the competing sales pro at the adjacent project? Ask yourself these questions:

  • When and what was the last book I read on any aspect of the sales process that would help me improve? (If it was more than 2 weeks ago, do you REALLY want to improve?)
  • What was the last seminar or training course I attended, and did I actually put any of the suggestions into practice?
  • Do I practice overcoming the various objections I hear?
  • Do I continue soft multiple closing after hearing an objection?
  • Have I worked hard at learning all the ins and outs of the mortgage process so I can assist my buyers?
  • Am I continually looking for new prospects as I move throughout my day?
  • Have I shopped my competition on a regular basis in order to keep abreast of changes and to have accurate knowledge in order to answer objections a prospect may have?
  • Do I try to work out selling ideas of my own?
  • Do I take time to analyze my success and failure after each and every presentation?
  • Am I continually improving my presentation by learning everything I possibly can about the construction, the style & design, the interior and exterior finishes, etc.?
  • Can I point to the differences between my product and my competitor’s product and prove why I have the better deal?

And the list can go on and on. The ultimate question is: Do you have a clear and focused strategy for achieving your desired result?


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Leadership. Everyone is in a leadership position whether you have the official role in your company or not. We all lead by our lives, by our example. What is your example telling those looking at you? Does your example broadcast negative or positive energy?

Leadership is a sacred trust because those following are trusting that you really do know what you are doing and where you are going. Where you are leading your followers? And whether you believe it or not, you do have followers. We all have followers. These are the co-workers who notice your attitude when you walk into the office, or the customer touring your homes.

If you walk into the office with a frown and a mumbled greeting, you have just brought down the atmosphere a few degrees. If someone else walks in with a grumpy attitude, then it becomes a bit colder in the office. What is the customer going to feel when they walk in? Perhaps it is too cold inside to even bother going through the models.

Leadership is responsibility. Responsibility for the direction and route to the goal. You want to take your customers on the safest (and funnest) route to a completed contract.

So, what do you need to keep in mind? Number One – a positive mental attitude.

Everyone has bad days. Let’s not make a party about it. You be the encouraging, upbeat point in the day that lifts others’ spirits and moods.

Number Two – Persistence. Regardless of what the day throws at you, you are determined not only to be positive, but to win through it.

The stormy weather has caused tremendous damage to the sales center and the models and you have a scheduled presentation in one hour. How are you going to handle it with positive energy?

The mortgage company has demanded additional information right before closing, which was to take place in three hours, and the needed information is in a locked storage shelter and the shelter owner is on a cruise. How will your positive mental attitude and persistence win through this scenario?

Number Three – Honest feedback. To be the best you can be, you have to have honest people around you who are willing to tell you when you’ve blown it or where you need to improve. That means you must be open and accepting of the correction. If no feedback is forthcoming, then you ask questions of someone whose opinion and expertise you value.

“What can I do to improve my presentation?”
“How can I better handle objections or negativity from a customer?”
“What do I need to do in order to reach that next level of expertise?”
“Concerning my people interaction, where do I need to sharpen my skills?”

Good leadership is a constantly evolving process of self-awareness, others awareness, accurate information, and a destination.

Where and how are you leading your followers?

Builders are changing their tactics

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A recent Wall Street Journal article was talking about how builders are changing their tactics to sell more new homes. They are streamlining their operation, holding prices down, standardizing window sizes and floor plans, and building the homes in less time, some in as few as 99 days in order to beat the April 30th deadline for those wanting to qualify for the federal tax credit. The NAHB forecasts that new home sales will jump 38% to 517,000 this year as the economy improves. This is good news for the builder!

Does this mean it’s all rosy sailing from here on in? No, of course not. We still have to position ourselves to ride out the ups and downs that are in our future. What can you do now to ride it out?

  1. Exercise damage control: Do what it takes to sell it now as the builders above are doing.
  2. Paint, punch out, polish: Cleanliness is next to godliness where the buyer is concerned.
  3. Carpet, drape & duco: Put some goodies in up front.
  4. Add to the home’s value: Keep the pot boiling with special promotions.
  5. Run target word ads: Classified ads can reach a target market.
  6. Schedule bonuses: Let your sales staff profit from a fast sale.
  7. Furnish or vignette: Small space furnishing can warm up the home.
  8. Offer buyer incentives: Utilize value-added promotions.
  9. Landscape & fence: Give them a head start on the yard and they’ll buy faster!
  10. Energize referrals: Ask for the referral sale at every opportunity.

You need to present your home as the best value for the best price. “Why buy used and deal with other people’s dirt and decay when you can buy new? That used home may look like a bargain in price now, but what will the expense be to fix all the problems and bring it up to the quality you desire? Forget the hassle and buy your brand new dream home with us!”

Deal with the present, look to the future. Good times are coming!

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