Referrals are the Name of the Game

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washing_head_in_shower_800_clr_6369Remember the old Heather Locklear commercial where she is promoting a shampoo and says she told two friends who told two friends who told two friends and so on? It was a great ad campaign enlisting word-of-mouth referrals to grab their share of the shampoo market.

Word-of-mouth referrals. That is what you want to build your business. Don’t know about you, but I only give referrals on products I REALLY like.

If your company enjoys a sound reputation for delivering what it promises and that reputation is built on substance and not on sand, referrals and a healthy business climate will follow. You can never compromise on doing what is right. If something or someone in the organization has goofed, make it right with the buyer. Don’t fudge. Word travels fast, especially in small areas or small big cities.

A prominent builder cancelled his heavy advertising campaign. Why? Thirty percent of his sales were referrals from previous buyers and twenty percent was internet-driven. You have a gold mine of leads lying in your own backyard if these customers are well-sold and happy. Be kind to their children. Pat their dogs. Compliment them on their landscaping. Report all gripes to the customer service department. Then, having established yourself as that “nice Mr. Jones who did so much for us,” ask them for names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone that might be interested in a new home.

Perhaps the most unrequited love in new home marketing today is the referral sale. Builders covet them, court them, but very few can consistently count them as their own. Referrals can and should reflect up to one-third of the building firm’s total volume.

But, there are no referrals without quality delivery. Be definition, quality delivery is the synergy of construction, service, and sales working in concert to deliver a highly satisfied buyer plus the dividend of the referral sale.

To build your referral base:

  1. Contact every relative, friend, prospect, unclosed buyer, unclosed customer, and resident owner you can.
  2. Call people who have been out but not bought. Your company spends a considerable amount of money to promote buyers into the model park. It is important that you make the best use of this traffic by having each prospect fill out a visitor’s sheet before leaving.

Just like any other aspect of your business, referral gathering takes a plan, takes effort, and takes discipline. Make this promise:

I know that I have to ask to get referrals, so I will put myself in the position to ask a minimum of ten times from contract writing to one year after move-in. I will see or call five homeowners each week to solicit referrals.

Referrals are the backbone of the professional new home counsellor. While most building firms realize 8% or less referral sales, the sales pro works to realize one-third or more via favorable word-of-mouth.

Remember,

Quality + Concern & Kindness = Referrals

Quality Construction

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House Under ConstructionDo you ever look at companies like Nike and Apple and wonder how they managed to create such passion with their customers? People will stand in line for hours waiting for opening time just to be able to grab the latest Nike shoe. A while ago, Nike had to delay the release of its “Foamposit” shoe because of riots and near riots outside the stores. And, I’m sure you’ve noticed that when Apple gets ready to release a new iPhone or iPad, lines are beginning to form.

How can we in the housing industry build such passionate devotion to our product?

Obviously, the first step is to have a product worthy of such devotion. Builders, you must build a home that is tops in quality construction. You must make sure that every step in the construction process from preparing the pad to installing that last lightbulb has excellence written all over it.

Quality will cost more upfront, but it is on the backend that you will be richly rewarded with referrals and customer devotion.

My assistant once bought a home that was constructed with steel framing. She didn’t have to worry about warping boards or low-grade lumber. That home was built to last. If she could find another steel frame home builder, she’d buy from them in a heartbeat. It is the quality of the home that brings people back.

So, step number one – Build a top quality home with excellent materials and excellent craftsmen. You don’t want to use the tradespeople who work on volume. Too many times I’ve seen homes built where construction quality was shaved to save a few bucks. Nails are used in drywall instead of screws so you end up with popping nails. Studs are not placed squarely every 16 inches so you end up with warped walls. Quality is what will bring customers in and bring them back.

Step number two – Sales people must connect and bond with their prospects – REALLY connect. A connection can guarantee your prospects won’t buy elsewhere. Connection is defined as a relationship or association. Greet the prospects with sincere interest. Listen intently to their message, verbal and unspoken. Utilize feedback to gain a clear picture of what they are saying. Build the rapport with empathy, trust, credibility, confidence, and control. The quality of a sales pro’s interactions with the customers makes a huge difference in a company’s bottom line.

Step number three – The sales process must be focused and accountable. You can have the best product and the most liked sales staff, but if you don’t wrap it all together into a process to complete the sale, then it’s all for naught. Don’t ever assume the prospect will ask you for the sale. That is the job of the sales professional. ASK FOR THE SALE! In a nutshell:

  • Meet, greet, and bond with the prospect.
  • Connect with the prospect on an emotional level.
  • Discover the needs, wants, and desires of the prospect.
  • Demonstrate why your product is perfect for the prospect.
  • Handle any questions, concerns, or objections you encounter.
  • ASK FOR THE SALE!

To build passion in our customers, we have to have a top quality product, top quality sales staff, and a top quality, proven sales process. The lower ranks of mediocre are very crowded. There is plenty of room at the top for quality. That is where you need to be!

What is Your Reality?

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Businessman Giving out CardCame across a new website I had never seen before – www.Glassdoor.com. this site allows employees and applicants to rate the companies for which they work and/or apply to. It is a fabulous tool for the job applicant to determine if this company is a desirable fit or not. Builders, have you checked out your company to see what is being said about you?

We all know that first impressions count. First impressions will either entice the prospective employee or the looking prospect to come in closer or to leave as quickly as possible. Considering the challenge it is today to attract top-notch sales professionals or qualified prospects, we must make doubly sure our first impression is a great one.

How do we create a great first impression?

  1. Be on time. Nothing will take the gilt off the lily faster than being late to an appointment. Being late tells the prospects they are not that important.
  2. Be yourself. Another thing that is a turn off is plastic or forced joviality. Be genuine in your manner, in your tone of voice, in your smile.
  3. Be appropriately dressed. Today is all about being genuine and being real, but your “realness” at the expense of proper clothing is not a plus – it’s a major deterrent. Just as being on time tells the prospects they are important, being appropriately dressed for the occasion lets them know they are valued. After all, we put on our best clothing in honor of a special event, so why would we think dressing less than professionally would honor our prospects?
  4. Smile! A genuine, warm smile not only acknowledges prospects, but invites them in.
  5. Be positive, courteous, and attentive. A positive mental attitude will show in your face, in how you talk, and even in how you walk. Also, turn your cell phone to silent. Don’t interrupt those first few moments of bonding by looking at or answering your phone. That definitely tells them whoever is on the phone is more important than they are.

After making a good first impression, what then? How is your reality positively affecting your customers, your employees, your business?

Adam Savage on TLC’s Mythbusters has a saying, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” The following is a story about how a small company rejected the reality of the present difficult times and created their own success.

A landscape gardener ran a business that had been in the family for three generations. The staff was happy, and customers loved to visit the store. For as long as anyone could remember, the current owner and previous generations of owners were extremely positive, happy people. Most people assumed it was because they ran a successful business. In fact, it was the other way around.

A tradition in the business was that the owner always wore a big lapel badge saying “Business is Great!” The business was indeed generally great, although it went through tough times like any other. What never changed however, was the owner’s attitude, and the badge saying “Business is Great!”

Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariably asked, “What’s so great about business?” Sometimes people would also comment that their own business was miserable, or even that they personally were miserable or stressed.

Anyhow, the “Business is Great!” badge always tended to start a conversation, which typically involved the owner talking about lots of positive aspects of business and work. For example:

  • The pleasure of meeting and talking with different people every day
  • The reward that comes from helping staff take on new challenges and experiences
  • The fun and laughter in a relaxed and healthy work environment
  • The fascination in the work itself, and in the other people’s work and businesses
  • The great feeling when you finish a job and do it to the best of your capabilities
  • The new things you learn every day, even without looking to do so
  • And the thought that everyone in business is blessed because there are many millions of people who would swap their own situation to have the same opportunities of doing a productive, meaningful job in a civilized, well-fed country, where we have no real worries

And the list went on. No matter how miserable a person was, they’d usually end up feeling a lot happier after just a couple of minutes listening to all this infectious enthusiasm and positivity.

It is impossible to quantify or measure attitude like this, but to one extent or another, it’s probably  a self-fulfilling prophecy on which point if asked about the badge in a quiet moment, the business owner would confide, “The badge came first. The great business followed.”

So, what is your reality? Is it a positive, successful one?

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.

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?”

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!