Archive for the ‘Sales Training’ Category

Video Mystery Shopping: Getting to Know You – It’s all about Discovery!

September 28, 2013

Melinda2013In Chapter 3 of my new book ‘They Said What??!! Behind the Scenes of 25,000 Video Mystery Shops’, I write about the importance of getting to know your prospects. This is called the Discovery Process. It gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get input to match the right home to the right person.

The Discovery questions are vital in understanding moving motivation, size of family, time frame, preferences, how long customers have been looking, what other builders they’ve looked at and liked, etc.

The goal of Discovery is to be a true new home sales counselor and ASK questions to understand the customer’s situation, wants, and needs. Sounds pretty simple, right? WRONG.

You would not believe the number of video shops I have watched where the sales associates almost seem to ‘CRINGE’ when it comes to asking questions! When I have asked sales associates why they don’t ask questions, their response is often that they don’t want to seem nosey. Really? How else are you going to find out what is important to your prospect if you don’t ASK questions? Telepathy?? It’s not like you are asking them personal information about their religious beliefs, political affiliations or sexual preferences! You are asking valid questions in order to be able to HELP them in the home buying process.

If you look at most professions there is a fair amount of questioning and discovery that goes along during the process. If you don’t ask the questions, you can’t solve the problem. Can you imagine going to a doctor’s office, sitting in the examining room and having your doctor walk in and immediately start prescribing meds to you? Of course not, the first thing the doctor (or nurse) is going to do is ask you questions about how you are feeling. This allows them to understand what is wrong and then offer a remedy.

To be a successful new home sales person, it is imperative to MASTER the Discovery part of the sales process.  Here’s a tip from my book: In the Discovery process, take the time to carefully and cautiously dig a little deeper with each question you ask. You’ll be surprised how easily people will open up to you when they feel you’re genuinely interested in them. Another idea is to use a clipboard, tablet, or something to takes notes on your tour. Nothing screams “I’m important’ more than writing down what your customer is saying.

Video Mystery Shopping: Conquering the Competition

September 28, 2012

In most cases, when a prospect walks in to your sales office it is usually not the first nor the last stop they will make during the day. They have probably scheduled their day in such a way that they will be visiting several new home communities in order to make a final purchasing decision.

The good news is that IF they enter your sales office, chances are they have been to your website and have seen something that piqued their interest enough to get them to physically go there. It could be a specific floor plan, a price point or even your community’s amenity center….whatever it is, your job is to find out what brought them into your community. REASON #537 why it is critical to ASK every prospect if they have been to the website!

So, let’s say you have determined they went to the website and you have found out that they LOVE the location of your community, the amenities that are offered, and the Wellington floor plan. You are thinking Slam dunk, right? WRONG! Just as you go in for the ‘close’ they tell you that while they do indeed love your community, they have plans to visit several more before making a decision. Major BUMMER! SO, you say your goodbyes, promise to follow-up, and then watch them drive off into the sunset KNOWING that you will probably never see them again.

Hum….something is not quite right with this picture. What could you have done to change the scenario? Here are a couple of easy tips to help you conquer the competition and get the sale!

  1. Know EVERYTHING about your competition. This includes pricing, floor plans, incentives, amenities, schools, and anything else that would be considered when making a purchase decision.
  2. Create a notebook with ALL your competitor’s marketing collaterals. This way you can SHOW them WHY your Wellington floor plan is a better fit for them than the competition’s Buttonwood.
  3. Ask your prospects WHAT other communities they are considering and WHY. This will allow you to determine what their ‘hot selling buttons’ are. And, it will also allow you to position yourself against the competition.
  4. SET UP a firm follow-up appointment with your prospects. Encourage them to come back to see you after they have finished looking at the other communities because you are so positive that what you offer meets their specific needs.
  5. Never, ever speak negatively about your competition. Instead POSITION your builder and community as the leader in every aspect. But, in order to do this, you MUST find out what the prospect’s decision making factors are.

Video Mystery Shopping: Invest in your business! Make it EASY to be successful. (Or, why I got an iPad!)

June 14, 2012

Last week I did something pretty wild and crazy in my world; I went out and bought an iPad. Yes, I have an iPhone, and also a laptop computer…..so did I really NEED another piece of technology in my arsenal of tools? The answer, unequivocally, is YES.

Let me explain my thought process behind the new iPad. You see, my speaking business has picked up immensely this year, and more often than not, I find myself sitting in an airport waiting for a flight. Now, in the past, I have always taken my laptop with me so that I could make productive use of non-productive time. However, the laptop is HEAVY and bulky. I found myself DREADING going through airport security and opening my laptop bag, pulling out my laptop and placing it in the bin (in addition to trying to take off my shoes, belt and jewelry all at the same time!).

I noticed that two of my frequent traveling companions (Meredith Oliver and John Palumbo) seemed to have an easier time with all the ‘airport schlepping’ than I did. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! They weren’t schlepping NEARLY as much stuff as I was! All of their travel items fit neatly and snuggly in their backpacks. No computer rolly bags for these two!

I decided then and there that I was going to invest in myself (and make my life a heck of a lot easier) by purchasing an iPad. I wish I had done it years ago! Not only does it make my airport jaunts more convenient, it makes my BUSINESS (and my life) run more smoothly.

I have been able to do client presentations, keep up with e-mails and web surfing, and accomplish just as much (if not more!) on my iPad as I did on my laptop.

Think about YOUR business. What tools or new technologies do you need to be more successful and effective in what you do? Technology is changing more rapidly than ever before. Are you prepared? Your customers and prospects expect you to be the expert in your field. If there are items that you need in order to be the ‘expert’ I would strongly encourage you to invest in them.  If your phone still has a ‘flip’ top attached to it, you would probably do well to ‘upgrade’. Sure there is a going to be a learning curve you will have to overcome, but I guarantee in the long run, investing in yourself will pay off in spades!

One final note to all the new home sales associates…..if you don’t invest in and arm yourself with the latest and greatest tools to help you run your business, guess who will??? Your competition! Can you really afford NOT to make the investment in your success?

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Want to succeed in sales? Take a hint from the Kardashians!

May 31, 2012

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, one thing is for sure….The Kardashian clan has made a fortune marketing themselves! They have built an empire! From the realty shows and fashion lines, to the fragrances and infamous 72 day marriage…….unless you live under a rock, chances are very good that you know who the Kardashains are! Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and the gang have made themselves a household name. For goodness sakes, even Bruce Jenner is better known these days for being the ‘husband of Mama K’ than he is for being an ex-Olympian superstar and the cute face on the Wheaties box!

So, what is it about the Kardashian’s that intrigues us and makes us pick up the latest issue of US Magazine in the supermarket checkout to read about their latest escapades? The Kardashian family knows how to MARKET themselves. They do it in such an extravagant and well-orchestrated way that we can’t help but be drawn to them. Sort of like the moth that is innately drawn to the light bulb, even though it knows it might get burned.

So, as new home sales professionals WHAT can we learn from the Kardashian’s that will actually help us make more new home sales?  Well, a couple of things. I like to call this the ‘DASH marketing strategy (in honor of the KarDASHians).

D – Don’t let others tell you it can’t be done. Create your own goals, set your own rules, and play your hardest in the game KNOWING that you will succeed.

A –  Act like a SUPER Star! After all, you are a New Home Sales Super Star! So, get out there and strut your stuff. Make yourself well known in the realtor community, attend networking events, introduce yourself to local businesses in the area.

S – Stop waiting for others to make things happen. You have the power to MAKE it happen. Is traffic slow in the sales office? Pick up the phone and make some calls. Having trouble closing the sale? Take a class, read a book, listen to an audio tape. It is YOUR responsibility to perfect YOUR craft.

H –   Have a good support team in place. The Kardashian ladies all know they can count on each other for support, guidance, or an old fashion dose of constructive criticism. Who is supporting YOU in your journey? Hire a coach, join a mastermind group, identify a mentor, in other words….create a strong network of people you trust that have your best interest at heart.

I can’t promise you that by following my DASH marketing strategy you will get a call from Hollywood with an unbelievable offer to star in your own realty TV show, but I can promise you that you will be a stronger, better and more successful new home sales professional.

Video Mystery Shopping – The 5 most common mistakes new home sales people make during the sales presentation

May 24, 2012

Melinda’s Top 5

Having conducted and reviewed over 20,000 video mystery shops in the past 25 years, I feel qualified to call myself somewhat of an expert in the area of new home sales tactics and techniques. Each week, through the power of video mystery shopping, I get the opportunity to witness first-hand what is really going on in new home sales offices. I see what works, and I also see what doesn’t work in the sales presentation.

Every now and again I will watch a shop and the sales person will do or say something so outrageous my jaw will literally drop to the floor, but most of the time new home sales associates make the same common mistakes over and over again which causes them to not make a sale. New homes sales isn’t brain surgery or rocket science, but it can be difficult if you don’t have  the proper TRAINING and KNOWLEDGE to be able to make the sale.

In true David Letterman mode, I have come up with my Top 5 list of the most common mistakes that new home sales people make in their sales presentations. I don’t care if the video mystery shop occurred in Peoria, IL or Little Rock, AR…..these five occurrences know NO geographic boundaries! I promise you that if you overcome these common mishaps your sales presentation will improve and as a result, you will see an increase in your sales and your bottom line!

  1. Not using the prospect’s name during the presentation – It has been proven time and time again…people LOVE hearing the sound of their own name. Not only that, but when you use the prospect’s name you are building immediate rapport and trust with them as well. Make it a point to use their name several times throughout the presentation.
  2. Forgetting to ask if the prospect has been to the builder’s website – In today’s world more than 90% of people conduct company research online BEFORE they ever do business with that company. In other words, they are pre-qualifying YOU! In new home sales, your prospects use the builder’s website to determine whether or not to make a trip to the sales office. So, chances are pretty high that the prospect walking into your sales office HAS been to your website. It is your job to find out!
  3. Not determining how much time the prospect has to spend with you – I have seen beautiful sales presentations go awry because the sales associate neglected to ask the prospect how much time they had to spend with them. Don’t assume your prospect has all day. There is nothing worse than having your sales presentation cut short! I advise sales people to have a ‘cliff note’ version of their presentation in case the prospects can’t stay for the full version.
  4. Lack of a strong builder’s story – Remember, in most cases your prospects are going to be visiting multiple builders. It is critical that at the end of the day they KNOW what sets you apart from the herd. One suggestion is to ASK your prospects what is important to them in a builder….this will open the door for dialogue that is specific to THEIR needs.
  5. Too much ‘Telling’,  Not enough ’Selling’ – Make sure you engage the prospect in every aspect of your sales presentation. Don’t just ‘feature dump’ on them, find out what is important to them.  Remember, this is not about you….it is about your prospects and what they want. You have to identify what is truly important to your prospects and then showcase that to them throughout your sales presentation.

Video Mystery Shopping Tip – You are ‘YOUR’ brand, or – the importance of ironing your shirt!

April 19, 2012

As a national speaker I have the incredible honor of giving presentations to large builder audiences around the country. I enjoy sharing tips, stories, resources and other pertinent sales information to new home sales associates and managers.  It is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I get such a natural high when I look out into the audience and see the look of enthusiasm, empowerment and optimism reflecting in the eyes of the audience. WOW, there really are no words to describe the experience!

When I am on that stage speaking, I am also very aware that I have hundreds of eyeballs staring right back at me too! They are looking at, and making assumptions, based on my clothes, my hair, my shoes, my jewelry and even my posture! In other words, they are making their own personal assessment of me based on what they see. When I am speaking before an audience my persona transforms. I am no longer just Melinda Brody from Altamonte Springs, FL; I become the ‘brand’ of Melinda Brody and Company.

The same is true for you as a new home sales consultant. When your prospects enter your new home sales office, you become the face and ‘brand’ for your builder! Chances are your prospects and clients will NEVER meet the CEO or Division President of your company. In their minds, YOU represent the builder! And, like it or not, you are going to be judged and analyzed based on your appearance, your gestures, and your speech. Your prospects will make assumptions (both true and false) based on how you represent your ‘brand’.

Here are some simple tips to ensure that you are representing your ‘brand’ in the most professional and positive of ways.

  1. Appearance – Take a GOOD (and honest) look at yourself in the mirror (front view and rear view). Is your appearance professional? Do your clothes fit appropriately? Is your hairstyle (and color) up to date? Also, pay close attention to the little things…fingernails, matching socks, freshly pressed/ironed shirts and pants/skirts, and dresses.   I once watched a shop and I would have bet my bottom dollar the sales person had pulled the wrinkled shirt he was wearing straight from the bottom laundry basket! Your appearance is a BIG part of your ‘brand’.
  2. Posture – Stand up straight and tall (make your momma proud!). Nothing is more distracting than a slumped-over sales person! Learn what to do with your hands when standing up. I have a tendency to use my hands (and arms!) a lot when speaking, however when I am on stage I keep this to a minimum so I don’t become distracting (or obnoxious!).
  3. Speech – Slow down and articulate your words. Don’t speed up your sales presentation to sounds like you are one of Alvin’s chipmunks! When you speak slowly and clearly, you show authority and knowledge. Also, be aware of using slang and ‘other’ words that don’t come across professionally. In one video mystery shop I actually counted how many times the sales person said ‘like’. It was ‘like’ so embarrassing, ‘like’ she didn’t really know what she was ‘like’ talking about!
  4. Accessories – What type of writing pen do you use? A Mont Blanc or a plastic Bic? What brand of watch do you wear? A Rolex or a cheap watch from K-Mart?  Do you carry a leather portfolio or keep your files in a plastic Publix bag? Does your jewelry make you look professional or like you are getting ready to head to Harry’s Honky Tonky after work? Remember, these little things make a BIG impression. There is a fine line between tasteful & elegant and tacky & egad!!

When you look your best, you will feel your best. You are after all a ‘brand’, represent it well!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip – Can you close better than a 5th grader? Are you a Closing Machine?

March 30, 2012

This week I continue my blog series ‘Can you close better than a 5th grader?’ by discussing the fifth trait that fifth graders possess that make them natural closers. Fifth graders are typically Closing Machines. Now, if you don’t believe me, take a fifth grader to the mall and see if it is possible to leave without having made a single purchase!

By the time my daughter was in the fifth grade she was the ultimate closer. She was like a dog with a bone when it came to closing! She would not let it go! Sarah had this way of asking for ‘the sale’ that made it next to impossible to deny her. She wasn’t pushy, but she wasn’t shy either. She knew what she wanted, and she know I was her ticket to get it…..the rest was pure logistics!

In new home sales, many sales associates tend to become awkward or embarrassed when it comes to asking for the close. It’s as if they hope (and pray!) that at the end of their sales presentation the prospects will whip out their checkbook and scream ‘GREAT! Where do I sign???

Unfortunately, it typically doesn’t go that way. As a sales person you actually have to ASK for the sale, imagine that! However, this doesn’t have to be some horrifying experience. In fact, it SHOULD be a natural transition from your sales presentation. It should be the obvious next step for your prospects.

Here as some tips to help you become a Closing Machine!

  1. Set the expectations up front. When your prospects arrive set the stage for what will be taking place during their visit. Let them know that if they find the perfect home today, the next step is to purchase it. Give them permission to buy!
  2. Practice trial closes throughout your presentation. This will allow you to get the buy-in from your prospect throughout each critical step of the sales presentation. By doing so, when you get to the close it isn’t a surprise. You are simply reaffirming everything they’ve told you and suggesting that they moving forward. Create solid trial closes for the builder, the community, the home site, and the home.
  3. Create an emotional connection. Remember, people buy based on emotion and justify it logically. SO, allow your prospects to visualize how fabulous their lives will be when they live in the Willow Model, on home site 133 in Arlington Park, built by ABC Builder! Paint them a picture perfect scenario!
  4. Realize that you are in sales; it is your responsibility (and job) to ask your prospects for the sale. Your prospects are looking to you to set the example and lead them through the new home buying process. Take the time to get to know your prospects and earn their trust. Realize you are not just ‘asking for the sale’, you are helping them create a lifestyle and future!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip – Can you close better than a 5th grader? Become CURIOUS!

February 16, 2012

If you have ever been around a fifth grader, you know they have an insatiable curiosity for and about everything! I remember when my daughter Sarah was in the fifth grade, every sentence she ever uttered started out with the word WHY!

‘Why is the sky blue?’ ‘Why do bears hibernate? ‘Why can’t I have a new doll?’’ ‘Why do you have to work today?’ ‘Why do birds fly?’ Why does Aunt Sophie have whiskers?’

It was enough to drive me CRAZY! It seemed as though Sarah had a question for everything! And then, of course, if she didn’t get the answer she was hoping for, she would tackle me with another round of questioning.

Sarah: Mom, why do I have to go to bed at 8 pm?

Me: Because you are a fifth grader and you need your sleep.

Sarah: But I’m not tired, so WHY can’t I stay up will 9 pm?

Me: Because I’m the MOM, and I said so, that’s WHY!

In my speaking presentations, I frequently refer to Sarah as the ultimate closer! If she didn’t get the response (or answer) from me that she wanted, she didn’t get deterred! In fact, she became more determined! She wanted to know everything. It’s the childlike curiosity that most of us lose over time as we become adults.  I’m not sure if it is because we grow impatient, or perhaps we think we already have all the answers, but one thing I know….in new home sales being curious will help you close more deals!

Think about it, when a prospect walks into your sales office, you really know nothing about them except for their name. This is our opportunity to become a fifth grader all over again and ask them all sorts of questions! Rediscover your curiosity. Instead of immediately launching into your sales pitch when a prospect walks through the door, turn into a curious fifth grader and make it your goal to find out all you can about them, their reason for visiting, the style or type of home they desire, how they spend their time. This is your time to go on a fact-finding mission!

Use more in-depth questioning during your time with the prospect. Start your sentences by asking your prospects to ‘tell you more’ about themselves and to ‘share with you’ their wants and expectations in a builder, community, home site and floor plan. This is the critical information you need in order to properly match your prospect with your product! So remember to act like a fifth grader and be curious. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it never killed the new home sale!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: To buy, or not to buy….that is the question! What is the answer?

December 28, 2011

How many times have you been faced with this situation? Two prospective buyers enter your sales office. You happily demonstrate your model (they LOVE it!), show them an available home site (it’s PERFECT for them!), explain the benefits of your community (it has EVERYTHING they want!), and then when you try to get them to move forward on the purchase of their new home they politely explain to you that they are probably just going to make a few improvements to their current home instead.

Your jaw drops, your heart sinks, you realize you have just lost the deal. But instead of losing the deal to the new home builder down the street, you have lost it to the 25-year-old home they are currently living in! Grrrrrr! What is WRONG with these people? Can’t they see the ‘obvious’ reasons for buying a brand new home???

Well, in most cases, the answer is YES! But, the challenge for you is to guide them through the process and explain (and affirm) to them that purchasing a new home is their best option. So, how do you do this? Well, one thing you don’t do is shout out: You idiots! Can’t you see that buying a brand new home is the right choice????

As I have said before many times, people BUY on emotion and justify with LOGIC.  That 25-year-old home your prospects are currently living in is much more than old ‘sticks and bricks’ to them. It is a scrapbook of life’s memories! So, your challenge is to create a new (and improved) scrapbook for them! In other words, you have to get them to emotionally ‘fall in love’ with your product. How do you do this? You ‘romance’ the home! Your prospects have to visualize actually living in the home and the community. Once they form this emotional bond and can really ‘see’ themselves enjoying the home, the community and the home site, it is much easier to ‘let go’ of the past and start planning for the future….in THEIR new home!

The best way to do this is by using trial closes through a strategic questioning process. As you go through the home, engage your prospects! Before you get started, ask them WHAT they love about their current home and what they would change about it. This answer alone will provide you with key information that will help you structure your sales presentation to their specific needs and wants. But, you have to really listen and understand what they are telling you. As you are demonstrating the model, use this information as reinforcement. As you tour each room of the model, ask them HOW they would use the space, WHERE they would place their furniture, WHAT they like best about the layout. Engage, engage, engage….the more involved they become with the house, the more they are starting to visualize themselves living their! Paint a beautiful picture for them of what their lives will REALLY look like if they chose to live in the spacious 4 bedroom Winslow model on the wooded, oversized, corner home site #36 in the beautiful, gated Willow Lakes Reserve community! Allow your prospects to FALL in LOVE!

Video Mystery Shopping Tips: Overselling? Underselling? How to ”mix” the perfect SALES cocktail!

November 18, 2011

Howard and I were at a party a few weeks ago, and the hostess offered to make me a cocktail prior to dinner. I accepted her gracious invitation and ordered up a vodka/club. A pretty simple drink, vodka and club soda…………not too hard to screw that up!

Anyway, when she returned with my drink I took a little sip and almost fainted! The drink was plenty heavy on the vodka, and way too light on the club soda. There was NO WAY I could drink it. It was just too strong for my taste!

This experience got me thinking about how new home sales associates *create the perfect new home sales cocktail* for their prospects. Most sales people understand the typical ingredients that go into creating the perfect recipe, but are they using the right amount of each ingredient???

New Home Sales Associates are trained to talk about the following during the sales presentation: the community, the floor plans, the home sites, the builder story, financing options and programs, and whatever other *new* program or promotion the builder has going on at the time.  These ingredients, when mixed properly, create the perfect new home *cocktail*! However, like my host at the dinner party last week, some new home sales associates tend to add too much of one ingredient and not enough of another, which can be disastrous!

Each step of the sales presentation is important and deserves to be discussed; however, if you tend to go heavy on some parts and light on the others, you are not creating the perfect ‘mix’. So, how do you manage this process to ensure you are adding just the right amounts of information? For starters, ALWAYS ask the prospects how much time they have to spend with you. This will help you determine how much time to focus in each area. I have seen countless video mystery shops where the sales associate DID NOT ask the prospects’ time frame, and inevitably the prospects had to leave before the sales associate had the opportunity to get through the entire presentation.

I advise sales associates to prepare two variations of their sales presentation: the Cliff Note version and the Standard version.

The Cliff Note version is ideal for those prospects that have less than 30 minutes to spend with you. For example, a prospect that visits your new home community during their lunch hour and does not have the option to stay longer. During this version of the presentation, you will touch on all the key points, and then make sure to set up a follow-up appointment that will allow you to go into more explanation.

The Standard version of your sales presentation is probably the one you are most accustomed to giving. This presentation can last anywhere from 45 – 90 minutes. You have ample time to hit all the key areas of your presentation and do not have to feel rushed.

And, a final note about *creating* the perfect mix during your sales presentation……………ASK QUESTIONS! Find out what your prospects’ hot buttons are and focus on that; however, do not omit other information in order to do so. The builder’s story is just as important as the energy efficiency program, so be sure to add equal amounts of both. Like the vodka/club example…..you have to have the right combination of ALL ingredients in order to create the perfect new home sales cocktail! Cheers!