Posts Tagged ‘sales training’

Video Mystery Shopping: Don’t Fear the Shop!

December 20, 2013

woman-scaredDo you want to know the quickest way to silence a room full of New Homes Sales Associates? Tell them they are all going to be Video Mystery Shopped over the next 2 weeks. Not only will they become dead silent, but a look of horror and fear will quickly appear on their faces. Trust me; I have seen it happen numerous times in my 30 plus years in the video mystery shopping business.

After the news sinks in that they are going to be video shopped, the fear begins to grow and grow. Every man, woman, and child that enters their sales office is a possible ‘shopper’ suspect! The phone lines heat up between the sales offices, with sales associates comparing notes with each other about their recent visitors.

The conversations sound something like this:

“Did you get a visit from a lady with big red hair claiming to be relocating from California?”

“No, but what about the man who said he was going through a divorce and was interested in purchasing a townhome?”

“I didn’t see him, but I swear I saw a small video camera hidden in my last customer’s baseball cap!! I AM SURE HE WAS THE SHOPPER!!”

For some reason, sales associates really FEAR being video shopped! The truth of the matter is, being video shopped is nothing to fear. If you are doing your job, and know how to conduct a professional sales presentation from start to finish, you should actually WELCOME and EMBRACE the opportunity to be video shopped. It’s your time to shine!

When we fear something, it usually stems from our preconceived perception of the outcome. IE, you might fear bears because you know they can EAT you.

In most cases, sales associates fear video shops because they falsely believe their sales manager will use the shop as a “GOTCHA” to ridicule or, in severe cases, fire them. Simply not true. Sales Managers look at video shops as an opportunity to get a ‘snapshot’ of their sales associates in action. This video can then be used as a powerful training tool to highlight areas of strength and also identify areas for improvement in the sales presentation.

My advice to sales associates that fear being video shopped is simple: Relax and give the best sales presentation possible to every single person that walks into your sales office. Let’s face it, that really IS your job…whether you are being video shopped or not.


Video Mystery Shopping: Dream it, Plan it, Do it!

July 23, 2013

Melinda2013This week’s blog has absolutely nothing to do with new homes sales…..nothing, nada, zilch! Instead it has to do with dreaming big and achieving those dreams! As many of you know, I recently published my first book ‘They Said What??!! Behind the Scenes of 25,000 Undercover Video Mystery Shops.’ Now, I never set out to be an author, it wasn’t part of my plan. However, for the past few years I started imagining what it would be like to share my three decades of new home sales video mystery shopping experience with others. It was my intention to be able to provide a tool that would motivate and encourage new home sales agents to improve their sales performance and achieve professional success. But first, I had to fully Dream It.

The dream started small, I would casually mention my idea of writing a book to friends and family members. They were encouraging and supportive! This response actually provided me with the motivation I needed to take my dream to the next level.

I started to Plan it. I planned what the key message of my book would be. I planned what types of examples I would use. I planned how many pages it would be. My dream was slowly starting to take flight and become a reality.

The planning stage is the most critical in achieving any goal you have in life. This is the turning point in which a ‘dream’ actually becomes a goal, with strategies and action plans to support it. I decided that 2013 would be the year that my book would be published. Now, I had to DO it. To truly visualize my book becoming a reality, I added it to my 2013 Vision Board. I created my book cover and put the deadline next to the picture!

The next step was then carving out the time to actually WRITE the book! For me, writing and being creative is something that I need to do outside of the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life. So, I looked at my calendar and planned three writing retreats for myself. I actually left town and emerged myself in the writing process. Once I was away and focused on writing the book, the words just seemed to flow onto the pages!

I am proud to announce that the book has been written and is now pre-selling! The journey to go from a dream to a reality is complete. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would one day write (and publish!) a book, I would have probably laughed in their face!  But, that was before I had visualized the dream. What is it that YOU want to accomplish in your life? What do YOU dream about? Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

To order Melinda’s book, click the link below.

Video Mystery Shopping: Want to KEEP your New Year’s Resolutions? Get some SKIN in the game!

January 4, 2013

new-years-resolutions[1]I read an article this week that asked: “What is a New Year’s resolution?”

The answer was: “A ‘to-do’ list for the first 2 weeks of January.”

Sadly, this is true for many people. We start out with GREAT intentions and action steps to achieve our goals, but after a few weeks we tend to fall back into the same old patterns.  I myself used to do this same thing year after year until FINALLY I discovered a fool proof way to KEEP my resolutions for the long haul. How did I do it? I got some ‘skin in the game’.

Here’s how it all went down. Last year my friend Becky and I were setting some goals for 2012. I mentioned to her that I wanted to start enjoying my weekends more and quit using them as ‘extra’ work days to catch up. You see, I LOVE what I do and when you love your work so much, sometimes you actually forget that it is work, and you end up doing it 24/7. That’s what had happened to me. I was not spending my weekends with my family and friends; I was instead using that time to work!

Becky then challenged me to commit to not working one single weekend for the entire year. Feeling very sure of myself, I quickly agreed! The thing she did next was what I refer to as the ‘game changer’. She asked to put some ‘skin in the game’.

Becky asked me: “Melinda, what is the one group or organization that you would NEVER, EVER, EVER support?”

I replied: “The American Nazi Party!”

“Great,” she said. “Write out a check for $1,000 to the American Nazi Party.  If you keep your resolution of not working weekends for the entire year, I will return the check to you. If you break your commitment, I will personally mail your check to the Nazi’s.”

So, I wrote out a check for $1,000 to the American Nazi Party and gave it to Becky for safe keeping. (I also made a copy for myself to use as a daily reminder). You see, I now had some skin in the game!

From that moment on, my life began to change in a BIG way. I stopped working weekends! I started hiking with friends and going to movies with my daughter. Anytime I got the ‘urge’ to check e-mails or make just a few follow up calls, I simply looked at the check I had written to the Nazi’s and decided against it!

If something came up where I absolutely had to work over a weekend (IE., a speaking engagement) , I had to do two things. I had to get Becky’s approval and then I had to schedule ‘comp’ time for myself during the week to make up for the weekend. This exercise worked for me like no other thing I had ever done before!

This year my goal/resolution is to write a book. I have wanted to do this for a long time, but never seemed to be able to find the time to do so. Well, I just wrote a $1,000 check to the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company… much do you want to bet that my book will be completed this year??

So, here is my 2013 challenge for you……decide what you want to change in your professional life that will have a positive impact. Maybe it is something as simple as TURNING OFF your cell phone from 6 pm until 9 am. Next, ask yourself what group or organization you would never, ever , ever consider supporting. Then, write them a check and give it to a friend to hold on to for 365 days. It’s amazing how much easier it is to accomplish your goals when you’ve got ‘skin’ (or money!) in the game!

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 – House to Sell? No problem!

September 17, 2012

In a perfect world every prospect that entered your sales office would arrive armed with a per-qualification letter from their lender, an ideal credit score, and a home that they had recently sold….for CASH! Right? We call these our ‘A’ prospects.  There are no road blocks or challenges that could stand in the way of them moving forward with a home purchase….TODAY!

Unfortunately, in today’s market most prospects have NOT been per-approved, and they usually have a house to sell before they are able to move forward in the purchase of a new home. These are ‘B’ prospects. So, how do you work on closing these folks when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt they won’t be able to purchase from you on their initial visit?

In new home sales I truly believe that the word ‘close’ has multiple meanings. At it’s very best, ‘close’ means that your buyer has signed a contract and written out a deposit check. Yahoo! But, in the real world that isn’t always the case. So, what are some other ways we can ‘close’ the client and move forward towards the actual home purchase?

  1. Make a firm follow-up appointment. If you don’t get a contract on the first visit, you owe it to your prospect to make a follow-up appointment. Perhaps they need to bring other family members back in order to reach a purchase agreement. Maybe they need ‘time to think’ about it. Make sure YOU are firm in setting the appointment. Don’t ask your prospects to call you back when they are ready.
  2. Ask for a deposit. Once you have determined the perfect home and the ideal home site, ask for a deposit to hold the site. Create a sense of urgency.
  3. Connect the prospects with your lender ASAP. Many builders have preferred lenders or in-house mortgage services. Be sure to utilize these services. You will be doing your prospects (and yourself!) a favor.
  4. Utilize any in-house programs your builder may have. Many builders offer ‘house to sell’ or ‘resell contingency’ programs. If you’ve got them, use them!
  5. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Just because your prospects have some obstacles to clear doesn’t mean they are never going to purchase a new home. At some point, they will.

The key is to get some type of future commitment from your prospects. If they walk out of your model center without a commitment of some sort, in most cases they are gone for good.

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.

Mysterious No More: Research Shows Mystery Shops Work!

May 9, 2012

Jeff Shore

“Undoubtedly the debate will live on, but compelling evidence now clearly suggests that mystery shopping is good for sales performance, good for training, good for managing the sales staff, and most importantly, good for the bottom line.”   Jeff Shore, Shore Consulting

WOW! I couldn’t have said it better myself.  My friend and colleague Jeff Shore, in partnership with O’Neil Interactive and the research firm Impact Performance Solutions, conducted an aggressive sales leadership survey in early 2012. 275 sales executives from around North America took part in the survey, which would become known as ‘The Pulse 2012’. Their research proved once and for all that mystery shops represent one of the better investments a company can make.

Click Here to see a copy of the major findings that the report provided. Basically, the research showed that those who conducted regular mystery shops among their sales teams had differing results when it came to four key areas. (Shocking!)

  1. Training: Mystery shop leaders more accurately determine training needs.
  2. Skill Development: Mystery shop leaders promote skill development more consistently
  3. Turnover rates: Mystery shop leaders have healthier turnover rates.
  4. Meeting Business Goals: Mystery shop leaders exceed their business plan at a higher rate

After doing this for over 25 years, I can honestly say that none of this surprises me.  I commend Jeff and his team for researching and providing this data to our industry.

A homebuilding company that believes in and invests in mystery shopping is much more likely to believe in and invest in their employees in all areas of development.  This leads me to Jeff’s comment about Skill Development.  Those companies which utilize mystery shopping as part of their overall sales and training strategy tend to promote skill development more consistently. I found it interesting in Jeff’s report those who regularly mystery shop their sales associates spend most of the time in their sales meetings on ‘Training and Coaching’.  Among that same group, the topic receiving the LEAST amount of time is ‘Administrative Issues’. Think for a moment about your sales meetings. What tends to be the primary focus? Certainly there will always be administrative issues that must be reviewed; however, telling your sales people about a new way to write up change orders is not helping them to develop their full sales potential.

The reason that the mystery shop leaders focus on training and coaching in their sales meetings is because the mystery shops provide them with the syllabus for their sales meetings! I have personally watched thousands of mystery shops and I can tell you that these shops will tell you exactly what areas of training and coaching you need to be working on with your team. Jeff states that ‘the data presents a compelling contrast in how leaders prioritize time and effort with their sales team: mystery shop leaders focus on execution, while non-shoppers focus on ‘planning’ with very little follow-up tied to results.’

So, think about it. How can you possibly know what skills and training your sales people need in order to be successful if you don’t know what is going on in your sales offices? Salespeople who are not shopped remain ‘under the radar’ of their managers.  Can you as a sales manager really provide a solution when you are not fully aware of the problem? Mystery shopping takes the mystery out of the equation and allows you to focus on what is REALLY going on in your sales offices. Thank you for confirming the facts Jeff Shore….Mystery Shopping works.

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

April 6, 2012

This week I finish my blog series ‘Can you close better than a 5th grader?’ by discussing the sixth and final trait that fifth graders possess that make them natural closers. Fifth graders are naturally Consistent with follow-up! I will give you a prime example. Have you ever taken a road trip with a fifth grader (or for that matter, any trip in a car that takes over 20 minutes)? If so, you know that you can consistently count on being asked ‘Are We There YET??’ a minimum of 15 times! No matter how you respond to the question, you can rest assured that your ‘passenger’ will ask you again and again until you reach your final destination. I learned this the HARD way while traveling from New York to Florida with my ultimate ‘closer’ of a daughter, Sarah.

So, how does this parlay into the world of new home sales? Well, for starters it is a critical element of getting the sale! I know most of you would just love it if all of your clients and prospect actually purchased a new home on their first visit to your sales office. But, alas, it doesn’t usually work that way. So, in order to keep these prospects in your sales pipeline, it is very important to follow-up with them!

There are several ways to follow-up with your prospective buyers. You can write them a letter, send them an e-mail, or pick up the phone and call them. All of these actions are great; however, I would suggest that you get creative in your follow-up process. Have a REASON to follow-up with them. Don’t just call for the sake of calling! Make your follow-up personal, persuasive, and to the point.

  1. Personal – make your follow-up relevant to your prospects. In order to do so you need to know what their buying motivation is. Make it a point to learn the names of their children and pets.  Take the time to learn their interests and preferences. Connect with them on your community Facebook page. Make sure you are engaging fully with your prospects
  2. Persuasive – Please note, there is a BIG difference between being persuasive and being pushy. Don’t be pushy! That is a huge turn off with most buyers. Persuasion has more to do with ‘selling’ your prospects on the features and benefits of your builder, your community, your home sites and your homes.
  3. To the Point – Remember, we are all busy these days. Respect your prospect’s time. Make your follow-up messages short, sweet, meaningful and pertinent.

One final word on consistency, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Following up with your prospects is all about cultivating a relationship. You are keeping yourself, your builder, and your community in front of the prospect. When they are ready to make a buying decision, the choice will be crystal clear.

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

March 24, 2012

This week I continue my blog series ‘Can you close better than a 5th grader’ by discussing the third trait that fifth graders possess that make them natural closers. Have you ever noticed that fifth graders have an innate tendency to be…..Captivated? The definition of captivated is to be ‘strongly attracted and filled with wonder and delight.’

As many of you know I am a huge movie buff. I LOVE going to the movies! It is my guilty pleasure to sneak away for a couple of hours to the cinema! I order bottled water, bring my secret stash of high protein snacks (no buttered popcorn for me!) and sit silently in the dark theatre, mesmerized by the latest movie release. For 2 hours I emerge myself. I free my mind of anything else that is happening in the world and I become fully engaged in the moment.  I literally ‘become one’ with the movie. In other words, I am CAPTIVATED.

Let’s compare my movie “captivation” with new home sales “captivation”. When your prospects walk into your new home sales office, do you become captivated with them or is your mind running in a thousand different directions? Do you allow yourself to be filled with wonder and delight about your potential buyers or do you glance at your watch and wonder just how long these people are going to be here?

One of the secrets of super successful new home sales associates is they understand how to be captivated by their prospects. When a potential buyer walks through their door, everything else in the world STOPS. Their entire focus is on the prospect. It becomes the sales associate’s single goal in life to learn everything they can about their prospects. They give them their undivided attention and hang on their every word!

So, how can you become more captivated as a new home sales associate? Here are a couple of tips for you to try out.

  1. Minimize any potential distractions that could come about. When a potential buyer comes into your office put your cell phone on vibrate. Nothing is less captivating (or more irritating) than being with someone who seems more interested in who is calling, e-mailing or texting than they are with the live body that is in front of them.
  2. Ask questions, and really listen to the answers. Questions show that you are curious and interested in your prospects. But, the real key is listening to how they respond to you. This is where you become captivated by everything they tell you.
  3. Make it a personal goal to truly get to know your prospects. Your mission is to find them the perfect home, and the only way to do so is to understand what is important to THEM.
  4. Remember the value of your prospect’s time. They have graciously given you this gift, use it wisely. Always be sure to ask them up front how much time THEY have to share with you. If it is one hour, 30 minutes, or ten minutes make a commitment to be fully in the moment with them during the entire time.

One final note about being Captivated……when you are devoting 100% of your time and attention to your prospects, it shows. Trust me, they will know it. Allow them to be the ‘star’ of the show!

Video Mystery Shopping: The forgotten sales tool – Sell the home site!

December 10, 2011

Believe it or not, there is a tried and true method to selling a home in the new home industry. It’s a pretty simple formula. If you follow this 4 step program, I promise you that you will see an increase in new home sales!

  1. Sell the Builder
  2. Sell the Community
  3. Sell the Home
  4. Sell the Home site

Now, in most cases new home sales people do a pretty good job of selling the builder, the community and the home. However, when it comes to selling the actual home site they often fall short. When selling the other three, the new homes sales associate has a myriad of resources and tools to help with the presentation (a builder’s story, community information and a decked out model!). But, when it comes time to sell the home site (one of the most important pieces of the process) they only have one thing to show – an empty lot!

So, how do we take this barren, boring empty lot and transform it into a super, sexy potential home site for our prospects?  The answer it simple – Visualization!

You have to get your prospects to visualize living on that home site! So, how do you do this? Well, here are a couple of tips:

  1. Use the word home site instead of lot. This is a small but significant step in helping your prospects visualize. Which would you rather live on, a ‘lot’ or a ‘home site’?
  2. Physically take your prospects out to the home site. You are doing yourself and your prospects a major disservice if you don’t physically walk the home site. Most people can’t visualize what a new home looks like just from looking at just a floor plan; the same is true with the home site. Also, by setting foot on the home site you are establishing a sense of ownership that can’t be garnered looking at a site map.
  3. ASK your prospect questions about what they like to do outside. Engaging your prospects on how they would use the outdoor space is the most important thing you can do. Once you find out what it is they like to do outside, you can then paint the picture for them. If they like to garden, point out an area that would be excellent for planting. If they have children, demonstrate how the yard space could accommodate a back yard jungle gym or swing set! Point out the obvious! IE., the beautiful trees or the spacious back yard.
  4. Trial close them on the home site. You want your prospects to ‘fall in love’ with the home site the same way they fall in love with the home. Here’s a tip, while you are physically standing in their potential new back yard, ask your prospects if they can “see” themselves enjoying a glass of wine after work while sitting in their back yard watching their children run and play with Fluffy the dog as the sun quietly sets behind the canopy of the trees.

It’s all about visualization and painting that ideal picture for your prospects.