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It’s been another incredible year in the home building industry, so we asked some of the top industry experts for their thoughts and advice on how to tackle 2023. Everyone wishes they could get inside the head of those who have already succeeded in their industry to learn the hidden secrets behind their success. We have asked the best of the best in residential home construction for industry tips and tricks when it comes to sales.
Use these sales tips for the trades, by the trades to make 2023 the best year yet for your business.
Folks find products they want through multiple communication channels and several stages of purchasing. The one thread is the OSC.
The OSC manages the entire pipeline and will most likely interact with everyone purchasing a home from you. Sales teams need to utilize their OSCs to interact with the whole pipeline.
The practical application of this is that the OSC needs to be managing and setting up your CRM, looking at it from the standpoint of being able to grow with the market and change. Are the fields and histories you’re creating now going to help you segment leads in the future? Are your ratings simple enough so you can quickly move folks in and out of different funnels?
We know that onsite sales agents need to focus on loads of paperwork, backlog, and folks in front of them, and we understand that the OSC is there to support those conversations. Your CRM should be set up to facilitate this relationship through message automation, task and management automation, clear ratings, and segmentation—and if you aren't already, leverage your CRM tools to regularly collect data and feedback from the leads themselves to fill in the rest of the story.
It’s clear technology is making our jobs much simpler. However, are we maximizing our time, tools, and talents? Take back the power the only way you can — by focusing on what’s in your control. We have spent so much time over the last few years trying to manage the influx, and then later, the drastic decrease in leads. By default, we have become lax on utilizing our “tech toolkit” to the highest efficiency. Our resources are changing quickly, and if we don’t continue to train ourselves in the latest and greatest, we will soon fall behind.
It starts with a toolkit analysis by asking four questions:
Understanding your programs and platforms can help you determine if they are serving you or if there are other options for you to consider! If you begin to question your response to any of the answers above, it’s time to level up! Do your research and find the next best thing for your program.
Online Sales Specialists, is your house in order? Are you ready for company? By house, I mean your CRM, and by company, I mean your leadership. When the market shifts down, the fingers start pointing backward, questioning what’s happening with leads and appointments. One of your most important roles as the OSS is to quantify the leads. The data tells the story, and the only way to properly do that is in your CRM. Make sure to put EVERY lead into your CRM, even the calls that aren’t a fit right now.
At a minimum, here are a few other things you’ll want to keep up-to-date for every lead:
Don’t be the homeowner who shoves everything into a closet before the guests arrive. Get your house in order so you’ll feel confident when someone visits unexpectedly.
As we move into a softer market, leaders should take advantage of the opportunity to top-grade their team. That isn’t the typical “motivational Mike” message, but the best organizations are diligent in managing their operational expenses. One of the areas that creates the most drag on OPEX is an underperformer. Especially in the world of online sales, which should initiate over 50% of a homebuilder’s sales volume. If you have an underperformer, those poor results trickle down and amplify toward the bottom of the funnel. Make sure those employees have been coached up, and if that doesn’t work, coach them out. Don’t waste a down market to build up a super team of highly trained sales pros!
Rising interest rates have buyers and sellers questioning if it’s an excellent time to buy. Cancellation rates are rising, and the media is telling everyone that the housing market is on fire. That’s a lot to combat in a quick tip article, but I will do my best. There are two areas that I am helping clients to focus on. Without them, they will have a rough 2023.
The first is maybe an obvious one: confidence. You see, no one is going to just give buyers confidence right now. It seems that relatives and the media seem dead-set on scaring people away from purchasing a home.
Confidence is the main thing your buyers need to purchase (and close). So that means that salespeople need to have what we at Shore Consulting call, “adoptable confidence.” A salesperson needs to be sold out on why someone should buy a home right now. Without that confidence, salespeople tend to approach would-be buyers with a “hat-in-hand” approach. That approach won’t land sales.
The second skill has to do with traffic. You see, the last real tough market we experienced was in 2008 and lasted a few years. That means folks selling homes for eight, nine, or 10 years haven’t seen an actual downturn. In other words, they haven’t had to drive their traffic.
Typically, we rely on a marketing department to drive traffic, but salespeople will need to learn how to generate leads in this market. That being said, there are three areas of focus:
When salespeople take control of driving traffic and have adoptable confidence, they will be able to create the market they want rather than hope the market gives them their fair share.
People tend to buy emotionally and logically justify the purchase later! Make sure you’re selling the way people are buying. Get back to the emotional sale. Times may have changed, but the emotional experience you can provide will always be the tipping point!
Five Top Tips:
If you need to counter increased buyer fear (and who doesn’t), there is a powerful tool at your disposal: the “Why Buy Here” technique. Homebuyers today are looking to eliminate options quickly. You want to introduce a stand-apart message for your community and do that as early as possible. For extra pop, include the words “the only” in your description, hinting that you either buy here or you compromise.
My advice going into 2023 is to be careful of knee-jerk reactions and over-corrections in your online sales department. Your Online Sales Counselors are the front line in creating the customer experience. For two years, your OSCs have been working their tails off as leads flooded to them in an unprecedented market. Now is not the time to make quick decisions and reduce or eliminate whole online sales and sales departments without careful audits and evaluations.
During the height of COVID, many builders had more leads than they could handle. This led to new online sales counselor programs and cutting marketing budgets to slow lead flow. Now, as the market readjusts and we see the number of leads drop off and more hesitation amongst buyers, it’s not the time to eliminate roles, reduce pay, and reduce departments without careful evaluation. It’s time to restructure strategically. This means taking the time to evaluate your online sales program and your sales and marketing programs.
Watch for a guest post from Leah Fellows on 2023 housing sales tips coming soon!
When the market has shifted so drastically, we are quickly starting to see the talent and mindset levels of those we have on our team like never before. Some of us are pleased, some are disappointed, and I imagine most of us are a little bit of both. For those sales leaders who are disappointed in their team’s performance, I can imagine your frustration levels are at an all-time high. I imagine you have been warning your team about becoming complacent during the robust market of years past. You’ve held sales meetings where you spoke about the pitfalls of success disease and how to stay on top of your selling profession. You’ve conducted role plays, held sales training, you even brought in motivational speakers to keep your team fresh and ready to sell when the market turned...and then it turned...and you quickly saw your team divided. In speaking to Sales Leaders across the country, I’ve found that our teams are divided into the helpless, hopeful, and hungry. Let me explain.
The Helpless Sales Consultant is one we need to remove from our roster ASAP. This is the Sales Consultant that has not worked on their craft for the past two years. The one that does not stand up when prospects walk through the door of mystery shops. The one that can’t overcome simple objections or the one that just flat out doesn’t conduct any discovery on a buyer’s true needs when they enter their model home. This is the Sales Consultant who complains about needing more traffic without working to drive their own and/or the Sales Consultant constantly asking for more incentives or a price discount as this is their only true form of knowing how to sell.
The Hopeful Sales Consultant is a step above the Helpless Sales Consultant. They have a positive attitude that things will improve, but they still lack the drive and determination to create their destiny. Have you ever heard the saying, “Hope is not a strategy?” Sadly, the Hopeful Sales Consultant will need much hand-holding to get through today’s market. My caution to Sales Leaders across the country is not to spend too much time on the Hopeful Sales Consultant when you should be focusing your time on the Hungry Sales Consultant or recruiting and training new talent. It will be tough to give up on the Hopeful Sales Consultant as they have a fighting chance of making it with the proper time, attention, and training to get to the next level. They have a positive attitude and are generally great people. It will be up to you to decide if you can coach them up; if not, you need to coach them out.
The last type of Sales Consultant, whom we all strive to have on our team, is the Hungry Sales Consultant. This is the Sales Consultant that recognizes that sales will be had no matter what the market may be, and THEY continue to take on more than their fair share. This is the Sales Consultant that goes above and beyond to ensure they are hitting their numbers each month. They are driving their traffic and generating referrals. They are constantly learning new ways to improve their selling skills, such as educating themselves on all things mortgage, listening to podcasts and webinars, and reading books that enhance their personal and professional lives. Hungry Sales Consultants exist in markets across the country. We just need to seek them out and ensure the ones we have on our team don’t look for employment elsewhere. The quickest way to lose a Hungry Sales Consultant is to tolerate the Helpless and Hopeful Sales Consultants for too long.
While large-scale changes have shifted the landscape and have the potential to reshape buyers’ preferences over the longer term, we are already seeing immediate behavioral changes between how new construction buyers and existing home buyers search for homes.
According to our Zillow New Construction Consumer Housing Trends Report 2022, released in the new year, most new construction buyers are less likely to go on five or more tours (10% of new construction buyers versus 25% of existing home buyers). Conversely, new construction buyers are more likely to attend an open house: 73% follow at least one, compared to 61% of existing home buyers.
Personally, I am very excited about the coming year. We will experience sales development we haven’t seen in over five years. Sales professionals will level up as the market demands our best.
2023 will bring a level of discipline that we haven’t needed to exercise in a long time. The new year will also teach us how to develop sales behaviors some of us didn’t know we needed in our home sales career. The term “getting back to the basics” frustrates new home salespeople who only have five years or less experience. The market conditions for the past five-plus years have demanded a different skill set than what 2023 will require of us.
So, what are the basics in your world? First, we need to talk less and listen more. We must ask more questions and be insatiably curious about our customers' stories. We need to embrace our CRM and make it work for us. We need to leverage our USP by knowing our competition like we never have before because how can you position yourself if you don’t know exactly what your competition is doing? And, lastly, we need to be prepared. Know our product, know our processes, and be the resident expert. We must have all the tools ready in our toolbox and know what tool to pull out and when. Finally, we need to value our customers more. No more getting by just by showing up. We need to prepare, we need to study, we need to seek learning, and we all need to be the best for our customers; they deserve your best! It will be a rewarding experience.
Consumers are used to shopping for any item in their life at all hours, customizing, pricing, imagining, and seeing all the colors the products come in while they are online before they say yes to a purchase. Why is it still uncommon to see tools like this on a builder’s website? How easy are we making it for someone to say yes to us? Can we afford for them to say no right now? Shoppers want the ability to research for as long as they desire and go as deep into the process as they prefer and don’t necessarily want to do it with a person. We know that shoppers want the ability to do this online. We need to remove barriers to allow this to happen.
In 2023, let’s make it easy for our consumers to say yes to us and yes to new construction by removing friction to sales processes. This starts on your website when you allow shoppers to interact with your home designs with exteriors, interior options with pricing, building a home online, designing their kitchen, and so much more.
In the year of yes, let’s meet customers where they want to be met by putting tools in place that remove friction and allow consumers to feel informed, respected, excited, and extremely comfortable while on your website, meeting with you, and building a new home. Let’s give all shoppers the ability to say yes online, in person, or somewhere in between.
“Great salespeople and leaders are created in challenging markets, not easy ones.”
Here we are again in a corrected market after years of success and homebuilding exuberance. As Yogi Berra famously said, “It feels like déjà vu all over again.” I am so old that I can’t even remember how many of these I have been through. I believe it’s six!
However, I owe my success to challenging markets, not easy ones. As painful as it was, I have learned far more from failure than success and have been shaped by the adversity of strong economic headwinds. As a salesperson, when the going got tough, I would implement all the training I had sought at the highest level. I had no choice; it was a matter of survival.
After years of low-interest rates, high demand, and low supply, I have observed that many salespeople need to implement even the most fundamental sales processes. In 2023, we have to follow proven sales processes, discover true hot buttons and motivations, master our presentations and demonstrations, narrow down to a one-of-a-kind, close, manage objections, and learn to close again. I have even bought back my “Closing Chicken” from 2009, the last time we had to get back to closing fundamentals.
We have to stretch out of our comfort zone, be direct, ask for the sale, be prepared to manage objections, and ask for the sale again. In many markets, we may even have to roll up our sleeves and negotiate face-to-face with clients to ensure that sales are made while creating a “win-win” and protecting builders’ profits. I really enjoy teaching and passing information on to the next generation of eager sales leaders.
Builders are finding in most markets that there has already been a steady migration away from new home sales. Many salespeople have felt like they had signed up for a much easier gig, and this corrected market is just too difficult and stressful for them.
The good news is for those of you who remain in new home sales and leadership In 2023, now is your opportunity to define yourself and truly shine. Training is a verb and is about Action. Seek the best training, read or listen to sales and development books, and implement like there was no tomorrow. Follow up and Prospect as though your life depended upon it, be courageous in asking bona fide closing questions, manage objections with confidence and close again and again.
Stick with this plan, take action, and 2023 will be your breakthrough year.
When I think about wisdom I could share that will significantly impact your success in 2023, I go directly to understanding numbers and finance. This is the fourth time I’ve been through a market that’s caused significant uncertainty for buyers. As different as each of those times have been, the same general story plays out: those who understand numbers and finance are the ones who separate themselves. You’ve all seen the switch from bidding wars just a few months ago to now builders using big incentives mainly in the form of buy downs on mortgage rates. Interest rates have never spiked so quickly, which caused buyer’s payments to shoot up. For example, a monthly payment on a $500k home with a 30-year mortgage of $450k and a 3% interest rate was $1,897 P&I. Now at 7%, the same loan amount has a payment of $2,993. That’s almost $1,100 more per month, a 58% increase!
Now, let’s shift from that scary picture to one that puts a little perspective on it. Since 2000, the average annual price appreciation has been 4.7%, according to FHFA. That means, from the example above, the same $500k house with 10% down will go from $500k value at purchase to $523,500 after one year, $548,104 after two years, and after eight years (the average duration of home ownership) the home’s value would be $722k. That’s a gain of $222,000.
Taking it a step further with that scenario, what if I said, “You hand me $1,100 every month, and, in return, I will hand you $2,000 back?” That’s a gain of $900 every month. Would you do it? I know I would! Now add your ability to curate that information for your prospective buyers. If your buyers want to live in the home for more than a couple of years, they will likely be able to refinance for a lower number, making that even more attractive. “Date the Rate, Marry the Home.” These are just a few different ways to use numbers to give buyers the information they need to move forward. Becoming an expert on this will allow you to make more sales, help more people and give you the advantage you need to make 2023 a successful year.
As 2023 approaches and the market continues to “normalize,” the concepts of leadership and how to lead are more critical than ever. Our sales teams are currently in a state of shock. The proverbial rug was pulled out from under them, and they were unsure what to do next. Leadership is not something we do to our teams, it is something we do with our teams. An analogy I like to use is a lesson I learned from my 1,100-pound horse. Trying to force a horse to do something often becomes a battle of wills, and I will lose every time. I can’t pull him to get him to walk forward and can’t push him without the risk of being kicked. I can walk beside him, and when he knows I am there with him, he is more than happy to go along with me. We can also learn a lot about leadership from this approach with our teams. When you walk with your team, and they feel supported and know that you are there beside them, you get better results.
Get out in the field. Spend time with your team members each week to support them, brainstorm with them, and make it safe for them to perform the activities we know it takes to drive the traffic they need. Then, and only then, will they listen to your advice on improving their sales skills and be open to the training and education they need to thrive in any market. While you are with them, giving them suggestions, please don’t assume they know how to do what you are suggesting. For instance, we tell our teams to meet general real estate agents, but is that enough? Those salespeople who haven’t been in new home sales for more than 10 years have never had to do these activities before. They need you to go with them and show them how to do it correctly. Spend time in your sales meetings and one-on-one with role plays to teach them the skills they need to thrive. Don’t hesitate to bring in trainers with different perspectives and techniques to support your efforts. When we all lead from the side, we get through the steps and skills we need to succeed as a team in this and every market.
As the market normalizes, we realize many of the sales and marketing business processes we have in place don’t apply to the specific needs of today’s home buyers.
In the first quarter of 2023, it is time to:
Now that you’ve read through what all our builder experts have to offer when it comes to improving your sales strategy, which ones will you implement today? Don’t let all this valuable knowledge go to waste. Read the other two parts of our Builder Tips series on Marketing and Operations.
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