Good Shop, Bad Shop!

March 10, 2010 by Shirleen Von Hoffmann Leave a reply »

I have been asked many times to share some of the shops we do around the country as examples of what we see day in and day out in the New Home Sales Profession.

Over the next few months, I am going to share with you some secret shop experiences we are seeing in the field, right now. We want you to know what your competition is doing so you can stand out and have “THE EDGE” among all the rest!

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Last week, we secret shopped one of our nation’s largest builders as a competition shop for one of my builder clients. We have a major objection to overcome for this builder and wanted to see how the competition was portraying this objection, if at all to the buying public and what their product looked like.

Upon entering the sales trailer the Agent was present with another Agent and no other visitors. The Agent greeted us, talked about what he had to offer us for viewing and sent us on to the models for viewing. Now we had two Agents present and no one went with our shoppers on the tour of the models. This particular builder does not put alot of options in the homes they build so you think he might have come with us to show us what was not included and what was included.

The other thing that was highly noticed is that the Agent never asked our shopper any questions about their needs and wants, what was their situation, why they were moving, if they were contingent…none of it. No questions were asked in the initial meeting.

Deal Killer
This builder has a set of three models attached to a trailer and another three models across the street with no trap fence. Included in the three across the street is a bare bones version of a model, where the builder shows the reality of what they include and what you get for your money. To have that across the street for viewing was an absolute deal killer and to have it with no trap was even worse because I guarantee this, after you viewed this “bare bones”version of a home, you would want to run out of the door. It was really bad. The reason builders have models is to help people vision the home of their dreams. This bare bones version, was so awful, the worse of all floorplans, narrow home with the shallowest lot I have ever seen. It would really take hard work on the part of the sales person to overcome what you were seeing.  Had the Sales Person come with us!

But even the best of Agent’s could overcome the client reaction after viewing this model home. Things like a cheap, pedestal, single sink in the master with no drawers or counter for storage, a huge gaping hole so you could pay for a double vanity, no laundry hookups of any kind in the laundry room, it just looked like a closet. No appliances, no mirrors, no microwave, no lighting of any kind, cheap paint, cheap carpet, cheap entry door, cheap interior doors, cheap everything. I could go on and on about this model but I don’t think I could explain it in a way that does it justice. You get the picture. It felt like apartment living was a step up from this model by far.

After viewing the models we reentered the Sales Trailer to speak with the Agent once again. Even though the Agent was good to sit down with us and give us some numbers when we asked him to do so, he still never asked one question of us, really! It happened like this, we would ask for information and he would tell us the answer to the best of his ability. So the fact is, we were leading the sale. There was this whole Car Salesman attitude, you know, getting out the price sheet and doing the , “Well the seller wants this, but we can ask for this, we might get it, I am willing to ask…” such a poor approach to sales. He was missing such a huge, easy step which was building rapport with my shoppers and really getting to know them and their needs. Building trust and rapport means everything in a sale and you need to ask questions and act interested in people to do that.

He did take us to view a model which was standing inventory, ready to go, after we asked to see it. It was also done cheap, cheap, cheap and of such poor finish quality it’s a no wonder it is standing and ready to go. It will be for a long time I am afraid!

The top three mistakes and the moral of this story…

Build Rapport with your clients
Ask Great Questions
Walk the models with them

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15 Responses

  1. Forget great questions – just a conversation, act interested. How can you even sit down with someone without knowing their time frame and expectations versus what you have to offer.

    I would kill for a trailer and multiple models. I am working in the hinterlands and have to go find customers as they drive through the community and go introduce myself.

    I have been lucky over the past many years since I have been able to work with a lot of “professional” salespeople and we all have off days but this just sounds like lack of knowledge and common sense.

  2. ML Vincent says:

    I’m personally looking for a home and I have been to numerous new home communities in recent weeks and have had the kind of experience described in the situation above. It’s like the agent doesn’t care if I buy or not. In addition, I’m ready to buy, but haven’t been asked if I want to purchase a home and most agents don’t even take my contact information. No wonder the builders aren’t getting the sales in some of their communities.

  3. Michelle glover says:

    his is inexcusable in this market. Why do you think this is happening?

  4. Kevin Morrow says:

    The last paragraph of Shirleen’s cooment is the key. THIS IS A MANAGEMENT ISSUE. Sales Managers even in good times are pulled in too many different directions. I was lucky when I entered this industry in 1984 with no experience that I worked for a manager/company that trained me but in regards to the post, common sense tells you to at least engage in a conversation. This industry has always given great “lip service” about training their salespeople. In reality in the majority of cases it does not happen. Bringing in a trainer once or twice a year is not training. That is a seminar. Real training takes place EVERY DAY and is reinforced by the culture of the company. The Sales Manager role in most companies (good times and bad) is exactly what Shirleen described. There are of course exceptions but they are exactly that, exceptions.

  5. Del Barbary says:

    Agents in good or bad markets need to get up out of their chairs with a smile, greet prospects with a smile, introduce themselves and ask for the prospect’s first and last name. Once the greeting has been accomplished, the sales agent needs to get permission from the prospect to “ask a few discovery questions.” If you don’t know where you are going then you won’t know how to get there is an old saying with a lot of power and wisdom in it. The sales agent must find out where to go by asking the best discovery questions possible. When the sales agent knows where to go then it is time to demonstrate the model that will best meet the needs of the prospect based on the answers the sales agent received from the discovery questions asked. Now that the model demonstration has been done and the prospect agrees that this is the right home for him or her then the sales agent must site because as the old saying goes, “the more you site, the more you write.” Once the site demonstration has been completed, trial closes have been presented, and the prospect says, “this is the home for me and my family” then the sales agent needs to take the prospect back to the sales office so the contract can be signed by the prospect to purchase their dream home which they just walked through if it is already completed and/or they have visualized on the empty lot using the floor plan of the home.

    This process must be done every day whether in a good market or a bad market.
    It is my belief that there is no such thing as a “good or bad market”, but rather there are markets with a lot of opportunity for sales and markets with a small amount of opportunity for sales, but none the less there is still opportunity to make sales if you are willing to do what it takes to make the sale.
    This is just my opinion.

    Fantastic blog, Shirleen
    Keep up the good work

  6. Jean Ewell says:

    One of the first casualties in my market was the mid management level- including Sales Managers. After all, everything seemed to be running so smoothly.
    Builders, this is a bad time not to put your very best foot forward.

  7. Frederic Guiton says:

    When reading these posts my first reaction was not one of surprise but one of agreement. It makes a lot of sense that this type of behavior is happening out there. Many believe that buyers will buy or not on their own, that selling is really not what they need to do.
    I recently had a conversation with a builder about enhancing their web presence with a live communication tool. The idea is to be able to engage web shoppers live and invite them to visit in person after discovering their needs through live chat. The answer that I got from the sales manager was this; Our product stands on its own and a buyer will be willing to wait 24 hours to hear back from us. He actually believes that the $150K to $250K product they deliver gave them the right to not sell. I was floored by the statement, the view was that there really was not a comparable product to theirs available within a few miles is certainly not accurate.
    With such management I can assume that the sales people would not feel as if they had to sell their product and will miss opportunities. The question is this then: Who in a builder organization is the person that is responsible for addressing this gap?
    I do believe that no matter how great you feel your product is you have to sell it and that is particularly true in this environment.

  8. Hi Michelle,

    It happens 90% of the time, I am afraid. Sales People need leadership right now more than ever. Sales Managers need to be working with their teams, monitoring their progress and inspiring them to be the best they can be rather than stuck in the office doing paperwork all day.

    Many of my SM’s tell me their job duties have taken them out of the field and into the office, pushing paperwork. Which is really sad because being out with their teams is really where their expertise come in.


  9. Frederic Guiton says:

    Sounds like the builder paid as much attention to his sales staff as to the quality of his presentation. None.

  10. Catherine Cleveland Baum MIRM says:

    Sounds like the builder paid as much attention to his sales staff as to the quality of his presentation. None.

  11. Joseph Houston says:

    Wow! You would think that the builder had a better trained staff, especially with today’s market conditions. They must not have a sales manage or project manager of any type. I can not see how a manager could let this go on. Maybe you caught them on a bad day.

  12. Jane Marie O'Connor says:

    The sad fact in many markets is that the builders are detached from their sales staff. They hand over the driver’s wheel to “nice” sales agents and look the other way while the bus in being driven off the road.
    Every builder needs to know that they have the sales professionals on their team that are passionate about their jobs, and accountable to the builder for every person they speak with, tour, and communicate with. I suggest that this builder has bigger problems than his sales agents, as company culture starts from on-high. Set the example and then inspect what you expect.
    To determine that you have the right professionals on board selling for you, Behavioral Assessments can help you choose the right team to bring the results you seek. Choose teams wisely today, and never let go of the driver’s wheel!

  13. Mary LeBlanc says:

    During the course of the mystery shops we conduct we encounter the same situation. Agents show up and sit there to answer questions if the prospective buyer takes the time to ask. No selling whatsoever. That is why my message for the longest time is why companies are gambling on their sales agents. Too many agents are not doing their job! Either these agents are clueless, burned out or just don’t care. Painful to observe after this lengthy down market.

  14. Robert August says:

    All the more reason that sales people should be trained early and often!
    The major problems that we see and experience through our shopper evaluations are scary ~ very few sales people are asking for the order during the first visit and most sales people do not take a visitor seriously if there is another decision maker that is absent.
    Close early and close often salespeople and managers who are reading these comments from Shirleen and me.
    ONwards and UPwards!

  15. Micheal Kurpiel says:

    I’ve watched your posts in our NAHB Associates Group.

    I want to applaud you for being creative with your posts; they are educational and of great help, which I’m quite positive has people clicking on your profile and then to your website. I know I did!

    Best Regards,

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