FloorPop FloorPop (Flôr-pop) n. 1. The homebuyer who visits a Builder's community and writes a contract for sale the same day. 2. The sound made by a salesperson clicking their heels high in the air and returning to the floor after a prospect signs a contract the day they first meet.
Marketing Best Practices for Homebuilders, September 6, 2006 Vol. 7, Issue 6

Shopping for Results

Last month we discussed turn around advice from some of America's best sales trainers http://www.floorpop.com/Floorpop080206.html. They all stressed the need to make sure you have the right folks in the right roles. The fact is that the market has changed and your sales team needs to change with it. Not every salesperson is going to make the transition as hard choices will be made. As Melinda Brody, of Melinda Brody and Company, sees it, "The people who have been in La La Land and can't turn on a dime need to go away." It sounds a little harsh, but hard decisions are being made.

What does it take to reshape a sales force? Mystery shopping is a key assessment tool at the heart of the process. It allows you to assess your staff, guide them to better performance, and then reassess after training to help make your personnel decisions.

Be a Picky Shopper

Mystery shopping and video mystery shopping should be an important part of your sales training and staffing strategy. I spoke with Laura Weiss, of Laura Weiss and Associates to get her views on using video and picking a shopping partner. "I think video shopping is vital because they can see their sales offices, their sales staffs, the models through the eyes of their customers. You can see how they are treating their customers."

Weiss gives three key things to consider when choosing a shopping firm:

  1. The experience of the person running the company.
  2. The experience of the shoppers. She sees new home sales or leasing experience as critical to successful mystery shopping.
  3. The turnover time required to complete your shops.

When you budget, expect to pay $300-$400 per shop.

Getting Quality Shopping Results

Assuming you now have the right shopping partner, what should they do to ensure quality shops? Bob Hafer, of Robert E. Hafer and Associates, believes you have to tailor your shops to each community. The competition is different, your target market is different, and the community's USP is different. You need to spend time with the sales manager to make sure you have the right shoppers and that they ask the right questions. According to Hafer, it requires clearly setting standards and preparation to measure against those standards. Here are his recommendations:

Shopping Shortages

Melinda Brody's specialty is mystery shopping. What she sees in her mystery shops is a clear indication where sales skills are lacking. It's hard to find consistently good video shops. Four areas come up short in most of the mystery shops her team does:

  1. Lack of up-front discovery questions. She recommends, sales counselors get permission to qualify prospects, "I would like to ask you a few questions up front so I don't waste your time today. Would that be okay?" suggests Brody. Then the counselor can easily get to: "Tell me about your ideal home. Tell me about the home you are living in today. Tell me about your timeframe." We can no longer simply wait for customers to give buying signals. "You need to take more control up-front."
  2. Asking for the sale. On the mystery shops, sales counselors rarely ask for the sale. "You have to get them to focus on one home and one location." Unfortunately keeping customers focused is a skill sales counselors need to learn if they are going to help home shoppers get what they want. "Consumers have ADD and you are the Ritalin®."
  3. Selling the builder. Tell the builder's story. Most builders stories sound the same. "It becomes like white noise." Brody recommends counselors focus on the builders unique selling proposition (USP). For example, "We are the only builder in Toledo that [Blank]." What is your builder's USP?
  4. Showing a homesite. "How about driving them to a specific homesite, showing it to them and then closing them on the homesite." Once at the homesite you have plenty to talk about. "Let's talk about your orientation to the sun. Let's talk about the landscaping, the view."

An Eye for Shopping

How do you evaluate video shops? Hafer expects to see key behaviors exhibited. It is up to the sales manager to set these as minimum performance standards for their salespeople. Here are Hafer's eight behaviors to rate on every shop:

  1. Did the salesperson physically move to greet the prospect?
  2. Did they connect to their client in a positive greeting?
  3. Did they register the customer?
  4. Did they determine what the customer wants to accomplish today?
  5. Did they initiate the sales presentation [the model presentation] focusing on the customer's agenda?
  6. Did they utilize tie down and trial close questions?
  7. Did they close the customer on a contract, a lot reservation, and appointment, or a commitment for a phone meeting?
  8. Did they contact the customer immediately by telephone?

Let me expand on Hafer's thoughts about following up immediately. What does Hafer mean by immediately? "Here's my standard. When they walk out the door, I teach them to make a call to their home phone to thank them for visiting the community." said Hafer. It might sound something like this: "Hi this is Bob Hafer from so-and-so builder. Thanks for coming out today. I dropped a package in the mail and will call you tomorrow to see if you have any additional questions I can answer." Now when they return home after shopping all day, they have an immediate touch point from your sales rep.

As you may remember from last month's FloorPop (http://www.floorpop.com/Floorpop080206.html), Jeff Shore suggested that once a prospect leaves the sales office that the sales rep immediately turn the registration card over and write down specifically what they will follow-up with when they call within 24 hours.

Perhaps, you can take both Shore's and Hafer's advice. The minute they walk out the door. Turn the registration card over and write down specifically what you will follow-up about and then leave a message on the home answering machine. You are going to set the standard for you and the customer. It sends a powerful message that differentiates the builder.

Sales managers need to make training, developing and coaching sales people their #1 priority. I agree with Brody, who said, "The companies who invest in training and video shopping are ahead of the pack by far."

Blair Kuhnen is the publisher of FloorPop and can be reached at 817-658-7698 or via email at kuhnen@earthlink.net.

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Contributors to FloorPop this Month

Melinda Brody, Melinda Brody and Company, can be reached at 407-294-7614 or via email.
Her website address is http://www.melindabrody.com/.

Bob Hafer, Robert E. Hafer & Associates, LLC can be reached at 972-889-2800 or via email.
His website address is http://www.bobhafer.com/.

Laura Weiss, Laura Weiss & Associates can be reached at 313-274-9533 or via email.
Her website address is http://lauraweissandassociates.com/.