The market cooldown has presented a new season of selling for home builders. Since the last two years were filled with waitlists, bidding wars, and easy financing, home builder sales teams are gearing up for a “normal” market where sales strategies must be revitalized.
Emily Murray, director of sales at Fischer Homes, shares, “While we haven’t lost sight of the fundamentals that led to sales success over the last several years, we certainly have a renewed focus on sales skills that might have become dormant or weren’t as critical during the white-hot market.”
Collaboration among sales associates, reeducation of basic skills, and a return to focusing on customers’ internal urgency have become critical for sales managers and coaches while model home visits slow and buyers become less willing to compromise.
To refresh and encourage teams, sales summits are a common topic for builders amid preparation. “At a recent summit, we both motivated and gave our team some great perspective on the current market and how it has normalized from the last two years of managing crowds and interest lists,” says Lisa Chapel, director of sales operations of Stanley Martin Homes. “As with any skill, sales is one that needs to be practiced.”
Customers’ concerns of rising rates and prices have set a new obstacle for sales teams. Murray adds, “As we enter this cooling market, there’s not one thing that you do that’s going to equal success, it’s a lot of things. It looks a lot like getting back to the basics and the fundamentals.”
Below are seven ways to help sales teams prepare for the uncertain market, according to Chapel and Murray.
1. Recognizing external versus internal urgency. Now that the market has calmed, the external urgency of missing out on a homesite or avoiding an extreme price hike has gone away. This means that there needs to be a focus on internal urgency. This can be done by learning why the customer wants to move and keep them on that track.
2. Financing refresh. Historically low interest rates during the pandemic made conventional financing an easy option for most transactions. However, as the interest rates and prices have risen, other loan options may be needed. An understanding of buyers’ monthly payment needs and, most important, financing solutions (including points, buying down the interest rate, or bought-out PMI) are key tools for the changing market.
3. Next steps are needed. For many sales teams in the last two years, the need to follow up or align next steps for customers was heavily dependent on a customer’s hurry. They were willing and ready to do whatever steps were needed to make a home their own. The slowed sense of urgency has returned next-step principles and follow-up fundamentals to the forefront for sales members who now need to do the heavy lifting.
4. Forming connections. As mentioned in the article opening, sales summits are a large contributor to encouraging and training sales teams. These meetings not only bring members together to form connections but also to share information, best practices, and benchmarks. Chapel says, “We recently held a sales summit where the theme was around connection. Connection to our buyers and connection to our teammates to help create a better home buying journey for our customers.”
5. Practicing sales skills. While sales teams are revisiting fundamentals and reviving weekly sales meetings, a great addition to preparing for the market is practicing sales skills and interactions. Role-playing between team members and sales coaches can act as a perfect opportunity to sharpen selling tools and learn to overcome objections.
6. Nurturing relationships with Realtors. In a time when leads weren’t all that crucial, some builders may have dropped incentive programs or did not maintain strong connections with Realtors. Positive relationships with Realtors can contribute to the overall success of builders’ sales teams and make a customer’s buying experience even better.
7. Maintaining excellent customer service—even online. A customer’s personal experience and interaction with a salesperson is a large driver in their decision to purchase a home. During the pandemic, the shift to online sales was heavily needed for many builders and has now become a mainstay for sales. Murray says, “Online is often the customer’s first experience with us, so we want it to be outstanding. We are fully staffed, and the team is expertly trained so that we can offer ‘world-class’ service and respond quickly, because that is really important today.”