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Sales 101

by admin

Are people imbued with an innate understanding of how to sell from birth, or does it take years of learning, training and practice to become successful? Although some agents like to think their talents are natural – inherent skills they’ve had all their lives – most others have spent years studying and honing their craft. In today’s shifting residential real estate market, it is more important than ever that your skills as a professional salesperson are sharp. They are the most crucial element to your potential success.

By: Karen Snyder and Alex Vorro

As a Realtor, your considerations regarding financial protection now and in the future are different from the typical corporate 9-to-5er. Big picture planning can be a challenge, especially for a Realtor who is just getting started.at follows is a brief primer on how to be the best possible salesperson. Here, we examine in depth the basic steps to selling a home, using first-hand experience from some of Miami’s top real estate professionals, and offer tips on how to improve specific areas of your business.

Eight steps to selling a home

1. Make a positive first impression
2. Determine the client’s needs
3. Prepare the client
4. Know your product
5. Demonstrate the home’s features
6. Narrow the search and overcome objections
7. Close the sale
8. Follow up

1. Make a positive first impression
Make sure the first experience a client has with you is positive. Don’t be late; do exactly what you say you will do; look and sound professional; and be more knowledgeable than your client. This is how you build your credibility quickly. Credibility is essential for a successful Realtor and, once lost, is difficult to recover.

“Most human beings decide what they think about you the first few moments that they encounter you,” says Susan Morton, CRB, with Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell in Coral Gables, who has spent the past 25 years in the real estate business. “Therefore, how you look, your demeanor, your body language, your smile, the twinkle in your eye, your attire, your car and the very first words out of your mouth will be emblazoned in the minds of everyone you meet face-to-face.”

Lyle Chariff, broker and president of Chariff Realty Group, agrees. “At the very least it’s appearance,” he says. “But also, don’t come across too cocky; be very honest and humble about your experience; and convey your hunger and desire to work harder than the old timer who’s had it easy working in this market.”

TIP: Once you have made a good first impression, make sure you continue to do so. After both parties agree to work together, the real work of positive impression making begins. You cannot lower your level of preparedness and be nothing short of amazing at all times. The top producers set their standards high and never waiver. (See “60-Second Guide to Making a Good Impression,” p. 31.)

2. Determine your client’s needs
A question-and-answer session with your client is an old-school sales technique, but it is still the best way to determine wants and needs. You must ask the right questions and listen to every word the client says. Ask predetermined qualifying questions to elicit the answers you need. The best information comes from open-ended questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” If the buyer gives short answers, ask him to elaborate. With experience, this exchange becomes more of a conversation than in interview. You can get to know your client quickly by asking him about his life. Most people love to talk about themselves and will volunteer plenty of helpful information. Make a mental note when he says he likes or dislikes something.

Here are some examples of qualifying questions:
• How soon would you like to be in a new home?
• What do you like/dislike about your current home?
• Have you already spoken with a lender?
• What does your dream home look like?
• Have you looked at any homes yet?
• Are you looking for something bigger or smaller than what you have now?
• Why are you moving?
• Which features of a home are most important and which are unacceptable?

Eventually, you’ll learn how to weed out people who aren’t serious about buying. You can start by asking why the client is looking to make a purchase, says Allan Kleer of Fortune International Realty. “Are they just looking for a good deal? Are they buying because they need to move, need more space, are downsizing? These questions are important, especially in this market, because the speculative buyer is pretty much gone.”

You must learn about the client’s lifestyle, where/if he works and his financial situation. Start by showing a wide variety of styles, and then refine your focus based on your client’s reaction. A client often edits his interests after he starts viewing homes, so the questioning process should continue until he finds the home he wants.

3. Prepare the client
As a salesperson, you must set accurate expectations for your client. You are both the expert and the person who knows homes and the local market, so tell your clients what to expect. You have to explain the buying process and present a clear picture about what is realistic. Make sure he understands it is unrealistic to expect to find a perfect home, and prepare him to be flexible.

Give specific information about how long the search should take, and be sure he expects to sign a contract in fewer than two weeks. Explain how a condo board works and how assessments are determined. Tell him what a title company does, and give him a list of all the requisite paperwork needed by the lender. It is during this step that you inform the client about everything he needs to know to make a decision. This preparation will be different with each buyer. Many clients are nervous about the commitment of buying a home, so you need to reassure them about their purchases.

TIP: Many buyers do enough research on the Internet to feel educated but are usually missing parts of the puzzle. Ask them about the Web sites they visited to better gauge what they know. This will help you guide them at the appropriate level, as well as continue to build your credibility.

4. Know your product
Because there are thousands of homes from which to choose, the buyer really needs your help in the selection process. He relies on you for information about the neighborhood before you show him the home. Know the area’s tear-down rate and the name of the alderman in the city or board members in the suburbs.

Many homes in a neighborhood are similar, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Know specifics about the home you are showing as well as building procedures, codes and zoning. Buyers want to know when the home was built and what repair it needs.

Morton says agents should know “everything” about the homes they are selling, and more. “You must be informed about the local and adjoining marketplaces, and any regulatory issues that may effect the value of the property in the near future,” she says.

Chariff concurs. “Know the neighborhood and the market conditions and be very knowledgeable about past transactions,” he says. While an agent can rely on the property disclosure when it comes to issues with the home, knowing about the area around the home is just as important.

You need to be able to speak intelligently about HVAC, roofing, insulation and design trends. Many good agents can look at the style of architecture and know the floor plan without stepping inside, or can look at the bathroom floor and know when it was installed. Knowing about different mortgage options, insurance needs and closing funds is also important. You are the expert, and the client expects you to have the answers. Keep studying the industry, because the more you know and can convey when a topic arises, the more respect you’ll gain and the more comfortable your clients will feel about accepting you as an authority. If you act as an educator, your clients will feel good about the informed decision they have made.

TIP: If you want to sell pre-construction homes, you should learn to read blueprints. It’s not difficult to do, and using an architectural ruler in front of your client gives you instant credibility. Teach your clients basic blueprint reading, and you will have fewer problems during construction. Homebuyers are usually interested in the details of the home that are easily understandable after a short lesson. Explain that, unless the new home is custom built, they will not be able to keep a set of blueprints, but they can look at the window schedule to find out the location of the vents and outlets.

5. Demonstrate the home’s features
Demonstrating how to use the home is a way to foster a level of intimacy between the buyer and the home. Every feature in the home can be demonstrated using the feature-benefit system. Here is how it works: Name a feature and describe its benefit to the buyer. It is that simple. Tailor the benefit to what you already know about the buyer, and point out things that will elicit a positive response.

Example No. 1
“There are 24 cabinets and four drawers in this kitchen, so you can have plenty of space to keep those extra holiday dishes.”
Or
“There are 24 cabinets and four drawers in this kitchen so you can get rid of all those extra holiday dishes!”

Example No. 2
“There is a window in the kitchen, so you can watch the kids in the yard while you’re cooking.”
Or
“There is a window in the kitchen, so you’ll have lots of ventilation when you cook.”

Finding the appropriate features and benefits to suit your client will be easy if you have learned his traits and interests and have an open line of communication. Find at least one feature in each room (and more in kitchens and bathrooms) that you can demonstrate to generate a positive response. This seems simple, yet there are still many untrained agents who walk through homes and simply point out the obvious: “This is the kitchen. Here is the bathroom.” Using the feature-benefit system separates those who sell homes from those who show homes.

TIP: The best salespeople sell on QVC or other home shopping networks. Watch them, and you’ll see the feature-benefit system in action. These salespeople have to be able to speak for 30 minutes or more about a single item, and they have determined a benefit for even the most unimportant features of the product. Because a home has so many features to consider, you must mention the benefit to every feature you discuss.

6. Narrow the search and overcome objections
After your client sees several homes, ask him the following questions: “Which house is your favorite? Which one is in the lead? Which home can you see yourself living in?” Eliminate the other homes and proceed as though the top choice is the one to beat. Use a trail close: “Are you ready to put in an offer?” Sometimes, clients say “yes” long before you expect them to, so don’t hesitate to ask. But remember, buying a house is a huge investment and is often an emotional experience.

“Most property today is a significant part of somebody’s portfolio of assets and, therefore, they want to entrust that asset to someone that looks, acts and talks professionally,” says Kleer. Give your client the reassurance needed to make him feel comfortable about putting in an offer.

Overcoming objections is part of the strategy that is most misunderstood. Don’t be discouraged when your buyer has an objection; it gives you the opportunity to see what he is really thinking. And, because you have been listening and making note of your clients likes and dislikes, it will be easy for you to respond to an objection.

You must enquire about your client’s feelings to determine how to proceed. The No. 1 error in sales is guessing, but you won’t have to guess if you recognize two types of objections: real and not real. A real objection is a deal breaker that you cannot explain away or negotiate around.

Example No. 1
“I have three kids and a home office. Two bedrooms will not be enough.”

This is a real objection, so respect what the client says and move on to another home.

Example No. 2
“I was hoping for a larger master bedroom.”

This is not a real objection. The client might be thinking out loud, so don’t respond. If he repeats the objection, ask him to mentally arrange his furniture in the room to see if it will fit. Offer additional options if possible.

Most client’s objections are not real. Often, a buyer is rationalizing or negotiating with himself when he presents his objections. Your buyer is getting used to the idea that he won’t get exactly what he wished for.

7. Close the sale
To close a sale, you must receive a signed contract from your client. Assuming you’ve succeeded with the previous steps, the close should be immanent. Ask questions such as: “Do you have any final questions before we go back to the office to write this up? What other information do you need before we put in an offer?”

If you have done your job, your client should be ready to sign and commit. Make sure he has an attorney, lender and inspector ready to act immediately.

8. Follow up
Pleased with your services, your client should be happy to refer you to his friends. Send a move-in gift, and contact your client after he moves into the home to ask for feedback. Let the client know that you would appreciate referrals if he’s pleased with his experience with you. People are always willing to share a good Realtor with their families and friends.

“Referrals are the lifeblood of this business,” says Morton. “Can you imagine waking up every morning and starting your career all over again, every day? Without referrals, that is pretty much what you are doing: prospecting, prospecting, prospecting for new leads.

“Although we must all be alert for new prospects, it’s so much easier and pleasant to stay in touch with past clients and those folks who know and love us,” she says. Morton adds that joining civic and charitable organizations and networking groups are great for connecting to new clients.

Whether you’re a top producer or a rookie agent still learning the ropes, familiarizing yourself with these eight steps can mean the difference between failure and success when selling a home. Although most Realtors recognize the importance of a first impression, making sure you are prepared to accommodate all of a client’s needs, from explaining how to use the thermostat to getting an inspector, is just as crucial. Internalizing and incorporating these steps into your repertoire will prove you don’t have to be born with divine sales skills to be a successful Realtor.

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CONTACTS

Lyle Chariff
Broker and President, Chariff Realty Group
[email protected]

Allan Kleer
CRB, Fortune International Realty
[email protected]

Susan Morton
CRB, Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell
[email protected]

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