ROLAND NAIRNSEY - NEW HOME SALES PLUS BLOG
“How to Connect During Covid” – Five Winning Tips from New Home Sales Offices Across the USA
In early August, I presented a webinar hosted by the Tampa Bay Builders Association wherein one of the topics was how to connect with clients during this health crisis, especially through the barrier of a face mask.
Full disclosure, I have built my sales training career by only teaching principles and skills that I have successfully employed myself with clients in new home sales. This was the first time in approximately 30 years (I know, I’m so bloody old!) that I shared ideas that I haven’t actually practiced with clients in new home sales. Having said that, I live in Miami, Florida and we have had a face mask mandate since late March, so I am very used to going to stores and dealing with the complexities of communication through the barrier of a mask.
With this in mind, I have been surveying the sales people with which I work across the country, as well as the many sales managers and owners who belong to our New Home Sales Plus Management Mastermind Group. This research constitutes more than 20 homebuilders of all sizes with yearly sales in the many billions.
Here is what we have come up with, representing the best tips from those of you out there in the selling fields of new homes.
1. External Guidelines That Show You Care – Safety First
These are very trying times for all of us and it is always our goal to create the best possible client experience, ensure that our clients feel comfortable, and that we serve their needs. The companies who have leaned into this crisis and are showing that they are following CDC Guidelines and protecting the well-being of their clients on their websites, their ads, and on the doors to their welcome centers and design studios are enjoying steady sales traffic and significant sales success. These concepts include letting clients know that:
- They only allow one family at a time to our models.
- Clients must sign a formal disclosure, such as non-exposure to someone with Covid during the last 14 days, no temperature, or travel to a hot spot, etc.
- The models are thoroughly cleaned after each showing.
- Salespeople are wearing masks.
- Virtual showings are available, although very few potential buyers seem to be needing this remote opportunity anymore.
Interestingly, I have been traveling to clients across the country again over the last few weeks. While all airlines insist upon face masks, which is good, I learned that as of this writing, Delta is the only airline that I have flown on that is still practicing social distancing and keeping the center aisle clear. Without denigrating the other airlines, Delta showed me that they care about me and my wellbeing, so I have switched all of my travel to them. This may result in some inconvenience for me, but in my opinion, safety has to come first.
The ironic conclusion here is that those companies who are showing that they are “doing the right thing” and taking precautions for their clients’ health and safety are receiving steadier traffic and more sales than those companies who are treating these kind of safety measures as discretionary.
Idea of the Month
Shea Homes in Charlotte, NC, led by VP of Sales and Marketing Michele Scott, even have a QR code on the doors to their sales offices. Clients scan the code with their phone, then answer health related safety questions along with providing their contact info. This adherence to health and safety guidelines helps their clients feel safe and protected by Shea Homes and proves that this builder is attentive and cares about important details.
2. Empathy and Adapting in Person
As sales teachers, we teach adapting to clients’ personality types and also other “heuristics”, such as age, culture, and health needs. This moment in time is no different. We need to gauge the clients’ level of concern and adapt to mirror their needs. Following “The Golden Rule”, we always want to act with integrity, avoid exaggeration, and certainly avoid giving unnecessary opinions that can cause our clients to feel uncomfortable. This is not the time to share your own theories, but instead exercise sincere empathy for your clients’ concerns and fears. Let them know we are all in this together and adjust to their level of concern.
For example, I was in a restaurant in Miami with my family recently and the waitress took off her mask and wore it over her chin. It felt as though she was giving us a knowing sign that she was only wearing the mask grudgingly. My son and I were terrified as she was dealing with the general public and politely asked her to wear the mask over her mouth. Thankfully, she was kind and understood, and you could see the palpable relief amongst many other patrons as she fixed the mask back over her mouth and nose. I am pretty sure we won’t return to this restaurant though until after the health situation clears up because even though the waitress adapted for us, it seemed like taking health precautions was an after-thought and I have no interest in risking my life or that of others for a meal. I can finally say this in a blog, “Sorry, not sorry”.
3. Body Language
There are two famous studies relating to the importance of body language, voice, and tone versus words in terms of communication and how we are perceived by each other. Dr Mehrabian in the 1950’s and the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980’s both agree that words are only 7%, the other 93% are factored into body language, voice, and our tone in varying proportions.
Considering the barrier masks represent (since our words are clearly muffled), this revelation that body language, voice, and tone are more important in terms of how we are perceived is both timely and fortunate. With this in mind, we can now focus more on those other components of communication. Here are some of the best tips from all of you actively selling homes all across this great country.
- Help Clients Feel Comfortable
Specifically, make sure that your voice, tone, body language, and words are all aligned to create the perfect environment and style of communication.
- Smile With Your Eyes
I know this can be harder than it sounds. I have been trying this and when I look at pictures, my eyes still look old and saggy and sadly even slightly angry. However, it is still worth focusing on your eyes to make sure you have a friendly resting expression.
- Increase Hand Gestures
We need to become more animated with hand gestures and body language to ensure that clients are understanding us. Directing clearly when you want clients to follow you, pointing at certain exciting features, and holding up fingers with numbers where appropriate are all good ways to increase gestures. This delightful lady below could be saying:
- Repeat Important Concepts
“What was that, Roland?” I said, Repeat Important Concepts. Under the muffling effect of a mask, is it possible that your clients aren’t hearing everything you are sharing? Absolutely, especially concepts that are integral to them moving forward with an agreement, such as the model home name, homesite number, and investment. So take the time to repeat key concepts to make sure they are hearing what you are saying.
- Involve More to Confirm They Understand You
As a successful sales person and sales coach, I have always been a huge proponent of asking great questions to understand clients’ needs and then involving on a continual basis to confirm how they feel about what you shared. In some cases, we call this Close As You Go©. Now more than ever, we need to practice continuously involving your clients to ensure they are experiencing and understanding what you are sharing. Make sense?
- Write Important Items Down and Use Your Sales Props
“Show Don’t Tell”
Many years ago, I sold a home to clients who were deaf. They tried to read my lips and exaggerated hand gestures, but I could see they were really struggling especially because as a high I (Expressive/Tiger) Englishman, I speak so quickly! I suggested that we write down all of the important conversations. They were thrilled because this avoided any potential misunderstanding. I also enjoyed it because for the first time in my new home sales career, there was a precise paper trail with everything of importance we had covered.
These clients were so happy that they also bought in two other couples with the same disability who also bought homes from me, following the same idea of writing everything down. Let’s accept that masks are creating a temporary speech impediment and proactively ensure we write down salient details to avoid any potential for misunderstanding, as well as creating happy loyal customers.
In sales, we should be taking advantage of Sales Props that allow us to show clients what we are discussing so that they can fully experience the ideas. Don’t try to tell, when showing would be far more effective with sales props ranging from maps of your location and community, builder stories and process maps, and included features sheets with benefits to the physical sales tools of our model homes, homesites, and finishes.
Humor, as long as it is appropriate and always positive, can be a great ice breaker. Mike McCrary, who worked for me in his first new home sales job ever back in 2000 and is now a seasoned new home sales star in Orlando with DR Horton, shared this nugget with me. Due to the barrier of the mask, he could see that clients weren’t connecting with him as they used to, so he makes this statement very early on:
“Underneath this mask, I am smiling, I promise.”
Here are two pictures of me wearing a mask and, like Mike, you probably can’t tell that I was fervently smiling underneath the mask.
5. Practical Suggestions
Lastly, we have a few practical suggestions from the selling fields of new home sales across the country. These are working for the salespeople in the photos, but I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, so please check with your managers first to make sure these ideas follow your guidelines, fit your culture, and are approved by them.
- Transparent Face Shields
At least three companies with which we work have salespeople that wear the transparent face shields. Clearly, there is much better communication and connection, as the clients can see the salesperson’s whole face. Having said that, I am not sure if this would constitute a safe replacement for the mouth and nose masks, so please do your own research and make sure you have approval within your company. I have done research and you can buy these easily and affordably online.
Here is a picture of Elizabeth Hundley with Hughston Homes in their Knoxville division, showcasing her face shield on Facebook.
- Plexiglass Shield on Your Desk
Meet Lizz Owen, who has been successfully selling new homes for 17 years and is now with DR Horton in Odessa, Florida. Lizz explained that one of their trade partners made this wonderful plexiglass shield.
It looks elegant and, of course, massively increases the opportunity for communication and connection.
I have been preaching for years:
“Never Negotiate on Your Feet, Always Close at Your Seat”
We teach the concept that, after having walked through a model home and then narrowed down to a one of a kind location, you always want to come back to your desk and sit the clients down for a friendly but formal recap. Since “Connection is Built on Trust”, I have advocated placing pictures of your loved ones around the space where you recap.
Check out how wonderful Lizz’s office space is. You can learn so much about her by what she has placed around her. I learned at least seven insights about Lizz from this picture above.
Let’s have a friendly competition. Please email me at Roland@newhomesalesplus.com with what you have learned about Lizz from the photo above. Whoever can share the most insights will win a legendary BIG BUTT pen for every item you share. For example, ten items would be ten pens. I hope that makes sense. Good luck!
I genuinely hope these tips have been helpful and that you will be able to work on connecting with your clients, in spite of the challenges to communication and barrier to connection face masks present. I’d love to hear your experiences as well. Please feel free to send them to us!
New Home Sales Plus