There are a remarkable number of homebuilding companies that are not actively training their new home sales teams. That may not be surprising given the market that we’ve experienced for the past two years. Many builders and company leaders may not see the need to spend the resources on sales training when they’re consistently exceeding every sales forecast that’s been set.
What is surprising is that many homebuilding companies did not have a comprehensive sales training or coaching program in place before the latest boom created this white-hot seller’s market. Many sales leaders have lamented recently that their salespeople have become “order takers” because they have not had to engage buyers with sales skills in order to get their limited inventory under contract, even with record-high sales prices, and with little-to-no incentives or negotiating involved.
However, the unrelenting surges in inflation and the expected continuation of interest rate hikes aimed at stopping it, have some analysts believing there will be significant shifts in the real estate market this year. Affordability is now a bigger issue than ever and is driving many prospective buyers out of the market, altogether.
For the past two years, many homebuilders have been fast-tracking their land acquisitions, new developments, and construction of inventory homes in order to keep up with the unprecedented demand. Unfortunately, challenges in the supply chain, labor shortages, and continued difficulties related to the pandemic have caused many of these projects to be repeatedly delayed.
As these new homes and communities come online, some in leadership are already asking several important questions:
1- Will there be enough qualified buyers in the market who are ready, willing, and able to purchase to maintain a profitable pace?
2- Will those who are already under contract be able to close, even with a significantly higher mortgage payment?
3- What happens to my forecast when the pendulum swings back and we find ourselves in a buyer’s market?
4- Will my sales teams automatically adjust and respond to a new group of buyers who are likely to present numerous objections and demands for deep price concessions?
5- Is it enough to hope my salespeople remember the disciplines needed to sell?
6- Will they understand the urgency to sharpen their skills of negotiation?
7- Will they sense the changes in the market and begin to generate leads on their own?
8- Will they all instinctively realize their conversion rates are changing and work to make the most of every prospect?
9- Will they be disciplined to set appointments and follow up to close the difficult sales?
10- Is my sales team prepared for changes in the market?
The answer to that last question is easy. Unless you already have someone actively training and coaching your sales teams, the candid answer is most likely, “No. No, your sales team is not ready for changes in the market”.
Some new home leaders may not respond to these changes until they’re forced to do so by missed sales projections and reductions in margins and in market share. However, there are many professionals in new home leadership that realize the changes that have already taken place in the market. For them, it’s not about what may happen. It’s about what is happening.
On top of the changes in the market, we have to be mindful of the changes in today’s buyers. The changes in our buyers’ behavior haven’t happened as suddenly as the changes in the market, but the two could be compounded to create greater challenges if we we’re not prepared.
A recent study by The National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that in 2021, only two percent (2%) of homebuyers contacted a builder or visited a builder’s model home as their first step in the homebuying process. A whopping seventy-one percent (71%) of homebuyers either looked online for properties or information, or they contacted a real estate agent first. That means homebuyers today are far more educated when they reach out or visit the model home, than they’ve ever been before.
As you prepare to train and coach your sales team, consider implementing a new sales process that is adaptive to today’s buyer. If you want the highest efficiency from your sales process, it’s not enough to just reinstate training and coaching using a sales process that is several years old, or older. When most of the critical-path sales processes were created, the internet wasn’t a factor. In fact, the internet hadn’t even been invented when some of our new home sales processes were written. Back then, most home buyers started their homebuying journey at the builder’s model home with the builder’s salesperson.
These sales processes worked for many years because they enabled our salespeople to present information while they in return, discovered information from the buyer. It was a win-win. Today, many buyers are guarded and don’t want to answer a lot of questions before they get to see what they’ve come in to see. Naturally, we want to discover as much as possible about every prospective buyer who visits, and we should. We just have to remember that today’s buyer has a lot of information and doesn’t have to engage with us in order to tour the model home or their favorite homesite.
Homebuilders no longer have the advantage that we once had. Gone are the days of fence traps at the model home door and holding on to pricing until the end of the tour. Today’s buyer has the advantage, and our salespeople deserve to have sales techniques and tools that were created for them. The old, critical-path sales process does not equip our salespeople for the highest levels of success today.
An adaptive sales process will equip your salespeople to respond to your prospective buyers based on where that buyer is in their buying journey. Your prospective buyers will appreciate the level of service provided by your sales professionals and will brag to their family members and friends about their incredible customer experience.
To be clear, every sales team should have a sales process. The salesperson should be expected to work through their sales process with every prospective buyer in order to discover the buyer’s needs and objections and to present solutions. The salesperson should ask for the sale every time and influence the customer to make a buying decision, and when they don’t, the salesperson should continue the process for follow up.
The adaptive sales process doesn’t eliminate the salesperson’s responsibility to make the sale. If anything, it enables them to do it at a higher rate.
There are many aspects of the new home industry that are out of our control. The preparedness and effectiveness of our sales teams is not one of them. We can be ready for what’s ahead. That’s why sales training and coaching was invented in the first place, for times just like these.