Head-to-Head: FUTURE VISION with Meredith Oliver

Head-to-Head: FUTURE VISION with Meredith Oliver

(If you would like to read the discussion between Kimberly and Meredith, the video transcription is at the bottom of the page.)

You know you are in for a great time and a lot of FANtasitc information when Meredith Oliver stops in to help us prepare for 2022. We discuss everything from what event planning in 2022 looks like, what sales skills we need to “de-rustify” or in some cases, teach for the first time, iBuyer programs, and even what advertising and social media trends we should watch. If you are working on your 2022 plans now, this is the one for you!

Head-to-Head is not a webinar or a podcast. It is a conversation and you are invited to join us LIVE to participate. To learn more or to view other Head-to-Head recordings go to https:NewHomesSolutions.com/head-to-head.

Make plans to join us on December 7th–when Angela McKay will join Kimberly to discuss how to fit everything into an ever increasing schedule and still have time for a life. We all need this one!

Register Here


The 5 topics to ramp up for 2022 that were discussed:

(These topics are numbered and bolded in red throughout the transcription.)

  1. Plan events
  2. ibuyer business model
  3. New home sales specialists who were hired in 2020 or ‘21
  4. Setting appointments with buyers
  5. Maximizing your ROI with marketing channels

If you would like to skip the introductory conversation, scroll to the sentence in blue.

Video transcription:

Kimberly: Meredith and I go back a few minutes. When I was working for a builder when I first got into this industry, I started getting my formal education with my CSP – my Certified Sales Professional – all the IRM courses. Meredith was in Orlando, I was in Tampa, and a lot of those we crossed over a lot. We ended up probably taking about half of those classes together. We became friends. We’ve been buddies ever since. We did the downturn together. How would we ever have gotten through? I don’t know. We were leaning on each other for support through the downturn because our world and our rug just got pulled right out from under us for those of you who were around for that fun. Let’s hope we never have to go through that again. Through the association work that we do too. Meredith’s very active at the National Association of Homebuilders. She’s a champion for the National Sales and Marketing Council, and I’m the chair of the National Sales and Marketing Council this year, so we just keep trucking on and it’s wonderful. I almost just didn’t say this. This is not right. I almost didn’t say Professional Women in Building. As professional women in building, I have to tell you guys if you’re not involved in that organization, get involved. Even if they don’t have a local one, you can join at large because true women champion for other women and support other women in this industry. This isn’t just something that they say. I’ve never had so much support as being involved in Professional Women in Building so I strongly encourage you to get involved with that organization as well. You can go to nahb.org. I’ll put it up on the graphic in the video too. Meredith, thank you for being here today. I’m going to quickly do my little intro and then I’m going to turn it over to you for your fantastic introduction. I am Kimberly Mackey. For those of you who may not know, I am the founder of New Homes Solutions. I like to say that I’m the person that they call in when they want sales to be the engine to drive the train rather than running it off the tracks. I was just sharing with Meredith that lately, I’ve been doing a lot of management consulting and workflow consulting so that your buyers have a better experience. This is not just pre-sale or through the sales process. I take it through the build process and into warranty. I’m fortunate to work with a lot of companies to be doing this. I’m working with four right now. We map out that customer experience and good for them because they know this market is not going to last forever. It is changing, so if I can help you with that, give me a call. My website is newhomesolutions.com. For anyone who has been hiding under a rock for the past couple of decades, Meredith, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Meredith: I’m the founder and president of Meredith Communications and we do digital marketing for home builders. Everything from website design and development to social media management, to SEO Google Ads. If it’s digital, we do it. I’m also the host of a monthly Zoom event called Builder Town Hall that happens on the first Tuesday of each month at four o’clock. It’s a lot like your event here where it’s very conversational. What’s happening out there? What are we freaking out about? What should we be freaking out about? It’s a type of conversation.

Kimberly: It’s really good and she has a good panel every month, so you get a lot of different perspectives. I enjoy it. I try to attend when I can.

Meredith: You’ve been very supportive and it’s gratifying to see when the chair of the National Sales and Marketing council who has three million Zoom meetings on top of all her other work takes a second to pop in. We always see it and we always appreciate it.

Kimberly: You guys are great. The collaboration is reciprocal we’ve all been doing. It truly has been for the betterment of our industry, and I can see the difference. It’s also a lot of fun because I get to hang out with my friends that I normally would only see at these events that we go to together. It has made a big difference. I can tell.

Meredith: I think, in the beginning, we had to create an excuse to see each other and interact with each other because it felt so isolating at first, but we’ve ended up doing quite a lot of collaborating and I 100 percent agree the industry’s better for it. It’ll be quite the reunion at the builder’s show.

Kimberly: Without a doubt, yes. I hope you’re all planning to attend. It’s in Orlando this year. February 8th through the 10th. Buildershow.com. Check it out. Meredith will be speaking. Carrie’s going to speak. There are a whole bunch of people who are on here who are going to be speaking. Really good stuff. Our own Angela McKay who’s on here is going to join me on December 7th which is next month. Angela’s going to be busy that day because she’s on the Town Hall at four o’clock and she’s at noon with me. You can’t get sick of Angela McKay. There’s not enough Angela McKay to go around, so trust me, you will want to be on there. Angela is a marketing genius. That’s the title I’ve given you, Angela. I don’t know if you’re okay with that, but I gave you that title. She’s with O’Neill Interactive, but you may know her because she’s so famous from Lasso and CRM. Just ways to do so many different things, get it all done and remain one of the most Zen human beings I’ve ever met. If you need to have that exhaling moment, Angela is your person. If you’re struggling to get it all done like I am, then it is Angela day. Every day should be Angela day. Normally I don’t cross over and do the promotions for these two different brands of things that that I’m on, but I’m so excited about this conversation that I will be having on Friday with my friend and colleague, Carol Morgan, from Denim Marketing. We have Carrie White who is the sales manager from Parent Homes and Theresa Palacios Smith from Berkshire Hathaway franchises. They’re both going to be talking about diversity, equity, inclusion, and how much our industry can benefit from doing more of this and how to do it. It’s going to be phenomenal. Please register for this. It’s at noon this coming Friday. With that, Meredith, I’m going to put away the slides because this is not a webinar. It’s a conversation. Future vision. 2022 is rapidly approaching and we’re all hoping things are going to be different. I think we’re hoping things are going to be different but in a good way.

Meredith: I think different how is the question because it’s probably not going to see seismic shifts. We’re still in this pandemic. We’ve still got certain underlying factors happening, but different how? I think we’ve got some good thoughts on that to share.

Kimberly: We want to hear from you too. Ask your questions, chime in, and share your best practices here. We love to hear from you, so don’t be shy. I see some of you on here that are not shy. Trisha and Emmy, I see you on here so chime in. There’s Justin coming in from Wyoming, so let’s hear it. We want to hear from you as we go through this. Meredith that necklace is getting some attention. It matches your background.

Meredith: I don’t know how that happens. I’m nerdy like that.

Kimberly: Meredith is the queen of accessories for sure. Let’s start. I know from working with several of my clients, they’re starting to (1) plan events. Emmy, I know you’ve got a bunch coming up, so let’s talk about do’s and don’ts and what we expect those events to look like, and some options that people need to take.

Meredith: One of the things that are different about you and me versus somebody that works for a builder in a market, is we see markets all over the country. We work with different clients in different markets, and I bring that up because in terms of the pandemic, let’s say you’re in a market in Florida which is a state that’s been relatively open.

Kimberly: We’re wide open. People are dying in the streets.

Meredith: I’m trying to remain politically correct, but if a state like Florida has handled the pandemic one way – Florida or Texas – whereas where I am in North Carolina, it’s been quite a different experience. We still have a statewide mask mandate. We still have a lot of restrictions that other states might not have, so with this point for ‘22 I feel like it’s safe to say in almost all the markets, even here in North Carolina for example, events are back. If you’re sitting there in Florida or Texas, you might be thinking, “Duh, we have been having them.” For some of us that have not been the case. Our home builders association, just in the last 30 days, has held its first in-person event since the initial shutdown. Know that Kimberly and I are addressing all of you and we don’t know what markets you’re in, so I think for ’22 getting some events back on your calendar because what we’ve seen is people show up. Even in the middle of the Delta variant when we were first starting to hold events here for the Raleigh-Wake HBA. We had 500 people at the Parade of Homes banquet. They were masked because we still have a mask mandate, but it was huge.

Kimberly: Atlanta just had their big awards, yet nobody was masked. One of our colleagues held a thing as the Delta variant was spiking, and he held it in Texas. I was shocked to see all these people there with no masks on. I think everybody has a different comfort level, and vaccines are readily available for those who want to take them.

Meredith: Depending on what market you’re in, and what the current protocols are, I believe people want to be out. They will show up for events and their tolerance level for going to an in-person event is higher than the level of restrictions you might still currently have in place. I think it’s time to get some events back on the calendar for next year and feel comfortable with it. The question is how do you plan something that somebody wants to show up for?

Kimberly: I think people have a different level of expectation. The same old, same old is not going to cut it and you do have to take some precautions. You do have to take some precautions. I’m doing training next week for all of my Berkshire Hathaway peeps and we still can’t do that in person even though we’re in Florida. The builders don’t want to take the risk of putting 30 to 50 real estate agents all together in a room and hosting it, so we’re still virtual, and we still have virtual hosts. I hope that changes by next year because I would like to get out from behind my computer for that. You do still need to be aware that even your comfort level might not be everybody else’s.

Meredith: One hundred percent. I know that a couple of the national builders, at least for the Raleigh market, are still not allowing their folks to attend in-person events. There are some corporate mandates out there, but it’s much fewer than I anticipated at this point. Whether you’re in marketing or sales, I think it’s safe for you to get some events on your calendar. For me, what we see works best – I mean education is always huge. People crave and want education. REALTORS® always need CEs, so education events are great. Any kind of value-added event. What I mean by that is if I’m a REALTOR® and I can potentially win a prize, but also do it in a way where I tour your community so I’m up to date on what you’re offering, you combine that. That’s a good use of my time.

Kimberly: I think quality over quantity. If you are having a muddy boots tour, which I highly recommend you do to educate REALTORS®, you limit it. When things are limited, people feel an urgency about them. Amazingly, you get a higher caliber. You don’t just get that person who’s maybe coming out for their lunch. I’ve often asked, “Are you running an all-you-can-eat buffet, or are you in the home-building business? Are you trying to sell homes?” We don’t necessarily need to feed all the REALTORS® who couldn’t afford to get lunch on their own. We do want to encourage those REALTORS® to get excited about our products, so doing something like a very limited muddy boots tour. We have a builder here whose events I love. We have these lagoon communities in Florida which are very interesting because they’re freshwater lagoons. They’re crystal clear. I keep saying it’s all fun and games until somebody gets eaten by an alligator.

Meredith: I was about to ask if an alligator comes with each lagoon. I’m from Florida and living in North Carolina now, but I consider myself a Floridian and that’s home. and that lagoon’s going to have an alligator in it.

Kimberly: It’s going to have an alligator in it. You would be able to see the alligator because it is crystal clear. They are beautiful. They’ll have a week-long event where you can make an appointment as a REALTOR® and come by and get your headshot done.

Meredith: Nice. That’s a great value-add.

Kimberly: It’s a wonderful value-add, and it’s a beautiful backdrop and setting. I’ve seen some of these photos and it’s just incredible. I think that’s a great idea that they’re doing that. I think you have to think a little bit out of the box.

Meredith: The last tip I would give on getting some events back on your calendar for next year is to remember that our home buyers got used to and were able to take advantage of the remote entry like the NterNow or the YouTour products. That whole idea of coming on your timetable and seeing it at your convenience. If you do happen to do a REALTOR® event, consider the open-ended kind, and then they can come at their convenience. They get some kind of stamp or something to show that they were there to get entered for the big prize. At your convenience was a big thing that we found and learned with Covid. We could have our alcohol delivered to our house. Oh, I meant our groceries. We can have our groceries delivered to us yes but

Kimberly: They’re one and the same, right?

Meredith: We got used to these conveniences, and you apply them to your home buyers but don’t forget to apply those to your REALTOR® partners too.

Kimberly: People are busy, and they are pulled in a lot of directions today. The industry’s booming, so I think you must keep that in mind because not everybody is going to want to come between 12 and 2.

Meredith: If it’s spread out a little bit more, it’s safer because you’re not around so many people. Your sales agent can have more one-on-one conversations. There are a lot of benefits to designing something like that. I think just the design of the event must have value, convenience, and a little bit of novelty in mind. If you do that, get ready. People are showing up in force.

Kimberly: It’s not just wine and cheese. If you’re thinking about doing a wine and cheese, think of having a chef come in and teach people how to cook. People are looking for experiences.

Meredith: That’s exactly right.

Kimberly: They can go to the grocery store and get the free cheese samples, so they don’t need that. For sales teams, one-on-ones. We have this mindset of needing 50 REALTORS® for it to be considered a success. No. The more valuable ones are those one-on-ones, so invite a REALTOR® for coffee. Invite a REALTOR® to lunch. Get to know them and talk to them about what’s going on in their world. How’s their business? How can you partner together and grow both businesses? You don’t need thousands of REALTORS®. You don’t want thousands of REALTORS®, trust me. I’ve always said if you want 50 sales a year, 25 REALTORS® that are going to bring you two deals a year. That’s 50 sales right there. Stop e-blasting REALTORS®. Please stop the madness. All they do is hit delete and get annoyed and think, “Oh, there’s ABC builder again!” They don’t they don’t even associate with you in a good way, so just stop the madness on that one. We were just talking about the International Builder Show that’s going to be back in person. Last year it was virtual. It was an interesting experience for everybody. Hot off the presses, I just heard that almost 1,200 entries for the Nationals this year. People are entering. They’re planning on winning. They’re planning on getting dressed up, so people are open to the awards show. They’re attending them. So keep all of that in mind and get out of your box with what you’re doing. One of my builders is sponsoring a run. It’s like a 5k and then there’s a half marathon. You go across bridges, but the last mile of the run is going to be their mile. They’ve got all these fun little things planned for the last mile. That’s when all the local coverage will be. Look at your community too. What’s happening in your community? Test the waters and gauge the temperature there. We can have some community goodwill and still have events or be part of them.

Meredith: That was our topic last week in Town Hall. How do you do good in the community? It’d be good for your business. Events for charitable organizations or local types of organizations were a big thing that builders mentioned as a way to do it.

Kimberly: Home buyers’ seminars. I’m seeing a lot of builders go back to doing home buyers’ seminars where they have their lender. “Here’s our process. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about building.” For my scatter site builders particularly, those types of things work well because you get people earlier in the funnel. When you’re a scatter site builder, meaning you’re not building in communities, or you don’t necessarily have your land, then that buyer tends to identify themselves to you much further down the funnel. When they come in earlier in the funnel by doing these home buyers’ seminars, you can nurture them, educate them, and bring them along. There’s a great deal of gratitude because it is a little more complicated when you must go out and buy the land and you have to have your perk test. Can you figure out what will fit on this home site? All right let’s take a shift here. If anybody has any fun events coming up, please share them in the comments here. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room for any of our REALTORS® who happen to be on, and that’s the whole (2) ibuyer thing. I saw an email this morning from one of the brokers that I work with, and it read in case you haven’t seen, Zillow is getting out of the ibuyer program. Maybe they shouldn’t have been in it, to begin with.

Meredith: They, in spectacular fashion, are getting out.

Kimberly: Four hundred million lost in just this quarter alone.

Meredith: It’s one thing to pause a particular division of your company, it’s another thing to lose 500 million dollars while you do it. After spending three years promoting and pushing that this is going to be our whole future and that this is everything. To alleviate if there’s any confusion out there, companies like the Zillow Offer program, Offerpad, and Opendoor. I’m sure there’s more. We lump them into a category called ibuyer. When Kimberly’s saying ibuyer, I think we all know that, but just in case, I want to clarify. I’ve seen so many Facebook posts about ibuyers being done, ibuyers were stupid, to begin with, ibuyers are this and that as a blanket statement. That’s why I thought for our future vision for 2022 I wanted to address this because I think Zillow’s situation was unique. I don’t expect to see a collapse of the ibuyer business model. I think there are some other companies out there doing it very well and they’re smart about it, so I thought let’s put this one on the list. Let’s not jump to the conclusion that this is done, and the reason I say that is because it meets a customer pain point. There is a certain percentage of customers who need to sell a home. Who for whatever reason can’t or don’t want to do showings. They’re willing to take a little less for it, perhaps, not in every case, but they like the technology aspect of doing it this way. For a lot of our new construction buyers, it’s such an amazing program. I’m going to go buy a home with Lennar. It’ll be done by mid-January. I’ll sell my existing house now through Opendoor, but I get to still live here until mid-January. I know my home is sold and I know for how much, so it alleviates a pain point. Just caution for ’22, don’t jump on the bandwagon of just assuming these are all going down in flames.

Kimberly: I have an Offerpad brochure here because I met with Mike from there. They are paying REALTORS®, so for my REALTOR® friends who got upset when this whole ibuyer thing came along and said, “You’re taking business away from us”, I’m not sure that was business you had to begin with. Now there’s a way you can benefit from it. That was Offerpad’s program. I think Opendoor has something similar and they’re paying three percent as long as the home wasn’t already listed. If it’s in the MLS, then they’re not touching that, but if you have a buyer who’s looking at new construction and they need to time that. I moved twice last year in 2020. It was awful. It is not fun to move and to have to move twice, especially right now, when you can’t find a short-term rental. Airbnb and VRBO – just try to book a site. I was trying to book something for the International Builder Show. I checked out all the sites and nothing was found. It’s tough on people. There has always been that element of convenience and people are willing to pay for convenience.

Meredith: It’s like what you were talking about at the beginning about what you do as a management consultant and what your company does is this idea of creating this experience that people feel good about. Anytime opportunity meets easy-to-use technology, and then divide it by – if we’re making a formula here – a particular pain point, it equals success. That’s just how the world has worked. That’s how Uber came to be, and Instacart, and all the various technology that we all use now. That was technology, plus opportunity, plus a pain point. That’s all it is.  I just thought we’d put it on our list for ’22. We might be very surprised. Something changed with the other ones, but it feels like from what investigative reading I’ve done, and you were talking in pre-show, you’ve done, that this Zillow issue was very specific to them.

Kimberly: Their Zestimate and their algorithm. They bought their own Kool-Aid or drank their own Kool-Aid.

Meredith: It’s a head-scratcher for sure because Zestimates have been the mocking point of the industry. We’ve all been laughing at them for years, so I don’t know how they didn’t know that, but that happened. The buyers didn’t know it, and it was always kind of a pain point for REALTORS® to tell clients, “The Zestimate is wrong.” I’ve had to have that conversation with people even within my own family. “My Zestimate says this”, and I’m like, “Oh my god. I really cannot believe that.

Meredith: Those are a joke. Apparently, they did not know that at corporate. I think if the ibuyer is smart about what they’re buying, how much they buy it for, how fast they can turn it, and what they sell them for, I feel like it’s probably here to stay.

Kimberly: It is. it’s not going to be the solution for everybody. There are those buyers who need their hands held through the process, so, if you think as a builder, “Oh well, if I offer this and I don’t have to do it.” No, you’re still going to have REALTORS®, and you should, but educate those REALTORS®, create VIPs, and build relationships with them. It’s fantastic how it works. It’s amazing that you have this outside sales force and you have somebody you can call when you need the buyer picked up at the airport or somebody has to help them with the kids. All the things that REALTORS® do that aren’t their job are pretty darn incredible. Not that I encourage them to do that, but with REALTORS® it’s a personal service. They’re there to handhold a buyer and no computer is ever going to hold your hand through the process. Your REALTOR® will do that, so I think we do need to pay attention to some technology trends too. We like to think that we’re just going to force buyers back into the way it always was, and our buyers told us loud and clear, “No, we want to shop when we want to shop. We want information on your website.” If you are one of those builders not putting your pricing on the website because it’s changing too much, get over it and get somebody to do some data entry because buyers need to know what the price of the home is. They may be shocked to find out that it’s too high for them or too low. “Oh, I can buy more.” They need to know before they even identify themselves to you and they’re just going to go to your competitor who has it on the website. We’ve said this for years. Buyers told us loud and clear to make the process easier. Renderings. Having good virtual interactive artificial intelligence. Renderings where the buyer can play around with options and help them to visualize things. How important do you think that is now?

Meredith: Incredibly important. Technology marches on while the rest of us sit around and watch Netflix. It progresses and gets better and better, so those of you that might have renderings on your site now that was cutting edge two years ago and three years ago, it’s time to revisit because our vendor partners that do those are coming up with advances to those all the time. If you’re going to make that investment, you want the latest and greatest. I know one that can do pricing in the interactive floor plan, so it’s not just even a base price that we’re begging you to give people on the website. It’s allowing them to see how much the fireplace addition is, and how much for a third bedroom. As you play with the interactive floor plan, it’s pricing out some things for you which is another level of transparency we haven’t had.

Kimberly: You don’t have to price out every option right now. A buyer can say, “I could have this home with this elevation on this home site.”

Meredith: It’s some basic pricing so it’s not such a mystery. What these structural options’ cost price range is ish. I think it’s a great advancement and that’s just one off the top of my head. There are a lot more.

Kimberly: There’s so much. Media Lab tweeted this week about pears. I got the alert on my phone, and I wondered why Media Lab was tweeting about pears. So there was this beautiful rendering and it shows the black and white version of it, and then it shows the color version and it was like you wanted to reach into that photo and grab a pear and eat it since it looked so real.

Meredith: So cool.

Kimberly: So cool. It’s pretty incredible. They’re not the only ones, but I just happened to see that tweet this week, so look at technology. I think you must invest. You’ve invested in your model homes for years. That money can be redirected to your technology. You need fewer model homes to still do the same amount of business. So, while I still believe in model homes because people do want to touch things, we’ve got to get them excited about it so they’re willing to make the trek to come in because right now. We’ve always said people eliminate you on the web. They don’t necessarily buy from you on the web. We’re seeing more than just military buyers may buy from you on the web, s you’ve got to have it there or you’re going to be left behind. We had a nice little reminder here about rental communities. That’s huge right now that we’re expecting it to be about 10 to 20 percent of the new home production. I mean that’s huge. We’re not talking ibuyers like three percent. We’re 10 to 20 percent. You could be competing with these rental communities, so even if that’s not your market and your company isn’t doing that, I think you need to pay attention to what’s going on out there.

Meredith: A lot of the Zillow properties that they’re looking to unload, rental leasing companies are looking at picking those up in bulk, so pay attention to your local market and to what’s going to happen to those. Are they going back out to be priced uber competitively against you, or are they going into a leasing program? Pay attention.

Kimberly: A lot of people have checked out because they think this buying process is just too ridiculous so they’re signing one-year leases. You can still nurture people. “Oh well, they didn’t buy from me. They signed a lease.” Then they ignore them. Those people in your CRM may be rated a C, but you’re still reaching out, you’re still touching base with them, and you’re helping them through the process.

Meredith: Our third future vision for 2022 we had was thinking about the (3) new home sales specialists who were hired in 2020 or ‘21. This frenzy of buying and them trying to take it away from you. “No, you can’t have it!” This order-taking may come to a shift in ’22.

Kimberly: I would argue it already has, and one of our clients here in Raleigh mentioned to me last week that the very heavy migration patterns of large volumes of folks coming out of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania has slowed. I would say for the home buyers that are parents, and that’s certainly not everybody, but for those folks once school starts, we’re kind of locked in. We’re going to stay put mostly. I think the start of school slowed some of the heavy migration patterns. Now my Dallas builder, they’re still getting plenty of people out of California.

Kimberly: They’re leaving California for whole different reasons. It’s like the Illinois buyer is leaving Illinois for a whole different set of reasons.

Meredith: It’s true, and Dallas is a major relocation hub for corporate relocation, technology, etc. So just know your market. For a normal market like Raleigh, North Carolina, it seems to have slowed down. That’s a chunk of buyers that were doing all this frenzy buying before. To your point, it has begun to shift already, and I would like our sales leaders to be aware. Think through your roster. Who did you hire in ‘20 and ‘21 that really knows no other way and needs some coaching and training right now?

Kimberly: Without a doubt. I’ve been working with this very experienced team in northern Virginia. Northern Virginia is always a hot market, but things have changed for them. They’re very experienced. They’ve been through the ups and the downs, but this one lasted long enough that we got rusty. There are certain things we’re doing such as blocking and tackling. Not literally. We’re not tackling buyers. Where do you stand? When you’re back in the model and you’ve got buyers coming in, I’m hearing phrases like, “There are all these lookie-loos.” I reply to that, “Remember back in 2019 and the first part of 2020 when you had people who just came in the model? They weren’t all lookie-loos. They were looking for something and we just have to slow them down a little bit and get real with them.”

Meredith: Be cognizant that as a leader in your organization you probably need to spend some time, money, and effort certainly with anybody if they haven’t been on before 2020. Then their view of new home sales is just something that none of us had ever seen before. It was revolutionary, so there may be some adjusting. Learning to ask questions again. Learning to get conversations going again. What people have been stating is, “I want to buy this one, and I want to buy it here, and I want it like this.” It was just such a direct conversation.

Kimberly: “Are you qualified? I’m not going to schedule an appointment with you until you send me your pre-qualification.” That’s not normal.

Meredith: Normally when they come in, you have to make the conversation happen. Just that skill alone is one to remember.

Kimberly: You have to build a relationship. I tell people I have discovery questions as a free download on my website, so take advantage of it. If you’re asking people about how many bedrooms, how many square feet, how many bathrooms they want, and what their price point is, then you’re not asking the right questions. We need to understand their why. We need to understand the how. And who. We don’t even bother to find out who’s going to be living in the home maybe full-time or part-time. How do people visit you? We have got to get back to those questions. I’ve had some seasoned and some new people say, “I don’t know if I can ask those questions.” Well, if you don’t, you’re left behind because people buy from people they know, like, trust, and remember

Meredith: Also think about putting on your training agenda those migration patterns that drove so many of our sales. A lot of those were from much more expensive markets to less expensive markets, so you know your prices were up on average about 20 percent. The price wasn’t that much of an issue because if I’m coming from California with a million-dollar home it would be a very average price home there. Sixteen hundred square feet for a million dollars.

Kimberly: They can get 3,000 square feet.

Meredith: You’re going to get a lot of home and probably bank some monies too if you’re smart while you’re at it. Price and budget are not something you’ve had to address or overcome for nearly two years. Objections. That’s not something you’ve dealt with heavily. Again, they were trying to close you so that you could sell them something and you’re like “No, you can’t have it. We can’t finish it.” Another thing we have not dealt with, and this is pre-Covid – this goes back several years – inflation. Inflation as a topic. Inflation as an objection. A lot of your people, even the pre-Covid hires, haven’t dealt with inflation, so I would say to make a list.

Kimberly: That affects your buying powers, so I just want to connect the dots of where you’re going.

Meredith: Thank you. I would just say if you’re a sales leader, make a list. Put a T on your legal pad of what’s been unique to selling in the Covid economy, and as we hopefully, pray to God, transition out of that, what holes – what are the vacuums in your team’s knowledge, skill, and attitudes that needs to be plugged before you get six months into ’22? You don’t have as many sales as you thought you would, you’re behind the eight ball, and now you’re calling one of us to help you fix it, which we’ll be glad to do, but you’re behind the eight ball at that point.

Kimberly: It’s not just the inflation and the gas, it’s interest rates too. Looking at the convenience factor of maybe being in one of your communities versus where they’re living now, you have to factor in energy calculations. There have been many times when people have said, “I can’t afford to be in this community” or “I can’t afford this option,” and I look at them and I can do a cash flow analysis and reply, “You’re going to be in the positive here. Do you understand that $500 utility bill that you’re used to in August; you’re not going to have that now. Now it’s going to be like $150, so let’s talk about that extra $350 now.”

Meredith: Because we need that for gas and groceries. Those things have all gone up. At some point, and this is where we’re saying start training to it now and get ready to practice role-playing, and doing all the good things. Yes, we are underbuilt for the amount of demand for new homes, so we should continue to see strong demand through ’22. On the other side of the scale is the fact that people are up several hundred dollars a month in household expenses and inflation is rising. Then there are issues of jobs and so forth over the mandate. Is unemployment going to go up? Is our household buying power not going to be as strong? We don’t know. We can’t project either way but be prepared and train to conquer objections.

Kimberly: The economists were proven wrong. I mean they’re the ones that are supposed to know this stuff and they thought the inflation was going to be a little temporary blip. The supply chain right now is broken so it’s going to take a while to dig ourselves out of that. Of course, the holidays won’t help. I think we should mention our OSCs. Our online sales counselors. Refocus with them. They also need to have some of the objection handling skills for some of this basic stuff.

Meredith: What I see in the training coaching I’m doing is they have not had to ask for an appointment in over a year.

Kimberly: People are begging them for an appointment.

Meredith: Getting back to (4) asking for set appointments, not just, the “I’ll have somebody call you” type thing. We must get back on that. A lot of them let their follow-up processes drop for what I call their ghost leads. They’re leads that started out communicating, but then they’ve ghosted, and now they’re gone. It’s like, “I’m trying to get you back into the fold of communicating with me.” A lot of those follow-up processes, we stopped them, frankly because there were just too many leads. We didn’t even need those. Well, you must get that stuff turned back on and get back to the appointment setting for sure.

Kimberly: You can use some technology to help you with this. Our good friend Chris Hartley shared with me that when things were starting to go south a little bit for them, they reached out to dead leads using Atlas RTX AI technology in texting. They texted leads to ask, “Where are you in your buying process?” It was amazing how they uncovered some leads quickly. This just went to their dead file. It didn’t go to anybody else. It only went to their dead file, but you’re not going to get that if you don’t register people. That’s the other thing I’m seeing. Because we’re so busy, we’re not registering and capturing people.

Meredith: Think about how many people wanted to buy a home but didn’t get the opportunity to. Maybe they submitted a bid to one of the builders that were doing the open bid processes. Only one can win, right? All those other people didn’t get to buy a home. At least not from that builder. You need to know if they get to buy a home at all. Revive those with conversations whether you do it by text, email, phone, or carrier pigeon. It doesn’t matter what channel you use. You just need to reach back out to them. I wanted to mention our OSCs here while we were talking about getting our salespeople back up to steam on what they need to know. Don’t forget your OSCs. Our good friend Leah Fellows from Blue Gypsy tells us all the time that the nurturing qualities that a good OSC has are key because your salespeople are busy managing their pipelines, keeping people happy, unfortunately telling them that their windows are not going to be in, which is why their windows are boarded up, so we can continue building their home. You need your OSCs for those things. We have just a few minutes left here. We talked about (5) consolidating marketing channels or just maximizing your return on investment with marketing channels, so let’s hit that in our last few minutes. Get those questions and those comments in here. We’re not quite done yet, so get those in quickly.

Meredith: I wanted to bring up the topic of consolidation of marketing channels. By a channel, I mean Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. I think we’ll continue to see the big ones buy the little ones. I think we’ll continue to see a lot of importance and scrutiny of these marketing channels, so my advice on this is for next year, don’t rely too heavily on any one of them, because the next thing you know it’s been bought by somebody else. The government has shut it down. These marketing channels are more volatile than they’ve ever been with people concerned over privacy, big data, and the whole thing. I watch what’s happening. Take Zillow. I don’t think any of us saw Zillow shutting off or down overnight. Just remember these channels that you’re marketing on. You don’t own them. The only digital asset you own is your website which is why I’ve always advocated for blogging because it’s on your website. All these other things you advertise on could go away tomorrow, so have a nice mix. Don’t rely too heavily on just one and keep your ears to the ground and the rumor mill, and just pay attention. If it seems like one’s going down or not as effective, because we can’t do as much targeting as we used to because of privacy regulations, then decrease the spending on that one. Increase it somewhere else.

Kimberly: But don’t assume that one size fits all. I think you’ve always been a big proponent of that. What you’re doing on Facebook, you’re probably not going to do on Instagram because you can’t put links in Instagram. That’s where that Linktree that I showed you can come in handy. Make sure you’re not just aggregating and just blasting out to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all the same messages. Make it channel-appropriate.

Meredith: Have a nice mix. The magic’s in the mix of what you’re doing and that’s where I’m saying get some events back into your mix. Mix it up and don’t rely too heavily on any one digital platform because who knows who’s going to jail next? I’m talking about these corporate leaders. What is happening?

Kimberly: Make it personal. I think one thing that this pandemic has taught us is the value of those personal relationships, so make your marketing personal. I think that’s important. Don’t just keep spewing out stuff. Make your sales process very personal too.

Meredith: That is five future vision topics right there. I don’t know what people expected to hear or what they think the future looks like for ‘22. I know I’m excited to find out and to experience it. I think we’ve all gained a little bit of confidence and maybe even a little swagger of how we did come together and handle ourselves in ‘20 and ‘21 when something got thrown at us that no one in many generations had been asked to face. We did it and we thrived in it, so we can go into ‘22 knowing some of us have been doing this long enough that we’ve experienced a complete collapse of the industry, a downturn, and a rebirth. All of us that are currently in the industry have now sold through a pandemic. Good grief.

Kimberly: Trial by fire, but we can’t forget the lessons that we’ve learned in both of those situations. I think sometimes we get busy in the day-to-day and we forget, so I’m glad to see at least with the clients I’m working with that people are thinking, “What’s next?” I hope this was helpful for people to start to think about that. I don’t know that we had any shocking revelations, but good reminders and plans to certainly pay attention to.

Meredith: That’s the thing. That’s what sales training and education or marketing consulting is. It’s reminding people of what they used to know. You guys are all very professional, but you do forget. You do get rusty as Kimberly said. You do fall into bad habits. We all do, so we’re here to remind you of what you used to know.

Kimberly: I want to thank you, Meredith, for taking your valuable time. I know how busy you are. I want to thank you for joining us today. If you have any questions, reach out to either of us. I’ll make sure in the follow-up that you have both of our info. Thank you very much and you guys have a great week.

Meredith: Thanks, Kimberly.

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