(If you wouild like to read the discussion between Kimberly and Mike, the video transcription is at the bottom of the page.)
On August 10, 2021, the one and only Mike Lyon, from Do You Convert stopped by as Kimberly Mackey’s guest on Head-to-Head. The mission: “CREATING THE ULTIMATE Online Sales Counselor (OSC)/ON-SITE Sales TEAM. No matter how you slice it, the parts have to add up to the whole. Mike and Kimberly break it down to give you the skinny from the online sales counselor position all the way through to the hand-off to the sales team. If you want to create a great Customer Experience (CX), it is all in how you handle the baton as you transition. Don’t drop the baton!
Every month or so, Kimberly Mackey sits down with top industry leaders and masterminds to have an in-depth discussion on the hot topics related to building your business, managing your pipeline, technology trends, sales and sales processes, and anything related to the overall customer experience.
Not a webinar, not a podcast, just head to head, no holds barred discussions, where you can participate and get the answers to the questions you have about the evolution of new home sales and the homebuilding industry. This is your opportunity to be more than a fly on the wall when two industry masterminds get together!
You can register for one or for all of them so that you never miss out on whoever is “dropping by” and the hot topics we will cover. Live viewing is the way to go for these so that you can interact and get your questions addressed; however, we will record them if you have to miss one or two, you can still watch the recording. For more information or to register for future Head-to Head events, please visit: https://NewHomesSolutions.com/Head-toHead
Kimberly: Hi everybody. I am excited that you’re here for Head-to-Head. A quick definition about what Head-to-Head is – it’s we don’t know what it is. It is its own thing, so it’s not a podcast, and it’s not a webinar, it’s a conversation that’s best when you guys join in, so please don’t be shy. Join in the chat. We want to hear from you. We want to hear about your experiences. I am thrilled that I have my buddy, Mike Lyon, on the program, He needs no introduction, but Mike, go ahead.
Mike: The quick story about me – I started in home building back in 2005. I started Do You Convert in 2009t’s. It’s going on 12 years. We have 13 employees, and our number one goal is to help builders generate more online leads than they’ve ever seen in their entire life. Leads abounding, but also convert those leads because leads are worthless. Only appointments and sales have true value, so we try and tie that together with our team at Do You Convert. That’s me in a nutshell.
Kimberly: For those of you who may not know me, my name is Kimberly Mackey, my company is New Home Solutions, and I started my business in 2007. I am a sales management consultant. I like to say that I’m the person that the builders bring in to make sure that sales are the engine that drives the train instead of running it off the tracks. I put all the parts and pieces together. Again, welcome. This is a program that I started kind of by accident last year, and it picked up its own kind of head of steam, and pardon the pun. We have been doing it all year long, and as long as people keep joining and people keep asking for things, then you know I’ll keep it rolling. Next month I do have Leah Fellows from Blue Gypsy coming on. let’s Now let’s talk about what’s going on. We’re seeing quite a radical shift. I would say it started in April, but I think we maybe were more aware of it in May, and it’s been creeping on back to some semblance of normality. Is normal a word we’re even allowed to use? I don’t know,
Mike: We’re going for normal. I think that’s the thing. It’s been about 45 to 60 days in most of our markets where builders say it’s kind of slow or it’s kind of quiet, and we always help them look back to the data and say no this is about normal. So, normal feels slow compared to the frantic pace we were at for the past nine months or so, and when we look at the data too from website traffic and even lead volume standpoint, we’re at July of 2019 which was a great time to be the home builder. Good leads and all that with it, but it just feels different. I think they’re combining that with the challenges of not having inventory or enough inventory and deciding to price everything a hundred thousand dollars more than it used to be, and they say that it feels weird. Sure, it does. Sure, it feels weird for the customer too, so it is a tough one to get through, and if you’re not locked in and ready to go and understand what to do, then it’s going to be a little painful for a bit for sure. Nathaniel says normal is great. That’s right.
Kimberly: Nathaniel’s normal is not the norm for the rest of us because Nathaniel’s out there in the wilds of Wyoming so his normal is always the wild, wild west, right Nathaniel? Normal is good when we get a pace where we can build some rapport and get to know people. I said the days of telling people what you have, and they’ll take it – you get what you get you don’t pitch a fit. If you’re not seeing that in your market right now, you’re soon going to. I’m talking to builders across the country. I was talking to somebody in the northern Virginia market who has been slammed for so long, and now they’re saying, “Oh wait, we can’t do lotteries anymore. Wait, what do you mean our waitlist doesn’t mean anything?” I’m back to Nathaniel. He says our sales are growing to match the rest of the country. A new normal for him. He likes the new normal Even in northern Virginia where things have just been hot, hot, hot, we’re seeing a bit of a cool down and people are salespeople – maybe not the OSCs because I think the OSCs have been in great practice over the past couple years. We’ve needed them more than we ever have, but our salespeople got a little rusty. I’m working hard with a lot of them to shake that rust off and go back to doing some of those basic things and getting to the why.
Mike: Here’s what we’ve experienced in similarity to sales with the overwhelming response and then a rush of buyers change their situation and purchase a home especially when it timed out right where I can sell my house quickly, I can move into this brand new home that has more space, and I can work from home. A commute doesn’t matter as much anymore, we’re still in this school district. For people just moving completely to you know Boise Idaho they did all this, and online sales were doing their best to keep up, but they, in the same vein, had to make changes. Either we’re going to have to hire more people, or we’re going to change our process, and in that process, we made the recommendation to shortcut certain things. You don’t have to have as much personalization, you don’t have to make as many phone calls, if you send an email and someone gets back to you, prospecting was all but abandoned, and you had to do that in a survival mode. As we start coming back out of this – especially people who’ve gotten in the business the past six to nine months – they don’t understand what a normal market looks like. They look at this and they say that it’s slow and we say that it’s not slow. Here’s what personalization looks like. Here’s what the right sales automation looks like. For those of you who are waiting for the sign or the announcement that it’s time to go back to what it used to be, that means you’re going to have to work with them on their skills, and in their skill development and work with managing new objections that we’re hearing. Well, if lumber prices are down why aren’t your prices down? Or what if the rates go up? How long is it going to take to build? I don’t want to do this. What’s the waitlist? Those are all objections that we’re hearing. They don’t have the language necessary to overcome them. It was like if you said you want an appointment everybody stated yes. No one ever said nah, I need to check with someone on that. It was yes, please! How do I get an appointment? They were calling, they were chatting, they were signing up for multiple priority lists, they were trying to drive out and come on their own like you couldn’t keep them from stopping. Now that’s not there and people say it feels slow. It’s not. It’s just normal.
Kimberly: When they’re banging down the doors. Before we came on for you all, one of the conversations that we were having is that I have some builders who had a sign out front. They have a sandwich board that states we’re trying our very best. We recommend that you have an appointment, and please be patient if it takes us a few minutes to get to you. They have the doors locked because there are only so many of them, and they had appointments, and people were jumping the fence trying to go in the back door or the side door. To break in and then be angry that they couldn’t just be seen immediately.
Mike: That’s how I like to open my sales presentations. “Hey, excuse me, you’re trespassing!”
Kimberly: Call the superintendent. People are jumping my fence and banging down my door. Call 9-1-1. That’s always starting things off on the right foot.
Mike: We used to ask, “What brought you in today?” Now we’re saying, “You’re trespassing.” That’s great. Total bizarro world! Everything’s upside down.
Kimberly: Hopefully we’re through a lot of that. Pipeline management, though. I mean for the on-site salesperson; our skillset has changed so much to manage the pipeline. You sold them, but they are not closed yet, and they’re in your pipeline. Just keeping in contact. How to deliver bad news. I don’t think I’ve ever coached more on how to deliver bad news. I don’t think it’s bad news; I think it’s just news. We’ve got to stop assigning good or bad. News is news, and the longer you hold off sharing that news, the worse it’s going to get. That’s the part I assure you, so sometimes we must tell people what they don’t want to hear. That doesn’t necessarily make it good or bad, it just is. So were the OSCs also inundated and charged with a lot of that responsibility in what you were seeing?
Mike: Not in managing a backlog or anything like that. The couple of shifts that we’ve seen just in a buyer profile/customer profile is they’re having to deliver more negative information about the sales process or availability. In a normal world, 97 percent of your conversations with the new prospect are exciting like it’s the first part of their journey. Opportunities abound. Let’s get you excited. Let’s get you out on site. Let’s move you through the process. You’re dealing them with them when they’re most excited now. It’s kind of flip-flopped, and the first thing we’re saying is that if we even answer the phone is the apology that we don’t have anything available. I’m sorry it’s going to take 12 months. I’m sorry that the price that you saw three months ago is now different. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry or no, no, no, and that that’s a lot of negative stuff. Then there’s also an overflow of potentially busy communities or busy salespeople who aren’t even able to get back to customers, and those customers are starting to come back around and just call in a number on the website or reach out via the website or via chat. They’re having to deal with some of that like the I can’t get someone to call me back about x, y, or z. That’s a little bit of a similar situation but it’s not as exciting as it used to be during this time, but again, it is getting back to a more normal situation where you’re able to handle the number of calls and stuff. It takes a little bit of a mental shift, and we encourage our online sales teams to have some stamina to make it through and be mentally resilient. You may need to get your satisfaction from somewhere else. It’ll get back to normal – it really will, and we’re seeing that happen. I gave it until August, so I have until the end of the month. I don’t wouldn’t say a dramatic shift but a shift back, so we’ll see.
Kimberly: I said fall, but I think it’s happening faster than I expected it to do. I think for both online and on-site, I think that what you just said about mental resiliency. You must find ways to take care of yourself and take some mental breaks, and you also must figure out a way to reframe what you’re doing; to know I am helping people to understand the process.
Mike: Aaron had a good question. I’ll address that because it relates to that point. He asks if it’d be beneficial if a designated call flow or agent to deliver those standard expectations responses. Yes and no. It depends on how standard they are, so I think standardizing it from a website messaging first such as here is our availability and time frame to build. I think during the height of this, it was good to have a pre message stating this community is on a priority list, and we are sold out. New homes are planned to be released in this time frame. If you’d like more information, you can either leave a voicemail with your contact information or press one to talk to somebody. Now we’re kind of opening back up a little bit more, and I don’t know if you must do that all the time, but you must be ready to answer that question. Usually, we’re having to answer that question in online sales because it’s not being communicated in other places where they’re first learning about us. In that communication vacuum, online sales are having to fill it, and if we’re having to fill it with you can’t move in a home for one year it’s not fun because you’re the disappointment deliverers, “I’m so glad you called, but we can’t sell you anything.” Are you still glad you called? The big takeaway there is marketing and online sales work together. Make sure you’ve got that messaging on point. A great question there.
Kimberly: Share that messaging everywhere. Social media: there are so many creative ways to do this. We take dirt and make dreams happen on it, so why can’t we as builders be creative with our messaging? Why do we have to just show pictures of a house and think that that is marketing? it’s not. You’re messaging who are and what’s important, and having that empathy for the buyer’s position, and what the buyers are going through, and letting them know here’s what we can do for you. If we just focus on what we can do, it makes what we can’t do a whole lot less.
Mike: I think I’ll speak for some of the marketers on this call. I see you. I’m looking at Nicole and some other people that I know. The hardest part for marketers is when you say it sounds easy, but I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be saying, and that specifically applies to a general builder. I don’t know that production is delayed. I don’t know that Nathaniel says we don’t have the right siding. So, no one’s communicated that to the person who’s supposed to communicate it out to someone else. No one’s told them if this is permanent, or this is short-term. It changes. It’s not just market to market even. It’s community by community. It’s different and so they’re thinking we need to put one message over here and that message over here, and that’s the hard work, and that’s why it’s not happening. I think everybody has good intentions and could probably do it if there was clear strategy and communication to all that, but a lot of people aren’t talking, and we’re all stressed out and in different directions. Then we wonder why our online sales are having to deal with this, and the online sales specialist doesn’t even know. Everybody’s got to sit down, get together, have a good place where they can communicate the best that they can, and just hope for the supply chain to get fixed. As soon as that gets fixed, things will go back to a more manageable way to set expectations for our buyers, but it is hard to have consistent communication when the supply chain is all freaking messed up. I mean it’s just all out of whack.
Kimberly: It’s not the same for anybody, so you know some builders are struggling to get windows in, and others have completely just done away with all their lighting packages because they can’t get them with any consistency.
Mike: You get lighting with your homes? That’s amazing!
Kimberly: LED in the ceiling now man. That’s it. Led lights
Mike: You want windows? Oh, that’s funny!
Kimberly: Unbroken windows. That’s what we’d like to have are unbroken windows. I help my builders to map out their process, and that’s a big deal. Everybody needs to be involved in that mapping out of the process. Who touches that customer, and where and where does that funnel get clogged as you’re moving them through.
Mike: You need to be careful about who and where you’re touching your customers.
Kimberly: That’s true we should always touch them appropriately and figuratively for sure.
Mike: Social distance.
Kimberly: Mike, you bring up a good point, and we leave our salespeople and our OSCs out on islands to figure things out for themselves. In the ideal world let’s forget the Covid world and the madness that we’re living in now. Let’s talk about an ideal world. How do we get our OSCs and our on-site people in sync so that they’re running that relay? They’re passing the baton. They’re not looking like the men’s four by 400 relay where they were just all wonky and Carl Lewis goes on a Twitter rant about them. How do we keep that from happening and make this a seamless process for the buyers?
Mike: If we want to use the example of the men’s consistent ability to mess up a baton handoff – not the women by the way – women have it figured it out. Just saying. But the men can’t seem to figure this out. It has nothing to do with their ability to run or that they’re the fastest people in the universe – the fastest people on two legs. It all comes down to how much time they had to work on practicing that transition. When are we going to hand it off? How is it going to happen? When are you starting? When am I starting? When do I make that handoff? It is no different in the world of online sales, and at on-site sales, you’ve got to have a very specific process, and you’ve got to practice it. Step one is telling everybody what the expectations are. For those of you you’ve probably heard this a million times, but I’m going to tell you things you haven’t heard before. Most salespeople don’t know that the second they have the lead, as in when they got the notification, that an appointment was set. That is their prospect. That’s their customer now. A lot of them are waiting for them to come in the door and physically show up, but the lead is theirs when they get the notification in their CRM. That is your customer. What would you do if that customer walked in the door? They’re virtually walking in, right? That’s where it’s happening, so that’s the first mindset shift that a lot of our on-site sales teams and leadership must have. It is when did that handoff happen? The second part of it is understanding what we’re asking them to do in this hand-off process. It is for their benefit. It’s helping to remove the threat of a brand-new person being introduced into this process because that’s confusing to a customer. That preparation time for appointments – they’re going to spend that time either preparing for it and getting ready and potentially doing a quick check-in with the customer before they come in, or they’re going to try and spend that same amount of time and probably more chasing them down when they leave. The time investment is the same on either the front end or the back end, but they should do it on the front because it’s more likely to improve that whole situation.
Kimberly: Wait, you just blew my mind! Are you suggesting that on-site salespeople should be proactive?
Kimberly: Ok, I just had my mind blown there for a minute. I’m going to catch up with you. Ok. Go.
Mike: I know you’re joking, and a lot of people say stuff like that, but to the credit of on-site teams, they have not been trained on how to do this. What’s in it for me? I feel like you’re just giving me another task list. Isn’t this your job? No, we work together, and here’s why you need to be doing a couple of these things in the in-between time of appointments because it’s going to help facilitate the sale and make the customer feel comfortable.
Kimberly: It warms it up for you. We all like warm leads.
Kimberly: One of the things that I have seen is a video handoff. I love video handoffs from the online to the on-site and we send this to the customer and it’s an automatic thing. It lets the customer meet virtually at least the on-site sales agent, and a lot of the “standard” expectations setting I think nothing is standard; that’s a no-no word for me. Those things that you’re repeating over and over again can be done once in a video message which is then followed up by more personal contact. People love those.
Mike: Absolutely. We talk about the process for an on-site sales specialist is that you need to immediately call and email the customer so that email can be a template. That call is just a way for them to hear your voice via voicemail or have a quick phone conversation to let them know that you’re excited to meet with them. Set the expectation for what’s happening. The video email is even better. That’s the icing on the cake because now you’re able to say what you would say potentially in a voicemail. Talk a little bit about the information that you have in front of you. Tell them how excited you are and that you wanted to put a face with the name. That helps warm them up. Psychologically speaking, when they see that person and hear the person when they walk in the door, they feel a different type of connection with that person. When we ask on-site salespeople to do a video email, they say, “Oh my gosh, that’s so hard!” But what is it doing for you? Think about what that does for that customer. Every interaction that you have even before they come, they’re now matching a face and a voice and your tonality and your enthusiasm with all that messaging. They walk in the door and the comfort level is much higher. The threat level is dropped. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also what no one else will do. We can’t even get our on-site people to freaking pick up the phone and call. They’re not going to send video emails. It sets you apart. Here’s the deal: I’m getting on a rant! Oh my! Guys, chat me! Give me an amen! Give me a preach because I’m going! Here’s the deal: Every builder is getting online sales specialists in place. Everybody knows there is no option for us to have this in place, but they’re not figuring out the handoff. You can have a great online sales program that’s setting an appointment, and you can royally screw up the handoff, so it doesn’t even happen, and you’re disqualified like the men’s relay team. If you can’t get that down, it messes everything else up, so you’ve got to make sure that connection is tight. It’s training them, it’s showing them it’s giving them the tools, it’s making sure they understand how to use the CRM the right way, showing them how to use BombBomb – all those fun things – but then it’s about reinforcement. I’ll drop this little nugget or bomb whatever you want to call it in your lap and let you handle it, Kimberly. Why are our sales leaders not holding on-site sales specialists accountable for doing the handoff process?
Kimberly: That is an excellent question, and I agree with you. I think they should be holding them accountable to do it, and that needs to happen. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect. We’ve all talked about that for many years now, and our friend Jeff Shore was the first one when back in the day. Before he was Jeff Shore, he was also a mentor. When I was with a large publicly traded builder, that’s one of the things that he taught us. Then I had another mentor who said, “Get out and stay out.” It seemed cruel and harsh, and I thought, “What do you mean get out and stay?” She said, “You’ve got a phone, you’ve got a computer, go. I don’t want you in here. You’ve got to be out there in the field seeing how this stuff is happening.” I don’t care if you’re the senior VP. I don’t care what your title is. if your job is ultimately to respond to what’s happening in the world of sales, get out.” You need to be out there, and you need to be role-playing. If you’re not comfortable role-playing, how is your team ever going to be comfortable role-playing and knowing how to do this stuff and knowing that this is the expectation? It’s a little hard to hold people accountable when we don’t know it ourselves.
Mike: I’ll throw this back to everybody on this call or people listening to this in the future, here’s the deal: Over 50 percent of sales are starting in the online world first and then moving in into on-site to make happen. On-site sales are who’s selling the home; online isn’t doing that. Fifty percent, that’s a huge percentage of your business. It only works if you marry both together and everybody’s working together as a team. It’s got a huge weight to it, so teaching them is one thing: making sure they understand it is completely different, and holding people accountable to those who state they don’t get a single confirmation back that they got an email. I don’t see calls going out. We don’t see any kind of communication between you and the customer. It’s all tracked in a CRM.
Kimberly: Use that CRM and make it easy. I’m going to say one more thing, “Reward right behavior.” Leaders, if this is what you expect of your people, and even salespeople, this is what you expect of the of the OSC, and OSC, if you expect it of your salespeople, reward right behavior. That can be as simple as thank you. Thank you and please go a long way.
Mike: Salespeople need more than that. I don’t know about you guys They need money, they need some Starbucks gift cards, they need to win something. We call it the tag team award over here at Do You Convert, but it’s the online sales specialists who are taking their time to get those out every single week in the sales meeting. If it’s a virtual sales meeting, they do it virtually, but they say, “You did a great job on the handoff. Your video email was awesome, or we got great feedback from this customer, so here’s your 10-dollar Starbucks gift card. That’s all that you need. Thank yous are good, but salespeople like that money.
Kimberly: They like recognition too, though. So they stay motivated
Mike: And yes, money.
Kimberly: But honestly recognition. Reward right behavior. Have your whole system set up around rewarding people for doing the things that you want them to do. That that shouldn’t be that hard. Just think about as Dr. Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” What do I ultimately want to have happen? I want to take the steps, so how do I get from here to here? Let’s reward that along the way. The end will take care of itself because you’re going to have more sales, and everybody gets rewarded when we have more sales. How can we take our online and our on-site salespeople and build more of that team? Just even two years ago, and this has changed in the last couple of years because I’ve seen more appreciation for the online, but even two years ago there’s a lot of builder decisions that they’re going to hire an online sales counselor. You’re going to work with them, and by the way, it’s going to cost you part of your commission.
Mike: That’s a recipe for disaster. So, they’re going to take your leads and your money. Welcome to the team everybody! the team
Kimberly: As a salesperson, of course you know the immediate focus is on what’s going away not on what’s what is being gained. First, builders don’t do that number one, but even if that does happen, as a salesperson I feel like we have an obligation in sales to start to look at the big picture.
Mike: If you’re taking it out of their commission, that’s a terrible idea.
Kimberly: Don’t do that.
Mike: Anybody who’s listening or is doing that, it’s wrong. We’ve seen it, we’ve tried to work with it, and it doesn’t work. Even if it’s a small amount – 200 bucks, 300 bucks, whatever it is, to try and compensate for this, we’re not trying to make this even. If you add these two together it’s like multiplication. It’s not addition, so you’ve got to set that up. The other thing also, is you’re usually trying to shift some resources where you may not have needed additional assistance in a model or something like that. Who’s managing traffic? That’s your Digital Assistant; it’s your Online Sales Specialist, so from an SG & A standpoint and overhead, it’s a wash. It adds to your business. That’s my short version of why you don’t do that. The second thing is don’t take money out of their checks, number one, but I want to ask you who are listening here, to chat out what some of the things are that you do to help build good relationships between your online and your on-site teams. I want to see, as I’m talking through a couple of things, what you guys do at your organizations to build that love. I want to see who’s paying attention. I can see you out there Sarah, Renee, Suzy, Tasha. Good to see you.
Kimberly: Ooh, you’re calling out names.
Mike: I’m calling out names because I want to see what you guys do out there. I love the tag team awards. Our personal favorite tag team so far has been the heavyweight belt that goes around. A lot of people have adopted that. It’s one of my personal favorites. The “You Don’t Succulent” award. We give away little succulents. That one’s been fun. I’d love to hear what you guys are doing. Chat to everyone so we can see. I would say you start first by introducing yourself in the right way when a new salesperson is hired. You must get them vaccinated. It’s a lot better than dealing with this in the hospital. You vaccinate them on what we’re doing with online sales, and how it’s going to help your business, and how this is potentially going to be 50 percent of your business. It’s coming from these appointments that are being set. Here’s our process, etc. and then they, “Great, this is how we do it here.” Remember. a lot of online on-site salespeople are coming from builders that had bad online sales programs, so it’s like a bad ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. They think, “I didn’t like that before.” Well, it’s not the same here. It’s different. Step one: get them vaccinated. Step two: introduce them more into the sales meetings. We’re so we’re talking five minutes not talking a 30-minute session every time. I’ve heard this multiple times over the past couple of months – really six months or so. There have been two problems: One is going virtual. We don’t meet in person anymore, and when we do meet in person, we’ve got so many things we must cover that they don’t have time to talk about it. Fifty percent of your sales deserves not 50 percent of the meeting. Give us three percent. That’s all we need. Talk about the numbers. Talk about what’s happening. Give away tag team awards. Mention a quick tech tip on how you can send your videos or show something you can do on your CRM that makes your life easier. Then you get them looped into that so they’re getting some exposure to the sales team. The final thing – and this goes to online salespeople – you must think about your on-site team as your customers. Nurture those relationships
Kimberly: I like that.
Mike: Get out in their community. Go visit them. Be prepared when you go out. Go out at the right time. Don’t surprise them. Bring them a Starbucks when you’re going out to visit them. We bear gifts and presents as we meet with them and build those relationships one by one. When you do that, and you understand how they work, and they understand how you work, and you can answer questions and help them with things, the relationships magically improve. Those are just a couple of quick tips. Stacy says biweekly check-in calls with each sales rep which I think is amazing. They round up the cheer squad. I love that. Chat to pump them up. Tasha checks in on Sundays. Shout-outs when they get positive feedback from anyone. Ask what they can do to help. Sarah says transparency. Share reporting with sales and operations teams.
Kimberly: Absolutely. Every week.
Mike: Reports they can read. Let’s put it there. I want to rephrase that. Simple reports that they don’t have to dive into the data. New leads, appointments set, sales from appointments, overall contribution.
Kimberly: If you have a decent CRM, it does all that for you.
Mike: Yes and no. Not total combined stuff, because if you’re pulling sales from elsewhere, you must plug it all in together. Usually, people are using a very basic and simple report to get that top-line information. You can pull it quickly from the CRMs, but they need something easy to read that just landed in their inbox or in a digital space. Coleen says our online concierge is routinely part of sales meetings. The first piece of training for any new sales hire is to sit with them in the afternoon. That’s great. Show them where the bathroom is, and then we train them where online sales is. Those are all great. Thank you for that feedback, guys. That’s awesome.
Kimberly: That is awesome. Thank you very much. A lot of it, as with anything when we’re talking about culture, comes from the top. Is there respect for what the role of each person is? Back to something Mike stated earlier is that role is clearly defined. Does everybody know this is my job, this is your job, and this is how it flows through the process? You’d be surprised. I think we like to assume stuff, and we all know what happens when you assume, so let’s not do that. Let’s break it down to build it back up so that everybody does understand this is how it flows through. Sometimes it’s going to backflow. You’ll get that customer who comes in and then they’re calling the online, or they’ve already dealt with the online, and then they go back to the onsite, and they have their appointment, but they developed a little bit of rapport, so they do it themselves. Salespeople, it’s not a reflection on you, it’s just the customer. I think we all need to be able to understand what each other does. What an amazing concept when we can understand.
Mike: I think that’s a good idea, yes.
Kimberly: Let’s talk about appointments because I’m just so excited that salespeople now understand that appointments are cool.
Mike: Yes, appointments are cool. That’s a good bumper sticker right there.
Kimberly: I’ve been preaching for years 10-5-2-1. That’s a formula that I use. I don’t worry so much about the 10, because I think that depends. That’s your traffic. The average salesperson – I typically don’t work with average anybody – so they may need 10 leads to get five first appointments, two second or be-back appointments to get one sale per week at a minimum. Now, some builders are in a larger volume area, but in my world, one sale a week equals 50 sales a year. There are multiple ways to get there, but you’re not going to get there even if you don’t have five first appointments. The math doesn’t work.
Mike: I don’t know if you guys are ready for this – for some serious math.
Kimberly: Just don’t spring new math on them.
Mike: This is ten-five-four-seven niners over – I think I got a niner in there. Here’s what I think people must consider. This is a new world that we live in, everybody. This is a new sales and marketing world for home builders, and the biggest thing that builders are missing – everybody get in close and listen to my secret, because it’s a secret that’ll blow your mind, and you’ll have to change your reports – we’re mixing up walk-in traffic with online traffic
Kimberly: No. Oh no.
Mike: You must understand it’s different. They ask, “Well what’s your traffic?” “Well, my traffic was 10.” “Your traffic was 10, but five of those were coming from online, and to get the five to walk in the door the first time, we had to have roughly 20 or more – 25 – to get to five actual physical appointments – people coming in the door. But then you’re counting that as your walk-in traffic; that’s not your walk-in traffic. So, first things first are you must separate those things because the other thing that they’re doing is they’re blending conversion rates of actual walk-in traffic with their online leads. Online leads convert at a higher rate than walk-in traffic, and it artificially inflates total conversion rates of traffic when you put all those things together. You’re going to have to start thinking differently about some of that math, and I know your brain probably hurts right now everybody. I apologize, but that’s all mixed up, and it’s all wonky, and everybody’s claiming they’re doing great. It’s because you converted two of your three sales from three online appointments, and you had 28 other walk-in traffic, and you only got one sale from that 28. So, something’s off. Too much relies on pre-qualified appointments that are coming in the door. I want you guys to think about that. I’m going to put that over to the side. Kimberly, do you disagree or agree?
Kimberly: I don’t disagree with that because here’s something that we do know about metrics and tracking – garbage in equals garbage out. I worked with a builder one time, and he and he shared his reporting with me, and it was all a house of cards.
Mike: You said, “Take it back. I don’t want it.”
Kimberly: I said, “None of this is real.” “Yeah, but it makes me feel good.” Your report shouldn’t make you feel good, it should tell you something valuable. We want to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Smarter not harder, so you must know where this stuff is coming from and how people are getting to you. If you don’t know who your buyers are – I have a builder whose number one threat when I did their spot analysis – they have no idea who the buyers are until they’re there with a check. They don’t know where they’re coming from. They just magically appear. I said, “This is the number one threat that your business faces if you don’t know where your buyers are coming from. How are you going to get more of them when they stop magically appearing?”
Mike: Sure. Well, I like magic.
Kimberly: I like magic too, but I don’t know that that’s the best business plan.
Mike: That’s the first thing. Now, this is all going back to your appointments because that was how the question started. I love appointments! Here’s what builders have done with Covid. Most people went appointment only – virtual, regular – it was appointment only, and here’s the little dirty secret that not a lot of builders are talking about publicly: Some of them have kept it appointment-only because it’s so nice. Think about it. If we can say we got someone who’s pre-qualified, appropriately qualified, that we know what their situation is, who understands our pricing and our process, and we can do a little bit of this upfront work before, would we rather deal with them or deal with people who are walking the door and being disappointed by the first interaction? We’d rather have someone else kind of filtering through, so they’ve kept it appointment-only, and that’s a great shift. I think we are all professionals, and we should be able to work by appointment now. We’re going to a more hybrid approach as we come out, so some builders are staying appointment only early Saturday morning. They’ll save a little bit of time there for appointments, and then Saturday afternoon and Sunday, that’s going to be for anybody to come in, but the rest of the time we’re appointment driven, and we’re setting up specific times, so there are ways to do that a little bit differently. The point is spending time upfront to make sure we’re meeting the customer’s expectations, and the customer understands our processes and how things work. When we do that, it’s a better overall experience for sure.
Kimberly: I’ve had some conflict or have had to mediate some of this stuff when that salesperson says, “They’re scheduling an appointment for me at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon.” Have those times that are what one of my builders called prime origination times, so that’s where we know we’re going to get more walk-ins. Don’t schedule an appointment. You already have an appointment. That appointment is your floor time, so don’t allow that, and tell them, “No, I can’t take an appointment during that time. I can do this, and I can do this.” Even if the outside realtor is pushing back, we need to tell, “No, I’m sorry. They’re not going to be able to give you dedicated attention. Your buyer is not going to have a great experience, so we need to make alternate arrangements.”
Mike: Here’s the thing folks – again, this is mean uncle Mike. That means some of you guys are going to have to wake up at 9:00 and get to work on time. Guess what, folks? Everybody can take off work, people are working from home, nobody’s checking on them, so they can come to meet with you whenever you want. So, if you’re busy from 11:00 to 5:00 or 6:00 Saturday, come in at nine. Those are called normal working hours. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not knocking salespeople. I was a salesperson. I was there, but these crazy hours, when you add them up, it’s like your office hours are only 22 hours a week. Let’s expand that time, and set appointments because I don’t think there’s a single salesperson who’s great who would say that they can’t take that at 9:30 on a Wednesday. If that’s a day when they’re working but off, and it doesn’t open until 11, everybody’s going to take an appointment at 9:30.
Kimberly: I’d hope. I see Bill’s agreeing. Bill knows that I never confuse model hours with the hours that you must work to be successful in this business.
Mike: And never confuse the hours that you must work with an actual increased paycheck because 40 hours a week is your average workweek. I’m not talking about overworking people, I’m saying there are going to be times, especially at certain times of the year for real estate, for you to make an extraordinary income, you’re going to have to work 55 to 60 hours a week. When it slows down, you can go back to 40 or 35. You’re not taking appointments because they’re not happening, but right now, sell what we can. Let’s make hay while the sun shines.
Kimberly: I fear that on-site salespeople are going to gradually go back to their old habits as things reopen, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next six months. We have no idea. We may open-close, open-close. Who knows? Be prepared either way, but don’t lose the good stuff that we’ve learned. Schedule those appointments and, schedule them at appropriate times so you can give those buyers a better experience and not during the crazy busy times. Communicate that to your OSC. 99 percent of the things that go wrong in homebuilding aren’t because the windows didn’t come in, they’re not because of the wrong elevation or we’re going to start the home six weeks later than we anticipated; that’s not what goes wrong. 99 percent of the things that go wrong are because we didn’t communicate it effectively.
Mike: Yes, I think if we had some production people on here, they would say, “Kimberly, the windows are not coming in, and we’re renting appliances right now.” I bet we didn’t see that one coming, but hey, we are going to manage it as you said. It’s all about communicating. If you set that upfront for the customer and state, we’re going to do our best, and here’s the good news; you have a home, you just don’t have toilets because who needs those?
Kimberly: Oh, that’s like buying a used home. Hopefully, we don’t have to go there, but I don’t think I’ve had any builders with a toilet shortage.
Mike: They leave porta-potties on site.
Kimberly: Now we wait for refrigerators forever, so hopefully that stuff is working itself out. The downside to appointments is that you can’t necessarily take care of the walk-in traffic. The messaging needs to go from the beginning; drive appointments.
Mike: I’ll stop you there because this is Head to Head, and we’re supposed to fight or something like that, right?
Kimberly: No, you’re just supposed to have a conversation.
Mike: That is a downside, true, but what’s the difference between someone walking in and you meet with them versus an appointment being set up to meet with them? The downside is not the appointment. The downside is we have multiple people coming in at the same time. As you said, expectation setting for that customer or being able to give them something to do or fill something out or reset an appointment at a different time is what we’re missing instead of trying to juggle traffic. A lot of salespeople do that; they think when the appointment’s not here, and they’re five minutes late, if I met with someone else and that appointment came in, they didn’t even greet the customer. Would you ever roll your own appointment? You’d be checking with that customer and asking if they are on the way. Yeah, I’m on the way. A lot of times they just don’t do that, but they have an up and feel that since this person’s here, that’s who I’m working with. Don’t do that because you don’t see all the amount of work that we put in. The seven different emails that went out, 10 different hours that the customer was spending online researching this stuff all leading up to the appointment which we’ve built up to them for them to walk in the door and you say to them, “One second.” They’re going to wonder, “What do you mean?”
Kimberly: Set the expectation with the walk-in, “I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome! I do need to let you know that I have an appointment who’s on the way. I’m happy to help you as much as I can, so if I could get your information, then I can schedule some time for you where I could give you the same dedicated attention.”
Mike: That’s brilliant. I love that.
Kimberly: It’s all about talking, right? Communicate with people. We get this stuff in our heads, and I don’t understand why. My world may be a little more black and white than maybe some other people’s. I don’t know. It seems to me if we’re honest with people, they’re going to be honest with us – or more likely to be.
Mike: That’s good. The two bumper stickers: “Appointments are cool”, and “It’s all about talking”.
Kimberly: Yes, just communicate. The other thing that it does is create a sense of urgency for the people who have just walked into the model to say to them, “We’re busy people, and we are scheduling appointments because this is a great place to be, and you want to be part of this. You want to be part of it in a way that when I can meet you, I can share and find out about you. It’s very important.
Mike: I’m just going to throw this out there – nothing this makes me so mad on an annual basis. I just get so mad. I go to the dermatologist once a year because my wife makes me. I go to get all my moles checked because she’s afraid I’m going to get melanoma cancer, and I love her for that. I try to book these when they can work and when they’re open. I have never gotten into one of those appointments on time. Never. Not once. I sit there thinking that they reminded me 48 different times when my appointment was and making sure that I was still coming, and I’ve yet to get in under 15 minutes past my appointment time. It’s like this is freaking ridiculous. What is going on? When a customer goes through that same process, especially about a home, and they drive out there, and they’re sitting around waiting, or they’re being juggled by someone else, they will just think, nope, I’ve got other builders down the street that I’m going to work with. Keep in mind it’s a frustrating experience when that happens.
Kimberly: Friday I needed to go to the walk-in clinic, and there was a line 45 minutes out the door. It’s a walk-in clinic.
Mike: I think it’s about the expectations. If you’re going to the dentist, and they’re reminding you, and you’re going to set stuff up in advance, and you get there and you must wait, it defeats everything. It just defeats the whole thing. Waiting is therapy for type A personalities, so I look at this always and wonder what I can do right now. You’re sitting there 10 minutes, 15 minutes like you got to be kidding me. It’s the same thing every stinking year. A lot of you guys are probably wondering why I still go there.
Kimberly: We are creatures of habit. Take a minute, think through your processes. We get so wrapped up all the time in just doing, doing, doing, that we don’t stop to plan what we should be doing. So, if you’ll stop for a minute, plan this stuff out, and then get everybody on board. People buy into a world they help create. Get them involved in the process.
Mike: Do you think we should stop, collaborate, and listen?
Kimberly: I do.
Mike: Nathaniel says that’s why doctor’s offices do it because their customers aren’t leaving; our customers will leave. That’s exactly right. The pain of change is less than the pain of waiting, which is why they don’t have to fix their process. You must get that appointment process down because we’re talking about like 80,000 dollars of profit margin here, so don’t screw it up.
Kimberly: No. Absolutely. That’s a good point. That communication must be not only about the appointment, but what were those 20 conversations, and how did they go? What are their fears? What are they worried about? How can I make this a better transition for them? Those are all questions salespeople are supposed to ask. Ask the right discovery questions. Discover with your OSC as well and have a process that that’s shared because the OSCs spent a lot of time. They rolled up their sleeves with these people, and you know if you must start from square one, you miss the point. To Nathaniel’s point, our customers will leave if you don’t treat them with respect and if you don’t set those right expectations. Like I said, if you have an appointment coming in and somebody walked in, do what you can before the walk-in gets there. Get them engaged in the process, find out what you can, and then schedule an appointment. We’re either closing for a sale, or we’re closing for an appointment at every engagement that we have with our prospects. That’s what we should be doing. Closing thoughts or other best practices? Things that you’re seeing out there, Mike? From all of you – any closing thoughts that you have too? Thanks so much for all these great points.
Mike: Yes. You guys are talking and listening. Bill said it’s all about listening. I’m listening to your chats and reading your chats. Closing points; no matter what’s happening in the world, like the economic drivers, the market, home building is still necessary, and we’re still trying to catch up with the needs out there. That doesn’t mean that homebuilding isn’t going to shift, and affordability isn’t going to change and we’re going to come up with different products, but at the end of the day, I love this industry because it’s such a high stakes sale, and there’s so much emotion involved in that, and the sense of place is just so strong. Technology can help a lot of that stuff, but it’s never going to replace the need for our sales teams and our online sales specialists. Chatbots just can’t do it. A process that we buy online, while some of those things are cool, and it’s a great way to start it’s not going to be the way people finish. In most situations, they want to see what this is like, what their home is like, and what the approach is like, and what they feel like when they drive into the neighborhood. Because of all that, it means we’ve got to keep working with people, and people have human challenges, and they have hair on the top of their head, and that usually means the drama is going to come with it, which makes sales leaders and marketing leaders super valuable. Your people skills, your ability to learn, retain and be curious about this role in this industry, is going to serve you through the next shift. We may see a correction. We may see a super correction or may just go back to normal. but either way, people will be looking to leaders for guidance. If you’re on things like these sessions and you’re paying attention to things like these, you’re one of those people. Hang through this last little tough spot we’re going through, and we’ll make it out the other side. For those of you who earned the Covid merit badge, and then the hot market merit badge, and the supply chain issue merit badge, congratulations! You did a great job!
Kimberly: It’s going to help you if you learn from it, and you keep the best of it, and you move forward. We are out of time. Mike and I could talk about this all day long, but I want to thank Mike for joining me and taking time. I want to thank all of you for sharing and taking your time with us, and we will see you back here in September.