Recently, I was asked, as part of a much larger training series, to explain The Critical Path for New Home Sales to a group of smaller volume home builders. While, as a new home salesperson, you should regularly practice your use of The Critical Path through much more in-depth training, this shortened version can help you to stay on track with a quick refresher. We all know that when you “Open Better, You Close More!” Homebuilders and sales leaders, this quick video is a good one for you to understand and to share with your entire team. Let’s all stop the madness of selling by process of elimination and start making our sales experiences customer focused. ~Kimberly Mackey
Focus on customers. We must open better to close more. I am sorry to tell you this, but it’s not about you. We love to talk about ourselves and our homes and our products, and we’re so much better than that builder down the street, and we do this behind the walls, and you just don’t understand what it’s like, yet I hear builders doing this. I always smile, because I know you take so much pride in your work, and that’s what makes you so good at what you do, but when we’re meeting those customers, it’s all about them. If we open that up with them, and we truly understand them and don’t start talking about ourselves and talking about our product right away, let’s find out what’s important to the customers. That’s what a good salesperson is able to do. In New Home Sales. this is not car sales, this is not door to door sales where you cannot “slam and jam” as I like to say, this is a relationship. These people are going to be connected to you for the next 3, 4, 6, 9 months or maybe longer for some of you, depending on where you’re building. It could be that it’s a year or even more if you’re in really high-end products. We need to start that relationship off with a good solid foundation, just like we do with our homes. So, focus on those customers. Make sure your sales team is focusing on your customers.
This is “The Critical Path”:
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
• Meet and Greet (Your First impression)
• Discovering Wants and Needs/Qualifying
FINDING A SOLUTION
• Demonstration (Includes ALL Tours)
• Selection (finding that “one of a kind”)
ASSISTING THE BUYER ACHIEVE THEIR DREAM
• Overcoming Objections
• Closing (both for the sale of the next appointment)
If you’ve been in this industry for more than five minutes, you have probably heard the terminology, “The Critical Path”. It was coined by the late great Dave Stone back in the ’70s. The Critical Path is a process that comes from manufacturing, and it also comes from the medical field. So, if you think about a surgical room, they have a critical path. It really is critical because it is life or death there. They know that they must follow the path in this order, in order to achieve a favorable outcome and not have mistakes. That’s exactly what new home sales are. We have a path; there is a path for new home sales. In manufacturing, you can think about it for an automobile. If you build an automobile the way we build homes, we build them from the ground up, right? So that we make sense, you can’t put a roof on something if you don’t have anything to hold it up. You can’t put walls up if you don’t have a good foundation. However, if you think about a car going through the manufacturing line, the thing that touches the ground is the tires, right? The tires go on the wheels. Those are the things that are added last. In manufacturing an automobile, we know where we need to start, and it goes down the assembly line, and we build on it, and we build on it and we build on it. Then as it comes off the assembly line, that’s when the wheels and the tires are going to go on. Knowing when to put those things on is very, very important.
You need to understand this because you cannot replicate something that is not process-driven. That’s called just winging it. And when you wing it, you’re going to get sporadic results. You’re not going to know what went right, and you’re not going to know what went wrong. You’re going to lose a lot of sales. Now, you will still get sales because even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, right? We’ve all been told that. But in critical path selling, it is truly relationship-based, and it is about putting that customer first. We’re going to get to know them. I’ve given this thing categories because I teach this to general Realtors who are very unfamiliar with this concept. But when I break it into these three categories, that seems to make a little more sense to them.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Getting to know them. That’s the meet and greet. That’s the rapport building. That is your first impression. It’s about them. find that connection with them on a personal level. It has nothing to do with the product. It has nothing to do with what they want to accomplish, or why they came in today, or how many square feet they’re trying to build or, or what their price point is. We’re going to stay completely away from that. Even if they bring it up, we’re going to acknowledge it and then go right back into trying to drive that personal relationship. Then, after we feel like we made some rapport, and they’re started starting to lean in and we’re starting to lean and we’re kind of finishing each other’s sentences a little bit. Our rhythms kind of align as we’re talking. Our cadence starts to align so we don’t have one person talking really fast and one person talking really slowly. You’re kind of in sync now. That’s when we move into the discovery.
Discovery is where we’re learning what is it that they are trying to accomplish in their home. How are they going to live in their home? Who is going to live in their home? Do they entertain? Do they cook? How many cars do they have? Do they have people who are going to be living there part-time? Do they have people who may be living there in five years who aren’t living there now? Failure to launchpad? Or maybe an elderly relative-the in-law suite. Needs that they may not anticipate that they are going to need in the not-too-distant future. Many of us are caught in that sandwich generation where we still have kids at home, and we’re taking care of aging parents at the same time. So, maybe that multi-generational living is not something they considered unless you’re asking those questions. But if you’re just asking how many square feet are you looking for? What’s the price range that you want? How many bedrooms? How many bathrooms? How big is the garage? Do you have land? Have you been pre-approved? How sterile is that? Instead, we’re talking to them about their vision for a home and how they want to live in the home, suddenly, we have a lot more possibilities. We can look at many of our different floor plans and find the way that works for them instead of taking the catalog the floor plans out or clicking through it on the wall. if you’re really fancy, and you have a big TV with the interactive floor plans or virtual tours, great, but we shouldn’t start there. That’s where we end up after we have a good understanding. We say to them, “You know, I think I have the right floor plan for you.” You should only be showing 1 to 2, 3 floor plans at the most. If you’re going through your catalog of options and floor plans, you’re doing it wrong. That’s what we’re looking for with your salespeople; that they really make those kinds of connections with people.
FINDING A SOLUTION
Once they understand what the buyer is looking for, that’s when we start presenting solutions. That’s when we start talking about our floor plans and the solutions that we have to fill that buyers need. We will present those solutions to them, and then we’re going to demonstrate that by taking them out if you have that home available in the field somewhere. Maybe it’s your model, maybe it isn’t. I don’t care personally if they ever see your model home. I know, I know models are very sacred, so don’t freak out on me, I get that. Models should be the dream place. That’s where we come back after we figured out what the floor plan is that they’re looking for. To look at what all the possibilities where we can decorate it, where we can think about what we might want in the kitchen, the kind of flooring we might want, and they can start trying on the finishes for size unless that model happens to be the right floor plan for them. If you don’t have it available, then we’re going to do a walk through it on it. We’re going to do a blueprint walk or a print walk where we look at it and figure out if that’s going to be right. Then we’re going to go out on site. There is an old adage in this business that “when you site, you write.” If you’re a builder who has land and you are not doing scatter site on your customers’ lot, then you want to have your salespeople out there. They should have cones; they should have a 200-foot measuring tape. They should be able to measure off and put those cones out and have that customer working with them and experiencing this whole thing on the home site.
There are so many beautiful stories about sitting out on home sites, visualizing it. I was in Phoenix, and a village outside of there you may have heard of called Estrella. There are going to be 50,000 rooftops in Estrella. This is a national developer that built out there. They had built a village called Serenity. and it looked out on the Estrella mountains. We went up there, and there was just one home site. Being from Florida we like green. We have a lot of beautiful lush landscapes here, but this is Phoenix; there’s a lot of brown. So, for me, I’m looking at this homesite wondering why it is so much more expensive. It literally backs up to rock. There was a giant boulder right behind where the home site finished. And, there was a cactus, so there was one green thing. But I just couldn’t figure out why this particular homesite was so much more than the rest of the homesites. We were working with a lady who was bringing her family, and they were all going to live in different villages within Estrella. They were all retiring from the military, and it had been her dream since she and her husband had retired that they were going to get everybody back together from all the four corners of the globe, and they would be able to spend time with their grandkids. She wanted to build a big home where all the grandkids could come and play. Well, this was the only home site that would accommodate that, so we went out, we had to step over our silt fence, and we walked out onto that home site, and it happened to be around five o’clock in the evening. Now at five o’clock in the evening, from the vantage point of that community, you had an incredible view of the Estrella mountain range. If you haven’t spent any time out in Phoenix, most of us think of Camelback, and it’s just rocks, right. But the Estrella range does have some vegetation on it. Because of that, as the sun starts to get lower in the sky, the mountain range lights up and it becomes bright orange, and then the purple starts to creep in where all that vegetation is. It does these beautiful colors which are a gorgeous spectrum of colors, and it really puts on a show every night. Whenever I was out there, I always wanted to make sure I finished my day at that particular community, so I could view that spectacle every night because it was just breathtaking. I would literally just stand there and watch it for like 15 or 20 minutes. Well, that was happening as we were showing this lady this home site. We all just stood there probably not saying anything for a good five or 10 minutes. Not a word. Just in silence and just in awe watching that. I looked over to the lady, and she had a tear coming down her face. She looked at me, and then I, of course, had a tear coming down my face, and I said to her, “If you’re not going to buy this homesite, I didn’t know I was in the market to live here, but I’m going to buy it if you don’t!” She cracked up, and we both were laughing. She’s said, “This is perfect. This is exactly what I envisioned.” That’s the power of going out and showing those homesites. So, if you have a sales team, and they’re not taking advantage of that, get them out there and show them how to do that.
That demonstration includes homes, it includes home sites, and it includes amenities. Many of you sell master-planned communities with incredible amenities or even traditional neighborhoods with really nice amenities. If your salespeople aren’t showing those amenities and really getting your buyers engaged in them, then why did we put them in the first place? If they are a selling feature, then we need to be experiencing them with our buyers. We shouldn’t be rushing them through this process. That’s going to allow us to narrow down to that selection for that one-of-a-kind.
ASSISTING THE BUYER ACHIEVE THEIR DREAM
Then we’re going to assist the buyer to achieve their dreams, and we are going to help them to own it by overcoming any objections and closing the sale. I just think it’s rude to spend all this time getting to know someone, go through this whole process and then not invite them to own one of your homes. How rude is it? I really can’t think of another word. After all of that, if you don’t ask them to go ahead and move forward. They may think, “Wow, they must not really want me to live here.”
That is The Critical Path. That’s normally a three-day class that I just gave you in about 15 minutes with whole lot more nuance in here, but I wanted to make sure that you understood at least a little bit about this because it is so important whether you’re the one doing the sales, or your sales team as the one doing the sales.
Kimberly Mackey is the founder of New Homes Solutions Consulting, and has the reputation as someone with real-world SOLUTIONS in a competitive and rapidly changing sales environment–SOLUTIONS like “50 Sales per Year before Any Walk-in Traffic”. Her primary business is that of a Sales & Marketing Management Consultant. Companies call on Kimberly to set up the processes and systems within the company so that sales is the engine that drives the train rather than running it off the tracks. Because she has such a depth of experience in all disciplines within the building industry beyond the sales and marketing world, she is highly sought after to help companies to create a Customer Experience Process from potential lead to customer and throughout the building process into the warranty period and beyond. In other words, by creating a smooth transition and communication processes, she helps builders to create “Raving Fans.”
She is a keynote speaker and published author of many Sales and Leadership articles with 20 years of experience as an executive in the residential home building and real estate industry. She has a proven track record working with Builders and Developers of all sizes –from the local/regional companies to the publicly traded nationals. She also works with Brokers from across the country and is the architect and director of the highly successful Preferred Builder Partnership with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group where she works with 32 builders, 22 offices and over 650 agents.
For more information, or to book Kimberly for your next event, visit www.NewHomesSolutions.com. While you are there, please be sure to subscribe to SOLUTIONS e-newsletter which comes out twice a month with free training and best practice sharing from across our industry. You are also invited to connect with Kimberly on LinkedIn,www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlymackey; Twitter,www.twitter.com/KimberlyDMackey; and Facebook,www.facebook.com/NewHomesSolutions or on YouTube, www.youtube.com/c/NewHomesSolutions