Sales Clinic: Meeting in Person Makes the Sale

Plus, the most important sales skills to master; building in price reductions up front; and using the Internet to enhance your marketing.

November 1, 2000

Q: I am a new salesperson. Can you tell me how to qualify buyers on the phone when I receive a floor call? I obviously don't want to waste my time with deadbeat buyers, but I also don't want to miss out on something that could potentially get me a sale or a listing. Paula Clark

A: Don’t even worry about qualifying potential buyers over the phone when you receive a floor call. Instead, concentrate on getting them to come to your office for a meeting. Meeting prospects face to face allows you to take control of the sales process and build a better rapport with the customer. On the phone, you're totally at prospects' mercy;they can hang up on you at any time.

Setting up personal meeting is the first step in my three-step floor call process. I break up the process so that I don’t get ahead of myself and try to do too much, too fast.

The second step of the process is to convince a potential customer to work with you once he or she meets you in person. Make sure you loan officer joins you for this first meeting to pre-qualify the new customer for you. The third step, of course, is to sell your new client a house.

Q: There are so many different skills real estate professionals can work to improve. What skill sets would you recommend salespeople concentrate on first? Eric Lofholm

A: If you can master time management and learn to build solid rapport with your clients, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful salesperson. Since your time is finite, there is only so much you can do each day. If you develop a daily plan and focus your time on the most dollar-productive activities, you can set priorities and maximize your earning power. Personally, I use a daily planner and spend at least 15 minutes every morning planning out of my schedule for the day. That way, I don’t waste my time or energy on activities that don’t earn me money.

If you can build rapport your potential customers—in other words, get them to like, trust and respect you—closing the deal will be much easier. Early in your first meeting with customers, try to find some non-threatening area of common interest so that they will feel more comfortable around you. Whether the topic is parenting, sports, or stamp collecting doesn’t really matter; you just want to find a way to get them talking about themselves with you. Of course, avoid topics such are religion and politics.

There are many other skills you’ll need to develop if you want to become a top salesperson. However, none will be as valuable as the ability to manage your time properly and the capacity to build rapport with your customers.

Q: How do you convince a seller to reduce the price of a listing? Steve & Nancy Whitfield, Whitfield Properties, Burlington, N.C.

A: I always try to sell my clients on the idea of price reductions before they sign the listing agreement. When I take the listing, I also ask sellers to sign my “Sure-Fire Sales Addendum,” which pre-approves price reductions after 30, 60, and 90 days.

To convince prospects to sign, I explain in a matter-of-fact way that it's our standard practice to list the property at market value and then reduce the price every 30 days until it sells. The addendum clearly outlines the dates of the price reductions and what the new asking price will be on each of those dates. I normally ask for a minimum 3 percent reduction every 30 days. However, I do take other factors into account—available inventory in the marketplace, whether it’s currently a buyers’ or a sellers’ market, the appreciation rate of homes in that neighborhood. When we ask for a price reduction 30 days later, we have already planted the seeds of acceptance at the listing appointment.

If a price reduction becomes necessary, we remind the sellers of the Sure-Fire Sales Addendum they signed and ask them to follow the plan we agreed upon by approving the price reduction.

If the customer refuses to reduce the price and we believe that the home won’t sell at the current price, we strongly consider cutting our losses by firing that customer. Why waste your time dealing with a listing that won’t sell and a seller who won’t cooperate? Remember that a single problem listing will suck up more of your time than 10 good ones.

Q: I already have a marketing program, but I’d like to take it to the next level. Can you suggest some online marketing techniques to supplement my efforts? Sean D. Miller

A: The Internet is a fantastic tool for enhancing your existing marketing programs. Look at what you’re already doing and explore how the Web can help you do more, more efficiently.

For example, if you do regular mailings to your past customers, adding a regular e-mail would be a natural fit. If you already advertise your listings in the newspaper or homes magazines, you might consider putting a Web site online that offers multimedia presentations or panoramic portraits of your listings. Take advantage of everything the Internet has to offer. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it can replace traditional marketing programs.

Roberts, of Ralph R. Roberts Real Estate Inc., is a Warren, Mich.-based practitioner. He's been in the real estate business for more than 20 years and has sold about 500 homes per year for the past five years. He's also author of the book Walk Like a Giant, Sell Like a Madman (New York: Harper Business, 1997).

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