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How Home Buyers Shop in Today’s Market
And what to do to get the sale

By Rick Heaston

No matter what you’ve been told, today’s customers are more “in charge” than ever before. They’re more informed and more knowledgeable, while also being less trusting and quicker to form opinions of you.
Although some builders have invested heavily in improving the customer experience during the mortgage, production, orientation and service phases of the home buying process, little time has been spent on the most important phase in today’s market: the sales process.
How do shoppers feel about your sales process? Does it facilitate the decisions your customers must make before they buy or does it leave them confused and reluctant to do business with you?
If your sales process could use some revamping, you’re not alone. During the boom year sales were relatively easy. But it’s a buyer’s market now and selling is more challenging than ever. Because there’s a new critical path to buying, there needs to be a fresh approach to selling as well. In other words, we must redefine our selling process to ensure that how we sell matches how they buy.
Essentially, consumers make four decisions when purchasing any big-ticket item, such as a home:

First decision: Am I comfortable?
When customers arrive at your community, research shows that they have approximately seven potential outcomes in mind: they can stay where they are, they can buy from you, they can buy a resale home or they can buy from any one of your three to four major competitors.
Because each alternative is fraught with risk and difficult to evaluate, your customers will make a quick cut, reducing their choices to two or three. By doing this, they reduce their evaluation to a more manageable scope. Salespeople therefore need to understand that in their first visit to your community, home buyers are simply looking to answer the question: “Do I put this builder in my ‘keeper’ pile?”
Contrary to what you might think, customers are not there to eliminate you. Something or someone told them you were a builder worth considering, so they are looking for reasons to include you, to extend their visit or to come back and visit again.
At this stage in the process, try to refrain from actively selling yourself or building rapport. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, building rapport is not on their shopping agenda yet. At this stage, customers are there to qualify you — to see if what you have might work for them. Until they know that, rapport is a waste of their time.

Second decision: Is this the perfect one?
Now that your customers have reduced their options from seven to two or three, they face their next major decision: “Which of my two to three choices is the ‘perfect’ one?”
Between qualifying for their mortgage, deciding which floor plan works best and getting the most lucrative incentive package they can get, customers can be overwhelmed. Nevertheless, today’s customers feel like they can’t afford to make a mistake, especially with the market being the way it is. We all know that nothing is perfect, but with so much money at stake they seek it anyway.
To help them arrive at that “perfect” decision, salespeople must know how to guide prospects through the selection process. Most home buyers appreciate someone who is willing to educate them objectively about the various floor plans and how to evaluate all of the options available to them. We use a technique called Floor Plan Voting which really helps buyers through the process.

Third decision: Am I making the right decision?
Once your customers have selected you as their builder, they immediately second-guess themselves.
At this stage in your sales process, customer confidence is a critical issue. Now it’s up to you to provide proof that their decision is a good one. Telling them is one thing, but offering proof is another.
Here’s where a skilled salesperson can ask questions that identify the consumer’s values and what’s important to his or her lifestyle. Next, match those values with features of the home so that the buyer can see just how “perfect” this decision is. We call this Value Matching.

Fourth decision: Have I made the best deal I can make?
Now it’s the moment of truth. Your customers must decide whether or not they should go through with your purchase agreement.
With this choice, your customers make the biggest decision of their lives. At this point the only thing that may hold them back is if they think the risk they’re assuming is out of line with the cost. However, the more confident they are in their previous decisions, the lower their perceived risk.
At this stage, an intuitive salesperson will reiterate how well this home delivers everything the homeowner values. If the salesperson does his or her job well, this last decision should be an easy one for the home buyer.
In this new age of home buying, it’s important to have an innovative approach to selling that puts you on buyers’ short lists, lessens risk and instills your customers with confidence in their  purchase decisions.

To learn more about this technique visit: www.avidratings.com

Rick Heaston is the founder of TouchPoint Selling and the Senior Sales Advisor for AVID Advisors, the consulting division of AVID Ratings. He has received the National Marketing Director of the Year Award from the National Association of Home Builders and worked with hundreds of home builders throughout Canada and U.S. to increase sales.

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