ost communities have some sort of sales operation. It may be a retail sales center and be totally independent of the community office. Or, sales may be handled by the office staff. Another option found is not selling new homes at all, just brokering (listing and selling) homes for your residents.
Whatever your method of sales, it is important to do it well. Resident satisfaction demands professionalism - and ethics - in sales. Remember, you live with who you sell. And, whether you are selling your customer a new home, or a "pre-loved" one, it is still a new home to them!
Lots of factors enter into a positive sales experience. Some of the more important ones are inventory; qualifying prospective customers; property and home tours (including feature/benefit demonstration); the close, and the follow-up.
The old school of thought was that you had to have lots of inventory to sell homes. That if the customer did not see what they wanted, they would simply go elsewhere and continue looking. Whether you are in a retail sales center on a boulevard, or in a community - that is an expensive theory!
The more modern school of thought is to stock a single section, a multi-section - and to be creative! Especially in a community! Keep your overhead costs (such as floorplan interest and open lot policy insurance premiums) as low as possible. And - do it while maintaining a high volume of sales!
Sound challenging? Well, it is! But not impossible! Some folks in Ohio have a great idea - they use the new homes recently purchased by residents as part of their inventory! With a simple, but effective marketing plan, these creative community owners have quadrupled (or more) their available inventory to show prospective customers. And, without increasing any of the costs normally associated with such increases!
Here's how it works: Once they sell a floorplan, they don't reorder the same one for inventory again. They order a different model. Then, they reach an agreement with the new resident who just bought the home. With an appointment, they are able to show that home to a prospective customer. Usually, the resident "conveniently" has to run an errand about the time the sales person and prospect show up at the door.
Payment of $10-$15 is made to the resident - whether a sale results or not. And, some residents even have cookies or bread baking in the oven about the time of the appointment. Talk about a selling tool! There's a subliminal message sent when people smell food! Something inside just seems to click, and even if they don't want that home, they seem to be more agreeable to continue talking and looking!
If you don't have or need that option, or have a lot of inventory on hand, there are other considerations to keep in mind. Keep your homes fresh. Don't use tired, worn out decor just because you have it - invest a little money in some fresh pretties to put out! Tuck an air freshner somewhere in a not-so-obvious place to help dispel musty or stale odors. If weather permits, open the windows for a truly "fresh" smell.
Regularly clean your model homes in inventory. Dust counters, sweep floors, mop vinyl areas. And don't forget those cobwebs which seem to form in corners and at the ceiling. Clean mirrors and tile to keep them fresh and sparkling. Check all toilets regularly - sometimes they get used in spite of all you can do to keep them unused! Make sure they are clean, with no ring around the bowl.
Decor should blend with the style and colors of the model, not stick out like something placed to draw your attention. All the attention of the prospect should be focused on the home itself. Use a limited amount of decor to allow the size of the home to be shown, rather than crowded. One tip for bathrooms is to take a 3" or 4" wide piece of lace, tie it around the toilet seat and lid, and put either a guest towel or ssmall flower bouquet on top. It is attractive, and emphasizes the "non-use" status of the toilet at the same time.
Have community brochures available in a kitchen drawer, where you can get them if the prospect shows interest in selecting a homesite during the tour of the home. Even if you give them out as part of your "pre-qualifying" step at the office before you tour the homes, have them in the homes. Some people won't bring paperwork with them to look at the community and/or homes. Also a good idea to have a manufacturer's floor plan booklet available in the homes to give to interested prospects if they are interested in various options. Again - my suggestion is to keep them in a drawer, not spread out on the counter top!
As for pictures on the wall - why not try some lifestyle photos or nature scenes from your own community? Done tastefully and framed attractively, they are sure to be noticed - and how nice it would be to claim ownership of the scene! What a way to launch your feature/benefit conversation about your property!
One final reminder on inventory - make sure your homes are set up to code when they are models. Put on skirting, put up regulation steps or decks. Put up the shutters, seam the carpet in multi-sections, do all the finishing touches that make a house into a home. Remember - you may very well be showing this model to someone who is not familiar with manufactured housing. When they get their first impression of our product - don't let it be an unfinished, thrown-together something that you are trying to sell.
When you leave the office for the tour - have a pre-planned route to follow. You should know by this time (if your pre-qualifying was complete) which homes you are going to show. Your route should include the pool, the amenities of the community, one or two of the more attractive streets in the community. Point out especially nice homesites along the way - always referring to the resident by name.
For instance, you might say, "Don't Mrs. Green's roses look wonderful?" The idea is to have an interactive conversation with your prospect, not a monologue where you talk and they listen. And, of course, you want them to be in a positive frame of mind, so each of your questions and comments is worded so as to receive a positive answer from them. By the time you arrive at the model home, they will be accustomed to noticing the positive things you point out, and agreeing with your comments.
Closing the sale is obviously the entire point of this exercise! A successful close usually requires more than one try - and sometimes in more than one way! And - it takes practice to make your attempts to close sound like conversation and not a pointed question which makes your prospect uncomfortable!
Concentrate on closing from the minute you determine they are qualified buyers (cash or credit-worthy, ready to move now). Your questions during the pre-qualifying stages should all be directed toward the close. Who will live in the home? What kind of pets do you have? Hobbies? When do you need to move? Why are you moving? Where do you currently live? Where is your down payment coming from?
Practice closing at each stage of your conversation with your prospective customer until it becomes normal for you to ask the right questions, phrase statements the right way, etc. Role play with your staff members or your spouse - or the mirror untl you are comfortable!
After the sale - follow-up! The people that were your prospects then became your customers are now your residents! You are not only the manager (sometimes) of the community - bu also (in many cases) the one responsible for all the little things that their home will need as they settle into it.
Don't avoid your customers/residents! Just because they bought is no reason for you to forget them! Arrange for a pizza and cokes to be delivered on their moving day. Send a potted flower that can be transplanted into the yard later after they have lived there for a week. Visit after two weeks and make sure things are gong OK for them. Make sure they are invited to resident activities and happenings.
Then - after two months, invite them back to the office for coffee and cookies, or visit their home (by appointment) with donuts or cookies. Ask them two questions:
- If you had $500 - $1,000 more to spend when you bought this home, what would you have gotten that you did not?
- If you had $500 - $1,000 less to spend when you bought this home, what would you have not gotten that you have?
Keep a careful record of the answers you get from your new residents when you ask these questions. This type of market research is easily worth its weight in gold, and certainly worth a few donuts! By reviewing this material, you will be able to better select the options in your ordered model homes.
Do you have other tips to share about how you make sales come more naturally? I would love to hear them! Please write to me c/o The Journal or at my home address.