As managers, directors, and vice presidents, we need to reinvent our salespeople's selling techniques to help them adapt to a dramatically changed environment. Listening to sales presentations, there are three mistakes I commonly hear: They sell the same way they did several years ago; they have been preconditioned by buyers and the media; and they differentiate themselves too little when it comes to greeting, opening lines, qualifying questions, and information dumping, often sounding too mechanical.

Start by urging sales counselors to stay away from the typical sales process. Focus on building trust. Just as technology has changed processes radically to maximize production, we as salespeople need to change and reinvent ourselves. We need to learn from professionals and absorb how they prepare and practice to perform well. Selling effectively is not unlike the practice of medicine. Each patient has different symptoms, and it is the doctor's responsibility to prescribe the solution. The same is true for selling. Many salespeople prescribe the wrong medicine to their clients. Instead of a thorough examination, they treat all prospective buyers the same. The fact is, this is what business thrives on: fulfilling the customers' needs and solving their problems to enhance their lives. Professionals must commit to improving their craft and delivering results, period.

Have you heard of the pike syndrome? A study done years ago had a pike and minnows placed in a large glass tank separated by a glass divider. Every time the pike went to attack the minnows for lunch, it would hit the glass divider. Eventually, the glass divider was removed, and the pike was so conditioned that the minnows had complete freedom of the tank and taunted the vicious pike. After the pike was reconditioned, the minnows were safe. The pike starved. A similar phenomenon has occurred in our business. Imagine the glass divider as the media, the financial markets, inventory levels, and buyers hedging the market. Salespeople fall prey to pike syndrome. Buyers are better at buying homes than we are at selling them. I've said often that real estate is the easiest job to fail at and the most difficult to succeed at! Since enthusiasm is such a large component of selling and buyers have such an opportunity, why is it so difficult to sell homes? Everyone is conditioned and waiting for the bottom to hit. In the stock market, you have to be contrarian to be great. We need to recondition, re-motivate, rethink, and get reenergized! In this career, positioning and professionalism are what will make winners when this tide turns.

The essential ingredient to sell today is differentiation. When prospective buyers view many model homes, everything blurs. Becoming memorable to our traffic will help generate sales. True consulting is needed now more than ever, not just on a business card. We're in a skeptical world; trust takes time to build and only seconds to destroy. This goes back to the fundamentals of using a person's name to start building trust and rapport. Taking the time to demonstrate the models with every guest visiting your sales gallery will give you a competitive edge. Now, you have just become memorable and have differentiated yourself from the pack. The more you give of yourself, the more you will receive. Selling in the model home is where you can gather information that allows you the opportunity to be a true consultant. In the sales gallery, the buyer's job is to resist you and get to the models without being attacked by a salesperson. No one wants to be sold! Have your salespeople escort every guest through your models and track the results. Make sure every neighborhood has an aggressive business plan and follow-up plan. This is differentiation and will keep your people accountable! It makes all the difference in the world. Your people look for leadership, direction, and guidance. Expect professionalism from them.

–Jim Capaldi is a broker and director of sales for Standard Pacific Homes, Ventura, and the author of The Ultimate New Home Sales and Success Manual. He may be reached via e-mail at