Most new-home sales agents have fond memories ofseeing a steady stream of prospects walk through the door. In today’s market, you need a strategy for generating traffic. Fortunately, there are only two limits on the number of ways to do this—your creativity and your willingness to work hard. Here are some suggestions that have worked for sales agents in recent months.
Events are a great way to showcase your community and your models. Molly Hay, a sales agent at Epcon Communities’ The Woods at Sugar Run, an active adult condo community in New Albany, Ohio, created seminars out of the biggest objections she gets—making the transition from a house to a condo, and the builder’s policy of not allowing extensive changes to the plans.
Her “Lifestyle Change” seminar for potential buyers features information on financing, staging their home to get it ready to sell, and a testimonial from a resident. “[The resident] told them, ‘We did it. We moved from a 4,000-square-foot home with a basement, and this is the best change we ever made,’ ” Hay says. “A lot of people were sold on it once we had the testimonial.”
She created the second seminar with the help of another resident, a retired custom builder who had made several upgrades to his home and was willing to offer those services to Epcon buyers. “I was getting frustrated, losing deals to people who were going to custom builders who did things Epcon didn’t do,” she says. “He was more than willing to do it because he’ll make a profit.”
At the “Personalize Your Condo” seminar, Hay and the retired custom builder were joined by a lender who discussed financing, followed by a tour of the model and the retired builder’s home. Out of the 15 attendees, three decided to purchase homes.
To promote the quarterly seminars, she sends out postcards to the ZIP codes from which she has gotten the most traffic. Her first seminar drew 12 people, 15 attended the next one.
“Seminars really help” potential buyers, Hay says. “It educates them, gives them a visual picture, and gets them excited.”
Don’t stop with seminars, though. You want your sales center to be a place where current residents and prospective buyers want to bring their friends, says Roland Nairnsey, senior vice president of training and development for Boca Raton, Fla.–based Bob Schultz and the New Home Specialists. “At least three times a year, you should do some kind of event,” he says. If the event is centered around a holiday, hold it on a Saturday and not the holiday. “Have free burgers, and let [potential buyers] meet the neighbors.”
Atlanta-based Coldwell Banker The Condo Store has used events effectively at several of its communities. Its Tribute Lofts in Atlanta drew 40 people to the sales center for a pet adoption day it did with a local animal shelter, says marketing director Cathie Corish. It offered tours and gave special incentives to those who adopted a pet. Tribute Lofts also offers its sales center and clubhouse as a meeting place to local organizations whose members fit its buyer profile. It provides refreshments, gives model tours before and after the meetings, and offers a special incentive to the group members.
At your events, Nairnsey says, take photos, collect e-mail addresses from attendees, and send them the pictures. Also, post them on your Web site so people can see how friendly your community is.
With so many Realtor incentives being offered, it’s important to make yours memorable, says Ginny Bishop, director of marketing for Alpharetta, Ga.–based Sharp Residential. With 65 percent to 70 percent of her communities’ traffic coming from real estate agents—and those customers being three to four times as likely to buy as prospects walking in on their own—she puts a lot of thought into her agent incentive program. For the past two years, she’s done programs that play on the company’s name. In 2006, she used a shark theme and the tagline, “Sharp Bait.” In 2007, and for 2008, she’s using “Sharp Pay.” Program fliers are accompanied by stuffed toy shar pei puppies in Sharp-branded T-shirts and dog-bone–shaped cookie cutters.
The builder gives the broker of participating real estate agents a $1,000 American Express gift card in addition to their standard commission after the closing of their first Sharp home. After the second sale, they receive a $2,500 gift card, and $5,000 for each house after that.
“People remember it,” Bishop says. “Everybody loves a dog. Even agents who had never heard from Sharp before said they’d come to one of our neighborhoods first.”
It’s critical to develop positive, on-going relationships with the real estate agents in your market. Whenever Carmen Ware, sales manager at Olthof Homes in St. John, Ind., has a special promotion, she delivers fliers along with a sheet cake imprinted with Olthof’s current ad to the top 16 Realtor offices in her market. “I had a Realtor come in the very afternoon we delivered in the morning,” she says. “He said, ‘I saw the cake. I’d never been here before, so I came out to see your community.’ ”
Every time a Realtor registers a customer, he or she receives an Olthof Homes–branded gift. With the first customer, it’s a coffee cup filled with candy and a balloon. Subsequent gifts include note pads, umbrellas, and travel mugs. Those are delivered in person to the agent’s office. Ware’s advice: Don’t just leave gifts with the receptionist. Ask if you can take them to the agents’ desks. That accomplishes two things: If the agents are there, you can thank them in person for registering their client. It also creates a visual in the office, so other agents see what they’ve gotten from you.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.