Selling new homes these days is like pushing a boulder uphill through an obstacle course.

But you know that. There’s no need to remind anyone in the home building business how hard it is to get a buyer in the door and then out leaving a signed contract behind. There’s no value in listing the litany of barriers in the way of a sale.

And, after all these years of selling uphill, anyone who’s serious about making a living building and selling houses has already tapped the industry’s resident experts for help. So we decided to look outside home building for some fresh sales and marketing ideas in the hope that broader multi-industry perspectives will bring something new and helpful to the table.

Three sales and marketing gurus took the challenge, each offering five tips to help builders sell homes. Guy Kawasaki, a prolific author and speaker who cut his teeth working as Apple’s evangelist, offers ways to enchant your buyers. Tom Peters, who co-authored In Search of Excellence some 30 years ago and has been shaping business ever since, tells you who you really need to impress to sell houses. And Martha Rogers, of Peppers & Rogers Group, suggests ways to figure out what buyers want and how to get them to give you their trust.

Mark Allen Miller

Guy Kawasaki

First and foremost, Kawasaki asserts that new-home salesforces need to do more than offer a good product at a good price. Buyers want to buy a home they love, built and sold by people they like and trust. It also helps to have a great story to tell about the house and its community. In short, they need to be enchanted.


Co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the Web, Kawasaki is a founding partner of Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief “evangelist” of Apple. Kawasaki’s current book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, is a New York Times best-seller. He is also the author of Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way.

1) Conduct a “pre-mortem” of your development or product. This means you get your team together and tell them to pretend that it failed to sell. They are to come up with all the reasons why it failed: commute too far, lousy schools, traffic, lack of mortgages, etc. Then go thru the list and fix or eliminate as many reasons as possible.

2) Find shared passions with the buyers. Shared passions could be hobbies or sports—even kids. The goal is to move beyond a sales transaction to create a relationship. This might be hard for the initial meeting because you don’t know who’s walking in the door, but from the second meeting on, you can use social media and search engines to learn a lot about your buyers.

3) Describe your homes in short, sweet, and swallowable terms. Forget all the flowery real estate text and industry jargon. Come up with a five- to 10-word description of your development that’s memorable. For example, “Homes with the lowest energy costs in San Fernando Valley.” Then stick with it. Think: Volvo = safety; Ferrari = sexy; Audi = four-wheel drive.

4) Enchant all the influencers. Don’t just assume that the decision maker is the dad or the mom. Spend some time figuring out who really are the big influencers in the decision. My daughter is the key influencer in my life.

5) Ask people what they’re going to do. At the end of a reasonable length of time, simply ask them what they’re going to do. Then you’ll know where you stand. It might tip them into committing, and once people commit, they’re likely to honor their commitment.