People who are at the top of their fields tend to have some things in common. They’re insatiable students of their crafts, relishing every opportunity to improve their performance. They know their objectives, how they’re doing toward meeting those goals, and where they stand against the competition at all times. They perform their jobs at a consistently high level, and they’re committed enough to professionalism in their fields to share what they’ve learned.
That sounds like some new-home sales associates we know. When other sales associates are happy with closing one in 20 deals, these killer closers have conversion ratios—the number that tracks the percentage of prospects who convert to sales—from 1 in 6 to an astonishing 1 in 2.5.
How do they do it? That’s what we wanted to know, so we asked—in detail. What we learned was that top closers are successful because they master and execute a system on a consistent basis. They do what they do every time.
It’s not rocket science, but it just might be harder. There’s a tremendous amount of knowledge to digest, from the concrete details of construction, financing, and contracts to the particulars of the builder’s story, the steps in the sales process, and the art of reading a buyer’s emotions and sifting through the non-issues to find their true objections.
So, meet the master closers. We identified five “Ps,” qualities that are consistent among them. We’ll let them tell you how those qualities impact their performance and what they can do for yours.
Brenda J. Cook admits to a certain intensity in her work ethic and a voracious appetite for learning. A licensed pilot, she started college when her sons were grown and earned a degree in industrial management at age 47. “When I do something, I do it 100 percent, not halfway,” she says. “I read. I attend every class I can. I don’t think you can ever quit doing that.”
She’s also a raving fan of her community, Daniel Island, which is a 4,000-acre island in the center of metropolitan Charleston, S.C.
“When people come in, I say, ‘Let me give you [a] tour and let you fall in love with Daniel Island,’” she says. If buyers are in a hurry, she acknowledges how busy everyone is today and invites them to sit down for a moment with a community map so she can mark some areas of interest for them to look at on their own. “Nine times out of 10, I can get them in a car for a tour,” she says. “If they say they have five minutes, I can end up getting two hours.”
Cook credits her 1 in 2.5 conversion ratio to several key steps: setting and monitoring sales goals, having a sales process and following it consistently, being an active listener with her customers, having detailed knowledge of her product to be able to match buyers with just the right house, and following up regularly with her prospects and buyers.
She builds such rapport with her buyers—it helps that they all wind up being neighbors—that 75 percent of her sales come from referrals.
“It might be a difficult market today, but I prefer this market,” Cook says. “When I write a contract, I know I’ve done my job. I’m not just shooting fish in a barrel. I’m a professional, and I’m very good at my job.”
Brenda J. Cook
Market: Charleston, S.C.; Builder/Developer: Daniel Island Real Estate Co.; Years in the business: 5; Closing ratio: 1 in 2.5; Used to work as: real estate agent, investor, and builder. “I was the money lady and the cleanup crew.”; Motivational quote: “Press on.”—John David Cook, Cook’s late son; Cook’s sales tip: Help prospective buyers connect with you and the community. Every serious buyer leaves with “something they can hold on to,” such as a coffee mug. That’s followed up with a handwritten thank-you note, a postcard, e-mails, and phone calls.
Angela Drake wants to remind new-home salespeople that this is still a great real estate market. “I look at my parents and their generation,” she says. “We don’t have double-digit interest rates. The oil industry isn’t in the toilet. Even then, people still bought houses.”
She also wants to remind them that new-home sales is a great field. A former resale agent, Drake says she much prefers selling brand-new homes. “People come to you [as a new-home agent],” she says. “You’re not out there beating the streets, fighting for listings. I don’t think people in this business know how good they have it.”
There’s also nothing you can do about the market, so get over it. “The market is what it is,” she says. “You can’t be dependent on it, and you can’t use it as an excuse to not better yourself.”
The best way to better yourself as a salesperson, Drake says, is to have a process and follow it every day with every customer.
Her presentation is heavy on getting to know her buyers, their needs and desires, and why they want to move. She tells customers about the community and Simmons Homes, demonstrates the models and then the community amenities, and, finally, takes them to a homesite. By then, prospects know the one house and one lot that’s perfect for them.
And then she asks for the sale, right? No, then she tells them what to do.
“Throughout the process, I educate the buyer,” Drake says. “Then I say, ‘You know what site you want and floor plan. Let’s go ahead and start the paperwork, lock in the price of the home, and get your favorite homesite.’ If you ask, ‘Do you want to?’, they’ll say, ‘No,’ and come up with a million excuses. I kind of tell them, ‘We need to secure this today.’”
Market: Tulsa, Okla.; Builder: Simmons Homes; Years in the business: 5; Closing ratio: 1 in 5; Used to work as: retail manager and resale real estate agent; Motivational quote: “Your attitude determines your altitude.”—Myers Barnes, new-home sales educator; Drake’s sales tip: Show every prospective customer a homesite on the first visit. Talk about the type of homesite they would like to have and where they would like to live in the community. That creates a sense of urgency “so I can be credible to ask them to sign the paperwork on the first visit.”