Digital Dozen

Let’s do a reality check. Here is a virtual snapshot of today’s new-home-sales environment:

• Customers are coming to the table armed to the teeth with information they primarily have gleaned online.

• New home sales have reached a tipping point. The transactional aspect of selling is quickly disappearing. While written contracts are still a dominant part of the sales process, they are being rewritten daily by savvy buyers.

• Routine functions, such as follow up and scheduling, are now automated.

• Customers and prospects often have as much (if not more) data and information as the salesperson.

To succeed under these circumstances, what should you do? The answer’s obvious: Develop new skills that center on reinterpretation and relationships.

First, you need to reinterpret the information that potential home buyers have accumulated. They have read and collected a massive amount of data online and interpreted it into what they think it means. Your job is to help them mentally assemble this information and to provide them with a fresh and more accurate reinterpretation that will facilitate their decision making. For example, they may have read that today isn’t the time to buy a new house … or all builders offer discounts … or they should negotiate a better price … or your model homes/ neighborhood aren’t as nice/large/popular as your competitor’s. You must refocus their perspective.

Second, to have a sustainable and growing business, you have to build strong relationships with buyers by improving and enhancing their home-buying experience. The relationship starts when you meet the buyer and then develops gradually through the sales process and beyond. Ideally, this would be a lifetime partnership.
To become proficient in reinterpreting information and in forming relationships with buyers, you need to tap into technology.

The phrase Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is all about making the most of current technology to organize, coordinate and automate sales, marketing and customer service. Using it effectively will increase your company’s sales, make your sales staff more efficient and lower your overhead.

Because of that, it’s crucial that you hire salespeople who are at ease in a high- tech world. They don’t have to be experts, but they should understand that, in the home-buying process, technology is used from initial contact through contract. It can track e-mails, phone calls and mailings. It can monitor clicks, responses and online conversations. Technology is an invaluable aid in retaining the relationship with a buyer and in obtaining referrals.
The common thread that ties technology and people together is social media. It covers many different avenues, including blogs, podcasts, photo sharing, instant messaging, crowd-sourcing, wall-postings, texting, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, Skyping, Tweeting, Meetups, etc.

Social media amplifies the voices of clients and buyers as they share opinions, experiences and observations about companies, salespeople and products. You and your sales staff should be part of that dialogue or, at least, keep a close watch on it. By successfully employing social media, your salespeople (and your company) can become established as experts in new home sales and, therefore, have influence and input into the buying decisions of potential homeowners.

Regardless of whether your company is on a digital dirt road or the information super highway, you need to hire people who are strong advocates of technology and can use it to better serve their clients and your company.

To find out how tech savvy those budding new salespeople are, here are some questions to ask during the interview process:

1. Do you own a Smartphone? How would you use it to do a better job in new home sales?

2. Do you own a laptop? What kind? Have you taken any computer classes/ courses or read books to help you learn more about your computer? Have you taken any formal classes relating to computer software or social media?

3. Do you own a tablet? What kind?

4. What are the favorite Smartphone or tablet apps that you use for business?

5. How do you stay updated on current events and/or trends?

6. Do you watch YouTube videos? What are your favorite types of videos? Do you know how to post a video? Have you done it?

7. Which social media sites do you participate in? What social media accounts do you have and how do you use them?

8. The 2010 Edelman Trust Study indicated that the most effective way to market your product to buyers is to establish yourself as a “genuine authority.” Specifically, you “must honestly convince people of your genuine intentions, knowledge and expertise by providing valuable and accurate information on a consistent basis.” The study revealed that, by doing this, you become a trusted advisor and develop a “top-of-the-mind awareness” with buyers so they will gravitate to you naturally. Do you agree with this? If so, how would you use technology to become a trusted advisor and a go-to person of authority?

9. If you were to purchase something of value, how would you research it? If you needed to find a medical specialist in a new town, how would you find one?

10. Do you subscribe to or have you ever written a blog?

11. Describe your experience using a CRM or lead management program.

12. On a scale of 1-10, where would you rank yourself when it comes to being tech savvy? “1” means you’re completely inexperienced and “10” means you’re extremely knowledgeable. Why?

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