Thursday, April 24, 2008

Using Words Judiciously

As professional salespeople, one of our quintessential traits is the ability to communicate. In case you don’t know the meaning of “quintessential” and feel that I didn’t communicate my own message very well, it means the true essence or very core of something.

In simpler terms, it means that we must be able to have a meaningful conversation with our customers and connect with them – whether it’s learning about or understanding their needs, appreciating their concerns and issues, helping them resolve issues standing in the way of a decision, and helping them to feel comfortable about making the decision that is in their best interests.

To this end, customer service – as well as sales – plays a major role in delivering the message to our customers that they are important and that we care about them.

Many times I have called various companies for help with a billing questions or a software issue and after many frustrating and nonproductive minutes, I have been asked if there was “anything else they could help me with?”

Since they had not helped me resolve the primary issue that I had – because they refused to understand the issue and take ownership of it, because “company policy” didn’t allow them to resolve it, because they didn’t feel like helping me, because they lacked the know-how or expertise to help me, or some other equally insipid response – their offer was on its face disingenuous.

Therefore, when we as salespeople offer to help someone, let’s really mean to do so. When we don’t have an immediate answer or solution for their question, let’s promise to find one – and set a deadline for talking with them again about it.

Oh, one last thing on being sincere. Don’t wish people to “Have a nice day” when it clearly is not appropriate. So many customer service personnel use this as a rote conclusion after aggravating you or providing no help to the issue being discussed.

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For more information about my consulting and coaching services visit my website
stevehoffacker.com

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If You Want To Succeed at Sales, You Must Be Great at Asking Questions

There are many qualities that a successful salesperson might possess. These include a good work ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit, good sales skills, great communication abilities, people oriented, and product knowledge.

You can add your ideas to the list, such as organizational abilities, self-motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, persistent, and dedicated.

However, I believe that the most important innate skill that a salesperson can have is the ability to ask questions. This is partly taught and partly natural ability.

Give me any person who is people oriented that knows how to ask questions – and likes doing so – and I can teach them to sell. They are related. A love of people causes you to want to learn about them, their needs, and how you can help them.

However, give me someone with great product knowledge that isn’t comfortable asking questions or isn’t able to develop a natural rhythm of asking questions, and that person will be more challenged to become a successful salesperson.

Asking questions is nothing more than having a conversation with someone. Take someone you hardly know or are meeting for the first time at a social event. You ask what they do, about their family, where they live, where they’re from, what they like to do, and so forth.

Before long, you have an idea of their background and areas that you have in common. It’s not all one-sided either. It’s give-and-take. You learn about them, and they learn about you.

Sales is quite similar. There are certain types of questions you can’t ask until the foundation has been established, but it’s very similar.

Asking questions because you want to know the answers, because you are curious, because you need an explanation, and because you want a clarification will guide you toward successful a sales presentation.

Along the way, you’ll learn what you need to focus on and the answers that your customers need to have in order to make an informed decision on your product.


Not very good at asking questions but want to be better? Practice talking with people everywhere you go. Enjoy asking questions but need to use more effective ones? Relax and concentrate on really getting to know your customers. The questions will begin coming to you.

* For more information about my consulting and coaching services visit my website
stevehoffacker.com. I also maintain a blog on the real estate network Active Rain, and you can join this site and begin participating in the fun and networking opportunities by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Have You Considered Becoming a Remodeler?

Not every builder can turn to remodeling, but for those who want to be remodelers, it can mean two very important things. First, there is extra cash flow as you help people renovate their existing homes to make them more comfortable for their current needs. Second, there is a new market share to be garnered.

In times when new construction slows and people aren’t buying new homes as rapidly as they once were, remodeling takes on a new importance. People look to improve what they already have. They may want a new bedroom or bath. They may want a larger kitchen or family room. Maybe they need more storage. Perhaps they want to convert some exiting “bonus” or “flex” space in actual living areas.

Remodeling can run from being a handyman all the way to a custom home builder. It can involve changing out a few fixtures or replacing a door to tearing down or gutting an existence home and rebuilding it.

There’s always going to be a demand for remodeling because people are going to want to make modifications to their homes – and not everyone is capable of or even interested in making those changes themselves. Many people like the home they have – especially after a few modifications are completed – and they’re not interested in moving.

Another big factor driving the remodeling business today is the concept of aging in place. People are much more interested in remaining in their current homes long-term, and now they need modifications and other improvements to accommodate various physical limitations and restrictions.

Also, people are having adult children or elderly parents move in with them - or both (the so called "Oreo" family) so they need modified or extra living space - especially bedroom and bathroom areas.

Some people are trying to sell their current home in order to buy another, and a home inspector has pointed out various deficiencies or inadequacies that they need to eliminate - or they want to modernize a kitchen or bath to make the home more salable.

Remodeling can be a very good business decision for a builder, but it takes a different focus and commitment than new construction.


* For more information about my consulting and coaching services visit my website stevehoffacker.com. I also maintain a blog on the real estate network Active Rain, and you can join this site and begin participating in the fun and networking opportunities by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Taking Notes Is Quite Helpful – and Professional

I stress the importance of salespeople taking notes about what they discuss with their customers – whether that discussion is on the telephone, in-person, or by email.

There are three main benefits for taking notes – and these really are benefits, not features. First, when you write down what you discussed or talked about with your customers, you can refer to your notes and refresh your memory. This also helps you strategize what you want to accomplish on that contact as well as the next one with that customer.

The second benefit is one you probably haven’t thought that much about. At some point, you are going to need help from your builder, manager, assistant, or associate. I’m not talking about every customer or any specific customer, but at some point, you’re going to need help.

You may decide to take a vacation day – or even several days or a cruise. You may get sick. You might have family emergencies to tend to. You might be out of the office showing property, or you might just be busy trying to work with more than one person at the same time.

Regardless of the reason why you might need help working with a returning customer, the point is that whoever pitches in to help you – even if it’s just for a short time until you become available – can easily review your notes and determine what you have discussed with your customer and what they might need to do to assist them in your absence or unavailability.

The third benefit is related to the second one. No one likes to repeat their story so when someone needs to assist you – or it’s been a while since you’ve talked with this customer or you’ve seen and talked with many customers since last speaking with them – a quick review of the notes will bring you right up to speed on where you are with this customer. Why ask them to repeat what they’ve already told you, unless you just want to strategically confirm some of their information to make sure it’s current?

Taking notes is not a clerical function – it’s a sales function. Unless you’re real good at keeping track in your head of everyone who has come through your front door or otherwise contacted you by phone or email, you’d better be relying on notes instead of your memory. It truly is the mark of a professional salesperson.


* For more information about my consulting and coaching services visit my website
stevehoffacker.com. I also maintain a blog on the real estate network Active Rain, and you can join this site and begin participating in the fun and networking opportunities by clicking here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Knowing How To Ask Questions Makes All the Difference

Asking questions is an art. It is coachable but not extremely teachable. I can take someone who has an innate ability to ask questions and teach them how to be a great salesperson – regardless of their current line of work.

In fact, I often look for new home salespeople outside of real estate, and the first quality I look for is the ability to ask questions.

I want someone who enjoys working with people because that’s how the questioning is effective. Otherwise, it can come across as superficial and detached.

Product knowledge can be learned. Sales skills can be taught. Asking questions is either something you understand or it isn’t.

For instance: “How long have you been looking for a new home?” “What would you like to accomplish during our time together today?” “When you find a home that you’d like to live in, how soon are you prepared to make a decision on that home?” “Is there anything else we need to discuss before we start the paperwork?”

I left out dozens of questions, but you can see that just having a conversation with your customers can be a very effective sales technique.

We tend to complicate the sales process. It simply is a matter of meeting interested people who need or want a new home, learning what they’d like to achieve in getting a new home, determining their ability to make a purchasing decision, showing them choices and explaining how their needs can be met, identifying a specific solution for them, and helping them finalize their selection.

For the most part, this process is accomplished through a series of skillfully used questions – not done as a survey, but as a conversational give-and-take interview that you use to meet and get to know someone.

Critical path, working with objections, features and benefits, closing techniques – all important concepts but none as important as the art of asking questions. How do you know what to show someone, and how do you know that they understand and appreciate what you’re showing them, and how do you know that it’s important or that it matters to them? You have to ask.

* For more information about my consulting and coaching services visit my website
stevehoffacker.com.