Many of us have learned to be careful what we wish for. Years ago, as a young custom homebuilder, I reached a point where these words were ringing in my ears. While I was excited my business was growing quickly, I found myself struggling to keep up with my work like the proverbial ‘one-armed paper hanger’. Job site supervision consumed my weekdays from sunup to sundown. Evenings were dedicated to customer meetings, estimating and architectural design work. On weekends, I worked my model homes during the day and often met with customers those nights as well. If I was to survive personally and professionally, I realized something had to change – I seriously needed to ‘get a life’.
Realizing that sales and customer relations consumed the greatest amount of my time, I decided to explore the possibility of working with a real estate broker to ease the burden. After studying the Sunday classifieds, I identified three companies that were already active in builder representation and had a strong presence in my market area. I contacted each of them and arranged a meeting in my office the following week. In each meeting, a group consisting of the Director of the New Homes Division, an office manager and a sales associate who would handle the account made the presentations. All three of the groups presented nicely packaged proposals that detailed a long list of services that would be provided, outlined a marketing program, showed samples of marketing done for other builders and specified the commissions that would be charged. Each group promised to follow-up in a few days to answer any questions I would have after reviewing the proposals, smiled warmly, shook hands and left.
After the last group had left the office, I turned to my draftsman who was working quietly in the far corner of the office. “Wow”, I said in amazement, “That was so strange! They all did the same thing.”
“What’s that?” asked Chuck, “I wasn’t really listening.”
“What they all did would be the same as if we were to meet with our customers for the first time, show them a home design and building site we’ve chosen for them, list some options we’ve selected and then quote them pricing for the whole package. They’re supposed to be sales professionals, yet they never asked what’s really important to me. They just told me what they want to do. It’s as if they think builders are all the same.”
Contrary to common belief, however, builders are people too. Like us, they have unique talents and abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Builders, as individuals, have different motivations that drive them to face the challenges of the homebuilding business. They also have individual goals – different ways they define success for themselves. And while they certainly share much in common with other builders, due to personal past experiences, market conditions and other influences, they also differ in what they feel will contribute most to the success of their business.
The key is to build a relationship targeted to the needs of the builder. Graduates of our Certified New Home SpecialistÔ Training Program use a special series of forms called the ‘Builder Marking Profile’ to help them effectively gather and organize the most important builder information. The focus of their first meeting with a builder is mostly to listen. We teach them to ask questions designed to assess motivations, goals, and concerns and clearly define the builder’s needs. At the same time they also share ideas of the services and benefits they can provide.
At the next meeting, they then present a customized ‘Sales and Marketing Services Proposal’ that’s tailored to exactly what the builder has identified as most important. And as you would imagine, it’s then much easier for the builder to say "yes".
Several weeks after my three broker meetings, a real estate agent tracked me down on one of my job sites. She showed me a binder where she had organized information she had gathered about every builder and subdivision in the area. She explained that she was determined to represent the very best builder she could find and that I was the one. She now had my attention.
She then asked good questions. She listened carefully. She took thorough notes. She made me feel that she sincerely cared about what was important to me. And one day at a time, she showed me that she did what she said she would do. Over time, my sales began to grow, I began to get my life in order, and I realized something that many builders have yet to learn – that real estate agents can be some of our most important components to our new home sales success -- if they recognize that Builders are People Too!