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INSIDER: Changing the Sales Conversation

June 1, 2014

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Susan Monaghan, MBA

Consumers’ buying habits have changed. With unlimited and instantaneous access to the Internet, social media feeds, and mobile technology, consumers can access product information and reviews to make more informed and independent buying decisions.

This shift in information accessibility has deeply impacted sales professionals. Previously, providing information was a key way that salespeople created value for clients. Now, sales professionals must adapt the value creation process to address changing client needs by providing customized solutions. Real estate professionals have experienced this shift, as well, causing agents to rethink the way value is created in the home buying process.

In her latest book, Changing the Sales Conversation, sales consultant Linda Richardson helps sales professionals adapt to an information- and client-driven selling environment by offering insights about creating value and establishing connectivity among clients.

THINK POINT #1: The Conversation Has Changed

In the past, sales conversations were more of a monologue than dialogue. Salespeople had access to and shared information, forcing clients into a more passive role in the buying process. Salespeople had to know their product, but they did not necessarily have to know much about their clients.

Even in a real estate context, a one-way sales approach was sufficient when clients were only able to access listings and home information by hiring an agent. As we have seen, emerging technologies and Internet-based real estate databases like Zillow and Trulia have profoundly changed the way consumers buy and sell real estate. The way agents provide value today versus the way they provided value 20 years ago is significantly different.

If the conversation framework has not yet changed in an agent’s sales process, she must shift from engaging in a one-way monologue to a collaborative, two-way dialogue with clients. By understanding why and how the sales conversation has changed, real estate professionals can find new and sustainable ways to create value in the sales process.

THINK POINT #2: Understand Your Clients and Provide Valuable Insights

Today, 80% of your clients will find you before you find them (Richardson 2014). And as you may have found, clients are often advanced in the buying cycle before they ever meet with an agent. Clients may have researched preferred geographical areas and may have even narrowed their real estate search to a few homes. Information has empowered clients to become active participants in the sales process, fundamentally shifting control from the salesperson to the buyer.

Of course, the earlier a real estate agent can enter a client’s buying cycle, the more influence he can have in shaping the client’s decision criteria and thought process to create value. Real estate professionals should strive to become invaluable in the clients’ home buying process by anticipating issues, providing creative solutions, and helping clients achieve personal success by offering meaningful insights.

Social media can be an excellent resource for learning about clients and gaining insights for clients. Agents can use social media to network, prospect, and gather research. Agents can also monitor social media feeds to understand how clients think, buy, and act. The following social media tools can help real estate professionals stay connected, decrease non-selling time, improve the quality of sales conversations, and increase the likelihood of positive buying outcomes.

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a business-focused social networking site that empowers users to engage in network- and career-building activities. One way agents can use LinkedIn is to conduct client research. By learning about a client’s career roles, interests, and organizational involvement, agents can gain knowledge to build rapport in sales conversations and to gain a more holistic view of the client.

    In addition to building and rekindling business relationships with colleagues, family, and clients, LinkedIn also can serve as a tool to engage new customers. Ask people you are already connected with via LinkedIn to introduce you to prospective clients. Leveraging the power of your connections’ networks can expand your own network exponentially.

    By tapping-in to LinkedIn’s business information community, agents can access extensive and up-to-date industry and client knowledge. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool to help real estate professionals manage business relationships.

    For more information on using LinkedIn for your business, check-out another article published in the June 2013 issue of the Keller Center Research Report – “LinkedIn for Business Development.”

  • Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest: Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest can allow agents to engage in more informal, social networking activities - even for business purposes. Sharing status updates on Facebook, Tweeting about a home that a client recently bought, or providing pictures of current listings via Pinterest can help current and prospective clients gain personal and professional insight into your work as an agent.

    By engaging in these social media platforms, agents can also build bridges to connect with clients in the social mediums that are most important to them. Encourage satisfied clients to Tweet about their recent home buying experience or share a positive review of your work on your Facebook wall. More informal, social media-based endorsements can build an agent’s credibility and lead to a competitive advantage.

  • Hootsuite: Additionally, agents may consider using a social media dashboard tool like Hootsuite to consolidate and manage social media activity. While managing multiple social media accounts can seem onerous, Hootsuite enables users to post to and monitor activity on multiple social networks from one website. With support for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, and even Wordpress blogs, agents can use Hootsuite to have a comprehensive view of their social networks to better manage current and prospective client relationships.

THINK POINT #3: Create an Emotional Connection

Creating collaborative, two-way sales conversations with clients is important. Richardson reminds us, though, that managing the emotional aspects of the sales relationship is just as critical.

A client’s feelings and experiences are integral components of his buying process. If an agent can establish trust and connectivity in the relationship, she can gain short- and long-term benefits with the client. Real estate professionals who can successfully form emotional connections with a client make the business relationship more meaningful. A meaningful business relationship will increase the client’s likelihood to purchase from you and recommend your services in the future.

Richardson encourages sales professionals to “put their heart(s) into the sale,” shifting the salesperson from simply engaging in a client¬-centered approach to a more human-centered approach. Warm-hearted sales professionals show vulnerability and encourage open and honest dialogue with clients. Clients who trust their real estate agent are more likely to open up, listen, and engage with you.

Conclusion

Creating value for your clients is the one of the only sure-fire ways to capitalize on current business and create future business opportunities. Understanding that the sales conversation has changed, learning more about clients to provide greater insights, and creating emotional connections with clients will help agents maximize sales opportunities in your real estate business.

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Recommended Reading

Richardson, Linda (2014), Changing the Sales Conversation, New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

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About the Author

Susan Monaghan, MBA Candidate, May 2014, Baylor University
Graduate Assistant, Keller Center for Research

Susan earned her Bachelor's degree in English from Vanderbilt University, her Master's in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Houston, and her Master’s in Business Administration from Baylor University. Before coming to Baylor, she taught first grade in Highland Park ISD in Dallas, Texas for eleven years. Susan has finished her MBA and plans to transition into a financial services or marketing role.


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