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Face to face contact can make or break the buyer's experience

Over the last few weeks I have looked in detail at some of the key project marketing tools we use to create and enhance the buyers experience which in turn is the key factor that underscores brand values across every project, our marketing brand and personal brand.

Now to finish this topic I want to take a detailed look at personal service. Because I believe this is where success is created and in such a highly charged market one on one service is still the winner, not only in the short-term but also for the long-run, after all market conditions are always changing and a good ‘personal brand’ is a real asset. Not only for the individual, but also across the board impacting every aspect of a project and the entire sales path.

Clearly what happens at a face to face level will influence the buyer’s experience and so I always give high priority to supporting and training the every member of the sales team. And my definition of team is extensive and is not only confined to the direct selling team members. To create a service focused environment I fervently embrace team sales training, structured (but not dogmatic) sales paths and importantly a diverse and structured role for sales mentoring and most importantly recruitment policies that looks at always finding leaders.

Seven seconds to make a first impression

One of the main reasons personal service is so important is the fact that you only get one chance to create a good impression. The moment that a new buyer, or for that matter a potential new client, sees you, both their and your brain gets busy asking a thousand questions: Is this someone to approach or to avoid? Friend or foe? Hard work, likeable, or a genuine prospect? And according to lots of reports this all happens in the first seven seconds of meeting.

We can all appreciate that in a sales environment first impressions count. While none of us can avoid making snap decisions with good training a robust sales path we can aim to make these decisions work in our favour. Likewise getting off to a good start also naturally puts the buyer off to a good start.

All important first impressions are more heavily influenced by non-verbal cues, but the environment can also be important. As discussed last week, this is where a well-planned and designed sales centre will speak volumes in helping to make a great first impression.

Key ways the team can make a positive first impression

It’s not my intention here to create a how-to manual, but I think it is always important to remind ourselves of the importance of keeping on message when we engage buyers. A big point is to always adjust your attitude, always be interest and fresh. People pick up on our attitude and that includes a late arrival at the sales centre ten minutes before closing time!

Our personal posture and a smile will always say “I’m friendly and approachable” and you’re welcome to be here, I think we always need to keep in mind that for most buyers these first few steps can be a little hesitant and with a degree of emotion involved.

Another golden rule, that none of us are too smart to overlook is to always make eye contact. I read once that if you open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate eye contact we signal of recognition and acknowledgement, and that’s how we want every buyer to feel, isn’t it?

Then we come to the moment to shake hands and with an attentive body posture establish rapport. But as we all know in varied cultural circumstances we need to be respectful of the other person’s space and culture, and as we deal with more and more offshore buyers there’s a need here for awareness and sensitivity.

And so if you’ve got just seven seconds it’s good to remind ourselves of how when you think about it seeing these simple ideas in action is frequently the secret of great salespeople, they do it by nature, but I am also sure they think about every new encounter so as not to waste an opportunity.

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It all starts with recruitment

To finish off this important topic, I hope that I have established that the face to face relationship that is established between the consumer, the potential buyer and the sales person that he or she deals with is a make or break point in every project’s sales cycle.

While no sales person will intentionally risk a potential sale with poor service, the stakes for the project, your brand and reputation are high and so the recruitment of the sales team is a very important step. It is a step that will greatly impact on the success of any project.

The sales team should be matched to the project and team members should be used in different ways and times to try and ensure the best results. It should also be kept in mind that even the best team players will become stale. This is another aspect of recruitment that has to be managed. It’s important to remain fresh and keep ideas with lots of energy.

While a sales team member might have a great deal of project knowledge and history care is needed to make sure they always remain bright, active and committed to the project. It can be possible to start to develop blinker vision and this can slow sales and might not show up until it’s too late, with the damage done.

External agents or in house teams

Sales teams can be recruited and then employed in-house by the developer; or the developer can appoint a real estate agent to market the project; or like some developers, they appoint accredited agents working under the project’s branding. There can also be a mix of internal teams and external agents. My choice is for a clear cut full service agency model as the most accountable and successful way to market projects.

In either case, for a major project the way the sales force is structured and managed is of great importance. It’s the biggest part of the marketing dynamic.

Both options have their own advantages and both have some disadvantages and while consumers may not see any difference in the delivery of the service they receive, there is a need to be sensitive to this appointment within the overall marketing plan.

We all know that buyers are, and I am sure we can all agree on this, the lifeblood of every project. At times markets are full of activity, selling well, running smoothly and this is usually not by accident. While big picture market dynamics are always a force, so too is the service we give and how we manage and deliver our project marketing roles, we should never take buyers for granted no matter how markets are performing, and I am sure that the most successful sales people never do.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.


Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

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