Knowledge is power, particularly in new home sales. Whatever objection prospective customers raise, if you’re prepared with a well-crafted and educated response, you can get them to move past their fears and focus on the benefits of what you’re selling.
“The worst thing salespeople can do is assume that everybody is going to have the same objection,” says Vikki Robbins of Victoria Robbins Realty in Jacksonville, Fla. “It would be arrogant to rush to answer that objection until we truly understand what it is.”
It goes without saying that salespeople must be equipped with a thorough knowledge of their territory, says Robbins. “If you know all the strengths and potential problems (in your market area), you’ll be able to deal with whatever a prospect voices to you,” she says.
There’s a difference between an objection and a condition, says Myers Barnes, founder of Myers Barnes Associates in Kitty Hawk, S.C. Barnes is a motivational speaker, author and consultant on new-home sales. “An objection is nothing more than an unanswered question,” he says. “A condition, on the other hand, is an obstacle — a barrier or situation that prevents a customer from buying.”
For example, the buyers might not meet the financial criteria. They may need to sell their existing home and won’t be able to put adequate funds together for a year or more. Or they may need to discuss the purchase with their spouse, lender or attorney. Salespeople can’t remedy these conditions no matter how brilliantly they sell, Barnes says.
Objections, on the other hand, are concrete and can be addressed and overcome. Look at them as opportunities, Barnes says. “If you receive no objections, your prospect is generally not interested.”
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Some objections are honest objections, while others are smokescreens. According to Bob Schultz, a new-home sales and management expert based in Boca Raton, Fla., there’s also a third category: the deflection.
“When people walk into a builder’s model home, their No. 1 fear is the financial obligation — can they really afford it?” Schultz explains. “All of a sudden, a little voice in their head is saying, ‘What if I lose my job?’ But what they say to the salesperson is: ‘The bedrooms are too small.’ ”
That’s their perception at the moment — and perception is reality, says Schultz. “You can’t make the bedrooms bigger, so the best approach is to manage and minimize the objection by helping to change their perception.”
Start listing the positives, such as the location (“We’re right next to ABC Elementary School.”), the square footage of the home (“You were looking for approximately 2,300 sq. ft.”); and the mortgage payment (“You wanted to stay within $1,500 a month.”).
You might add, “In order to build a quality home like this one, in this location, and stay within 2,300 square feet, our architects have found that it’s more feasible and actually more effective to put that space in the family room and other areas where the entire family gathers.”
Another possible response to the bedroom objection is, “I can appreciate your concern, but I’d like to show you the rest of this home and the remainder of our community. Then, if you’d like, we’ll come back to the house and I’ll get a tape measure to see if your furniture will fit in the bedroom. That will be okay, won’t it?”
In other words, reframe the customer’s point of view.
Customers may employ a smokescreen when they realize they’re on the brink of making a big purchase and panic. Their internal thought process goes something like this: “I really want to buy this home, but I’d better say something just to slow myself down.”
Robbins notes that people sometimes voice an objection to buy time, “so that the agent doesn’t close in on them and start pushing for a contract. You have to be able to recognize whether or not the objection is a deal breaker and have the knowledge and skills to overcome it.”
Other people like hearing themselves talk and blow smoke just for the sport of it, says Schultz. “How am I supposed to change the light bulbs in those vaulted ceilings?” is one example.
If you think it’s a smokescreen, feed it back. Repeat the objection in a sincere, empathic way, such as, “Is your question how you might change those light bulbs?” About 80 percent of the time the customer will realize how absurd the objection sounds, Schultz says.
Put It on the Shelf
There are times when it’s best to shelve an objection. “Let’s say you just met the customer and you’re not far enough along in the process to have built some value,” says Schultz. “The customer either asks a question that’s very technical in nature or brings up an issue that you don’t have enough ammunition to answer just yet.”
Here are two possible scenarios:
Customer: “This community is too far from the airport.”
Salesperson: “That’s an understandable concern. After we come back from looking at the model homes, I’ll check my computer and give you the exact driving time from here to the airport. I can also show you a few routes that our homeowners use to get there quickly.”
Customer: “How much will I pay per month for water and sewer service?”
Salesperson: “That’s an excellent question and I’d like to give you exactly the right information. Would it be OK if, after we go through the models and see the rest of the community, we come back to my office and I’ll look that up?”
In other words, make sure prospective buyers have had time to see and hear about the model homes, the community swimming pool and other features and benefits before you address their objections.
“The community may very well be five miles further away from the airport than the customer wants to live, but the impact of that perception has been minimized,” says Schultz.
We’re Only Human
Handling objections from customers is rooted in psychology and human behavior. “You’ve got to do it with warmth and sincerity. To say, ‘Oh, we’ll deal with that later’ would be arrogant and rude,” says Schultz.
“This is not a social event in which we sometimes conduct business — it’s a business event for which we’ve got to be prepared and social,” he adds. “You must anticipate, in advance, the top 10 or 15 objections you’re going to get and you’ve got to craft answers. No matter how glib you are, how much you love people and how much personality you have, you can’t wing it.”
Susan Bady is a freelance writer and editor specializing in residential design and construction. She currently writes for NewHomeSource.com, Professional Builder magazine and its sister publication, Custom Builder magazine.
Susan also blogs for HousingZone.com and produces an e-newsletter, Design Innovation. If she had a motto, it would be “Mention Frank Lloyd Wright whenever possible.”
Susan has also been an assignment editor for Consumers Digest magazine; handled media relations for home builders at Taylor Johnson Associates and written feature articles for Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas. Consequently, she has a wide range of experience in the consumer and business press and a deep understanding of the homebuilding business. She has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence.