Step 3 in Selling: Analyzing (a.k.a. the Interview)

John Ace Underwood

As you read the previous article entitled Step 2 in Selling: The Critical Process Introduction, the reason it’s a best practice to present to your prospective buyer the process by which you have helped many other clients find just the right home for them. It is a step that reinforces the importance of transparency and patience in building trust. Now that your prospect is relaxed and sees you as a competent ally to assist in their search for a new home or community, it’s time to move on to the next step.

As most of you have discovered in your sales career, you don’t sell products, rather you sell solutions. The reason that prospective buyer is sitting with you, is because something in their current living situation no longer meets their needs. In other words, they have a housing problem to which they need a solution. That solution may be a bigger home, a smaller home, a newer home, a more efficient home, or a home in a different town or community. 

You’ve also learned that if you don’t know what that problem is, it is going to be difficult at best, impossible at worst, to build enough value in your homes to get them to buy. The best you can hope for is that while you’re dumping everything you know about factory-built homes on your client, they will accidentally trip across the information that happens to be important to them. In other words, while listening to the data-dump being presented, they accidentally discover the solution to their housing problems. 

Before you can even begin to put together a compelling product presentation, meaning one that leaves your client with no other option but to buy, you must first uncovered a fairly wide scope of information. Here are the 6 primary categories in the discovery process:

  1. Why are they looking for a new home?

This will tell you why they started looking for a new home in the first place, and it reveals their dominant buying motive. That is the problem they’re trying to solve and they’re going to buy from the person that will solve that issue or meet those needs. You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about.

  1. What do they want in their new home?

          Here you will find what’s important to them in terms of floor plan, construction, energy efficiency, and options. This is all about what is important to them. Realize that not all people will voluntarily reveal this kind of information for any number of reasons, none of which matter. Give your customer every opportunity to reveal to you what they truly want in their new home.

  1. Where are they going to site their new home?

           Whether it’s a community or on private property, every buyer has to have somewhere to place their new home, and here is where that discussion takes place. Do they have a place, do we need to find a place, and if so, where? Be prepared to calculate your findings into your costs. There is nothing worse than losing a home sale because the customer was out of budget by a country mile because the sales professional failed to consider land and improvement costs.

  1. How are they going to pay for their new home?

This is when we talk about the prospective buyer’s budget. So many sales professionals are hesitant to ask these types of questions because they live under the false premise that buyers don’t like to talk about money, budgets, credit, and such. The reality is customers who are financing their home need and want to know how much of a home a typical lender will allow them to buy. Our industry could sell twice the number of homes if we would just stop trying to sell a prospect homes they may well like, but simply do not budget for at this time.

  1. By when do they wish to be IN their new home?

This question is often misunderstood and is therefore asked in a nebulous manner. The question “How soon do you think you will want to do something?” is radically different than “How soon do you wish to be IN your new home?” The first question leaves a LOT of information open to interpretation and, therefore, doesn’t provide any meaningful information. It depends on what you mean by “something” or what you mean by “do”. Find out by when they want to be in their new home and then govern your process accordingly. But you have to ask this question.

  1. Are there any obstacles that would keep them from buying their new home?

Every prospective buyer will have things they want in their new home, things they need, and these are the reasons why they will buy your home. Discover what these items are needed and those desired. Address each of these in a compelling manner. We often lose sales because we miss what I call the fears, doubts, worries, concerns, and obstacles. And trust me, every prospective buyer has them. These are the reasons a customer will not/cannot buy a home, but if these concerns remain unaddressed, you will lose the sale. Examples of such concerns might be energy efficiency, structural integrity, maintenance, longevity, and such issues. Understand if that prospective buyer still has reservations which you didn’t address, they will not buy.

I realize that a lot of well-intending salespeople want to avoid questions that can appear on the surface to be uncomfortable; but trust me, if they’re uncomfortable at this point in the sales process, they will be even more uncomfortable when your customer finds they’ve well exceeded their budget.

I suggest to salespeople to develop a form that documents such questions in exactly the order presented here, with ample room for your notes. Be prepared to use this form with every customer you engage in a serious conversation and document, document, and then document some more. This form will become a checklist you will refer to frequently during the process to insure you are addressing every item of concern to your prospect. If you do this, you will thank me, and your customer will thank you. And you will close more sales.


About John Ace Underwood

John Ace Underwood has a very successful 30-year career in the manufactured and modular housing industry. As a manager for a single lot retailer in the southeast, he managed up to 9 salespeople with sales typically over 45 homes per month. John has also served as Vice President for multi-lot manufactured housing retailer in the southwest.
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