The amount of pressure that the Sales Managers in realty carry these days is unimaginable. As it is the industry was slithering, then crawling, and then due to the cash crunch, some realtors threw in the towel!
The price of past mistakes, poor fund management, failed commitments, keeping a company afloat, and achieving/ chasing Herculean. At times unachievable, targets are paid for by this new smart boy, expected to be Rafael “men in black” with their undies on their trousers. Yes, Sales Superman.
In such a situation, the excitement of closing a sale equals securing your job, earning incentives, and temporarily getting the “upper” kick.
So over commitment happens. By the time it’s discovered, Columbus has sailed to discover another continent and reached another wrong destination!
What not to do/avoid doing while closing the sale is a long list!
The top 13 repeat offenses have been captured.
- Never mis-sell the product specifications to close the sale. This includes the features of the clubhouse, proposed school, fixtures, quality/ specs of construction etc.
- Do not give a false commitment as to the delivery date.
- Never give wrong commitments for discounts. For Example, waiver of first transfer charges, waiver of maintenance charges, parking charges etc.
- Raise the prices on your own and then give a discount to arrive back at the actual price.
- Bring in a broker on a direct sale.
- Accept a lesser value cheque as specified in the booking process and log the sale in with a false commitment to finance.
- Take two cheque’s and tell the customer that only part payment will be banked.
- Verbally agree to a customer request to allot a different location for his parking slot. E.g. shift from lower basement parking to upper basement parking.
- Exhibit inadequate product knowledge.
- Lack of communication skills (in the local language or English). Speak in the language the customer is familiar with. He may misunderstand what you are communicating.
- Lack of soft skills, social graces and personal hygiene. (this is more an H.R. issue/ or a managerial issue and not so much related to the actual closing.
- Personality and body language, exhibit a lack of confidence in self or company. (same comments as above).
- Physically unfit to move up and down the site during property tours. The salesperson must make a comprehensive site visit or show flat visit so that the customer is clear as to what he is investing in.
A little introspection and self-correction go a long way and leads to long term benefits.
Sales is not for the weak at heart. You may be one of these types - You could be a closer, consultant, relation builder, or order taker. It is important not to be just transactional.
Awakening the hunter in you is an art. The sales engine has to be in excellent shape and regularly serviced to chug the bogies departments. Transactional selling, feature selling, value selling is passé. Listen patiently, highlight benefits, and steer accordingly. Remember buying a home is not an emotional decision for the customer, it is a financial one! Happy selling to you.
Handling customer post-sale:
- Sadly, for most salespeople, once the sale is over, the customer takes a back seat. It’s regarded more as a Customer services problem (unless there is a chance the customer may buy more property)
- For a sales manager/ customer support manager, this is a significant bottleneck, in India, the purchase of a house or commercial property is a MAJOR decision, no matter how well off the customer is.
- It is the sales guy who has painstakingly built up the rapport with the customer, after all, to get the customer to trust him with such a major decision he has to first sell himself, as a subject matter specialist to the customer. A guy, the customer, can trust. That’s why it takes time to close.
- So suddenly post the sale when the customer finds himself in the hands of strangers, it’s a crumbling of trust. There are, as exceptions to the rule, sound ‘Service-oriented sales executives ‘ who continue their relationship with the customer, but these are few and far between.
- So, what happens when the “proverbial shit hits the fan?” You have a disgruntled customer, screaming blue murder because firstly, he feels slighted as his sales contact has disappeared, and is not taking his calls. Secondly, A customer support department, which has no idea what has been committed to the customer and even if no false commitments may have been made, CRM is unable to handle the customer.
- Dissatisfied customers spoil at least 10 to 15 future sales, and any real estate company can ignore them at their peril.
How do we handle them- some basic points which may help?
- For the management - always make sure every single Tele call/ SMS/ WhatsApp/ walk-in, is promptly TAT monitored and answered. I have witnessed a severe lackadaisical approach in this matter. Telecall in’s allowed to ring forever. In few organizations, the victim buyers have gone on record to write in to say “it’s impossible to get through to you” this comment is the beginning of the end for the future sales of any company in real estate.
- I remember solving the issue of unanswered Telecalls simply by using the features of the telecom system. The Telephone PABX customer guy came and amended the call incoming on our EPABX to a “jumping system”. the incoming call used to ring five times at an extension. Then jump to the next designated one. If this happened, four times the fifth would be to my extension. This the CS guys and gals knew would lead to serious ass-kicking! Lo and behold! We had a solution.
- Next- structure the lunch hour- many customers are working guys. They make their calls whenever free. So, stagger the lunch hour. Basically, all calls should be attended. You may set a target for the call pick up. I had mandated five rings.
- Make sure all written complaints are recorded, analyzed, reviewed, and filed, including incoming mails.
- Strictly enforce a turnaround time. Starting with the basic acknowledgment of receipt of the communication from the customer.
- This may sound very “oof, kya yaar “to the team, but ask the legal department the virtue of these steps! God forbid the customer goes militant -litigant, and legal redressal in real estate is very common. All these records of how “good and watchful and customer friendly the processes are” will go a long way in court. This is only a by-product, not the reason for being proactive!
- Always meet customers at the appointed time, in case you are busy, designate a person to listen to the customer.
Next, let’s look at the actual situation.
The customer comes to the meeting, ready to fight!
- Before meeting the aggravated customer, the CS executives, MUST understand his/ her core issue and examine it in the context of the company policy. If the demand is unreasonable in terms of the policy, then it is clear that the demand cannot be met. However, the CS person may explore ways and means to mitigate the negative response by being just, fair and transparent.
- “There are many ways to bell the cat”! A positive response, however small on some other subject would make the trip seem worthwhile to the customer, and make him feel that the co policy will not allow rectification. Still, at least the relationship manager tried to stand by the buyer. I remember once sorting out a complex issue on price fluctuation among the units of siblings by offering the aggrieved customer a waiver on his electricity bill! It was a minimal amount but helped solve a very complex issue.
- Please hold all telecalls during the meeting. It would be good for the CS person to enter the meeting and make a show of putting his cell phone on silent. It makes the customer feel that the executive is sincere and keen on hearing and resolving the issues. Keep a summary, single sheet, in front of you which captures the bullet points of the customer issue.
- Allow the customer to vent his spleen. He is King, and you MUST hear him/Her. The more he pours his heart out the less his levels of aggravation. Never say your “request can’t be entertained, as per co policy” upfront. Hear him out. An immediate NO will only lead to a shouting match and threat of litigation. Reasoning and relationship management are the keys.
- This cannot be understated- a leading real estate company once did an analysis on one of its projects and discovered to its horror that it had paid out more in legal fees on customer issues than the sum total of the issue itself! Senior legal lawyers are expensive!
- Do make it a point to offer tea etc. and make the customer otherwise feel comfortable and wanted. This cannot be overstated. Making the guy feel as if he is a nuisance will not help.
- Don’t fidget! Don’t shift uncomfortably on your seat. Body language is one the lifeblood of sorting out issues. Look the customer gently in the eye. Keep his customer file ready and handy in case he disputes any communication call for it or if with you place it on the table. Keeping it on the table, in the beginning, may send out a message that we are heading for a confrontation. The single sheet is a better idea.
Ultimately - please always remember you are the custodian of the Real Estate company’s reputation. If you feel that legally the company is on a weak wicket regarding the issue at hand - even though you have stuck to company policy- raise the level quietly to the senior management or flag it to legal. Remember sticking to company policy is fine as far as the company is concerned. The courts of law do not care for it. Maybe your proactive steps may save the company some hundreds of crores in the future.