Solving the sales puzzle
ATLANTA – People often make decisions based on the pull of their heartstrings.
High-performance builders wanting to sell their single- and multifamily homes should grip those strings and tug hard, industry analysts say.
Playing to the emotions of prospective buyers closes more deals than drowning them in technical speak and industry jargon.
For instance, consumers might not truly know the acronym HVAC but will understand references to a heating and cooling system.
“People don’t get it,” said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of sustainability research firm Shelton Group.
Selling a high-performance structure is one of the biggest challenges for builders, many of them say. To help, Shelton and building industry analyst Gord Cooke, of Black River Design, led a seminar on sales strategies at last week’s Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) High Performance Home Summit.
Part of the problem facing builders stems from how they develop their sales force, they said. While a developer spends years and countless hours learning how to construct high-performance homes, they invest little time training on how to effectively communicate to prospective buyers.
“Who needs to know better about high-performance homes – the builder or the seller?” The seller,” Cooke said. “They’re on the front line. They’re selling to people who know nothing or very little” about high-performance construction.
Sellers typically have a small window – two to three minutes – to hook a potential buyer – and seven to 11 minutes for those pitch people who are extremely good at their craft.
“We need to have our salespeople practice, practice, practice,” Cooke said.
When face to face with customers, salespeople should ask a few questions upfront to understand their client. Those questions should be open-ended to elicit a discussion that provides a better sense of how they feel and about their needs and wants in a high-performance project.
“Don’t ask, ‘What do you know about energy efficiency?’ ” Cooke said. “Ask, ‘What have you heard about energy efficiency?’ ”
That approach is key, Shelton said, as America experiences a cultural shift toward green and sustainable living.
According to her company’s research:
- 64 percent consider energy conservation important
- 81 percent would choose an energy-efficient home over a similar home they don’t see as efficient
- 40 percent are willing to pay more for a high-performance home
- 84 percent indicate that they know little or nothing about how to improve their home’s energy efficiency.
Shelton suggests that a pitch never should start or feature early on the technical specifications of a high-performance building. Such information, she said, doesn’t hook people, it reassures them.
“Save that, and start with their hearts,” Shelton said.
So where should one focus? Health, comfort, resale value and leaving an environmental legacy.
“Talk about what they really care about and what they can control,” Shelton said.
“Give them an emotional reason to make a logical decision,” Clark said.