What Can Inside Sales Learn From Real Estate
By David Baars, Marketing Manager at PipelineDeals
A number of my friends are in the process of purchasing their first home. It’s striking how emotional the process can be. For many people, purchasing a home is one of the most complex and nerve-wracking processes they’ll make in their life. The most successful real estate brokers understand their client’s concerns intuitively and expertly guide buyers through the process.
On its face, it’s not obvious that inside sales professionals can learn much from their counterparts in real estate. B2B sales is typically portrayed as analytical and objective whereas real estate sales is built on emotion. What can an inside sales rep learn about sales by observing what the best real estate brokers do?
Strangely enough, inside sales can learn a lot from real estate. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Jeff Shore, sales consultant and author of Closing 2.0, teach a continuing education course for real estate brokers. While Jeff focused his attention on the home buying process, I was struck by how much inside sales could learn from real estate best practices. The products and processes for sales in real estate and B2B inside sales are distinct. However, the insights that Jeff highlighted for real estate are applicable for inside sales. Three key insights Jeff highlighted are:
- Customers are not afraid of being closed.
- When in doubt, make things even easier on your buyer.
- Make each sale a series of agreements.
Customers Are Not Afraid of Being Closed
For most home buyers, making a housing purchase is the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make. Real estate brokers know this, and know that the home purchasing process comes with plenty of buyer fear. This fear, however, isn’t from the simple act of closing on a home. Home buyers are afraid of making a bad decision.
This key insight is true in B2B sales as well. Prospects in inside sales are not afraid of being asked to buy a specific product or service, they’re worried that they’ll make a bad decision. Picking the right solution can mean the difference between reaching business goals, and failure. And for most buyers, picking no solution means that they’ll maintain the status quo.
When it comes to working with buyers, whether you’re in real estate or in B2B sales, it comes down to meeting needs. In order to successfully close new business, salespeople must discover a buyer’s urgent need and help manifest it for them. In real estate, this often comes down to matching a home buyer’s dreams and emotional connection for the right home with the best available home on the market. For the inside sales rep, this could mean highlighting lost revenue, lost leads, or other key consequences of not solving an urgent problem with your solution. In both instances, a successful salesperson manifests an urgent need and solves the problem with their solution.
Don’t be afraid of closing customers. Customers WANT to be closed. Just make sure that you’ve actually solved their problem when you ask for the deal.
When In Doubt, Make Things Even Easier on Your Buyer
Buying a home in 2017 is much more complicated than it was in the past. Financing has become more difficult, and competition in markets like Seattle, Denver, and Austin is fierce. Not to mention, the Internet is full of often contradictory advice for first time home buyers. There’s no other way to put it – buying a home is scary, complex, and hard to understand. It’s no wonder that millennial home ownership is down when compared to previous generations.
Due to complexity and stress, purchasing a home puts buyers under a lot of cognitive strain. For buyers, this strain shows up as a feeling of risk. And the more risk that is felt by the buyer, the more likely they are to say no. The best real estate brokers relieve stress and make it easy for a buyer to say “yes.” The key insight here is that the easier a salesperson makes it to understand the buying process, the easier they make it for a buyer to purchase.
This is true in B2B sales as well. The easier you make it to understand the buying process, the easier you’ll make it to buy even if the process is complex. Some steps you can take to make things easier include:
- Establish a trusted relationship– This may sound intuitive but inside sales professionals fail when they pay short shrift to the value of the relationship. Build a rapport with your customer, work to understand your buyer’s core needs, and deliver value.
- Show positive intent with your questions– Proper questioning during the sales process is critical to setting people at ease. One of the best ways to do this is by asking questions for your buyer, and not just for you. Work to understand what they need to be successful and don’t be selfish with your questions. Help educate your buyer and provide value at every step in the buying process.
- Keep checking in at every point of the sale– Make sure that you continue to ground your sales process in the problems that your buyer wants to solve. It’s possible that this could evolve as they go through the buying process, and it’s critical to know if things have changed. Check in at each point of the sale to make sure you’re on track.
Make Each Sale a Series of Agreements
There are lots of decisions to make when you’re buying a home. Do you want to live in an urban, rural or suburban community? Do you want to live within walking distance of local schools, restaurants, and bars? Do you want a large property with a big yard you can take care of, or do you want a small yard supported by an HOA? The sheer amount of decisions that go into purchasing a home can paralyze a homebuyer – that’s why the best real estate brokers guide buyers through a series of small decisions, otherwise known as agreements.
By breaking up the buying process into a series of agreements, real estate brokers are able to get into a positive decision-making rhythm. Do you like this kitchen? Yes. Do you like this bedroom? Yes. Is this community the right one for you? Yes. Are these terms you’re comfortable with? Yes. This chain of minor agreements help break up the large decision about purchasing a home into a series of small choices. If you know the answer to all the small decisions, the final decision will be inevitable.
Inside sales professionals can follow this best practice too, by breaking up the sales process into a series of small agreements. For example, one such process could include the following series of actions: establish the pain, commit to change, identify solutions, agree to terms. Each mini-agreement is like a step in your sales pipeline.
Once you’ve established with your buyer that they have a particular pain, you can work to commit them to change. Once they’ve committed to change, you can work with them to identify solutions. And so on. By breaking up the B2B buying process into a series of mini-agreements, you can make the final decision to purchase your solution a simple one.
Salespeople exist to help a buyer understand their problems, educate them on potential solutions, and help to commit buyer’s to making a positive change. Inside sales can learn a lot from real estate, even if they’re not selling something as emotionally complex as a home. By understanding a buyer’s needs, making the buying process simple, and breaking up the decision-making process into small pieces, inside sales professionals will educate their customers and close more deals.