The Secrets of Closing Strong

Article #2

Let’s all agree that builders deserve to have persuasive salespersons representing them. Builders pour tons of work, know-how and sweat into getting their new homes built – not to mention the financial risks they endure. To pay proper respect for all of that, their salespersons must be persuasive advocates for the new homes that are entrusted to them to sell.

The Typical Builder’s Rep Sales Presentation

It is still way too easy to find salespersons who work exclusively for their builder, who think their job is to show the property and wait to see what happens. In its best (worst) version, this approach boils down to the familiar brain-dump presentation.

“ Welcome to Franklin Builders, folks. Tell me, is this your first visit? No? That’s OK, we are standing in the 3 -2 President model. It has 1935 square feet of heated and cooled space. The fireplace in the family room is a designer upgrade. The builder is offering $10,000 off to anyone who can write a contract before the end of the month. Can I sit back down, now?”

OK, so I’m poking fun with that last question. But get this, please. The rest of that presentation is absolutely typical of the level of sales performance most home builders receive today.

The Realty Agent Sales Presentation

It gets worse if the sales representative is actually a re-sale agent temporarily assigned to “sit” a builder’s model home by the broker who has the listing on the builder’s home. In this case you can typically expect the four sentence brain dump presentation to be followed by a suggestion  that the prospects “make an offer”. If that doesn’t work, the agent will likely suggest they look together at current MLS listings to see if the prospects might find a home they like better – with special emphasis being applied to any re-sales the agent may have listed personally.

Minimum Wage or Oblivion

When markets were strong and prospects bought new homes no matter how wretched their salespersons were, I would trigger boos and whistles with the suggestion that bad performances like these were worth minimum wage – no bonus – no override. You see, the offending salespersons still expected to pull down 6-figure incomes without exerting any persuasive effort at all.

Now, that markets are generally tough, most of those folks are gone. But, incredibly enough, a goodly number of them remain – Heaven knows why – sitting there day after day wondering why they aren’t making any money.

Any Plan Is Better Than No Plan

Salespersons with a clue might say, “Ah ha! I’m gonna take action. I’ll get out all my sales training books and learn how to become a killer closer.”

It’s understandable they might think this way. For a lot of years, sales trainers have been traveling around saying, “What we need are some CLOSERS around here! Tell you what. You start Closing when they get out of the car. You Close when they walk through the door. You keep Closing until they buy or die!”

If you buy this idea, I’ve got a listing on a bridge I’d like to show you. 

The Right Way Is the Best Way

Certainly, I am a supporter of closing strong. You might even call me a closing strong coach. But, I’m here to tell you, there is much more to being persuasive than closing strong.

It has always amazed me that much of the hyperbole about closing involves metaphors of killing. It’s as though our job is to mow down those prospects – overwhelming them into buying by the sheer force of our ruthlessness. What’s up with that?

Thank goodness not many of us really do it. I know, because I get to analyze lots of mystery shopping tapes. Typical shoppers almost beg to be sold, and yet, many salespersons don’t get it. That’s truly awful. But, if we really used some of the entrapment closes we hear about, it’d be worse. We’d be featured on 60 Minutes as abusers of the public.

Hear this now, and believe it Tuesday, friends. The sales process is NOT about doing something TO them FOR us. Persuasive selling is just the opposite. It’s about doing something TO us FOR them.

What is it we should do TO us FOR them?

Level One involves simply making an effort to be respectful of our customers – placing them first on our priority list for the work day. Receiving customers cheerfully when they arrive, asking thoughtful questions to draw out their circumstances and preferences, listening attentively to their answers, knowing all there is to now about the homes we represent; these are typical Level One persuasive selling skills.

Level Two involves studying the body of knowledge that defines our profession and becoming proficient in a wide range of sales communication techniques.  Understanding body language clues,  knowing about behaviorally-based communication models, becoming aware of motivationally-based psychographic decision models, and using the power of negotiation techniques; these are the stuff of Level Two sales proficiency.

Level Three requires mastery of Level One and Level Two skills so that they live in your sub-conscious all the time and guide your every move. Level Three is an integration of many separate bodies of knowledge into a seamless whole which makes possible a magical thing. When you know, and you know you know, you can relax and await what comes your way. No matter what it is that customers confront you with, you’ll see it coming and handle it perfectly without having to worry a whit about what to do.

How About an Example?

Here’s an example of Level Three in action. It comes from my book, Sweet Success In New Home Sales, available from

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Ted and Sally, appear to be in their late thirties. They are both employed and doing well in their jobs, Ted as a financial analyst and Sally as an advertising executive. They have two children, Martha, 9 and Ted, Jr., 13. They have come to our gated move-up community and are looking longingly at our Amherst model. It’s an impressive home, with all the latest features, and they can just afford it with Ted’s bonus. Still,  they are hanging back. 

Standing in the model, Rhonda Peterson, our salesperson, opens her sales presentation notebook to a pleasant-looking photo, and the Johnsons stroll over to take a look. The photo is a shot from an elevated camera looking down into a warm and homey living room with cream-colored carpeting. To the far left is a nice brick fireplace with a small fire burning inside. On the hearth, a honey-and-white cocker spaniel placidly sleeps. The center of the photo is dominated by two youngsters who are lying on their stomachs, propped up on their elbows, evidently doing their homework from school. In the foreground, we see both parents sitting in upholstered chairs, leaning forward, looking over their children’s shoulders as if to help with their homework. This is a pretty nice picture of family togetherness, isn’t it?

The message that photo conveys is that when you own a home like the ones we build, you will be able to enjoy these wonderful family moments with your children and fulfill your natural desire to nurture and guide them.

Rhonda chose this photo to show at this moment because she sensed the Johnsons were dealing with an inner concern about their careers possibly shortchanging their children. Rhonda correctly defined their Gift as, “If we owned this home, we would really devote quality time to Martha and Ted, Jr. in the evenings.”

Rhonda really didn’t have to say anything. She just allowed the Johnsons to have a quiet moment living the story the photo told. The close happened without a word being spoken.

Salespersons who can operate at this level can also name their price. They are the best of the best because they have done their homework and have honed their skills. It’s a demanding path to follow, but also fantastically rewarding.

Tricky closes, on the other hand, are favored by salespersons who look for shortcuts to success. They think they can get what they want by pushing customers. Trouble is, when they push, customers push back. What results is frustration, anger and burn-out.  

Try the other approach. It works much better.