Mastering Sales Communication - A Guide for Real Estate Sales Agents
Move your residential sellers and prospects to action faster!
Here's a startling statistic: there are more real estate agents in America today than there are homes for sale.
It's a factor of two primary drivers:
1) there are fewer homes on the market as demand has outpaced supply
2) an increase in those seeking to augment or replace their income by entering real estate.
That's a lot of competition! Read on to learn how you and your real estate firm can stand out to sellers and prospects.
A New Model For Communication That Gets Results
Sales are built on relationships, which is no surprise to real estate agents. These relationships aren't built just to raise social capital but to influence others—in this case, people who are in the market for a new home or those looking to sell.
Almost all real estate publications will tell you that communication is essential. Sales advice, in general, often preaches the importance of "being trustworthy" to win hearts and open the wallets of consumers. But how, exactly, can that be done?
The best salespeople seem to innately "get it" when it comes to building stellar relationships. But "getting it" takes a lot of work, a lot of experience, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of time. Time that most busy real estate agents simply do not have. If you can close more sales in less time, you positively impact your bottom line!
Clearly, communication matters. Unfortunately, traditional communication models just don’t work.
Traditional Communication Models Don't Work
Why don't traditional models work? Because they fail to incorporate some key elements. These key ingredients are critical to closing sales by effectively influencing prospects in meaningful ways. Here we take a look at those critical elements, what they are, and the role they play in driving engagement and influence.
Mirroring is a sales technique involving the salesperson mirroring—or mimicking—the body language and actual language of those they’re interacting with. Unfortunately, mimicking the behavior of others often comes across as forced or fake. Being too focused on mirroring also has the potential to cause real estate agents to miss things—mirroring can hurt listening, which, of course, is critical to building a relationship.
What's more important than mirroring for sales success is the ability to fully understand a prospect's values and objectives. It's more important to understand shared values and shared priorities than to sit the way the other person is sitting, stand the way the other person is standing, or speak in the same way the other person is speaking.
Getting at shared values and shared priorities is more valuable than working to ensure that the prospect believes that you are a lot like them.
Mirroring is limited.
The philosophy of personality tests are another commonly used tactic in sales. Well-known tests such as DiSC, MBTI, and StrengthsFinders rely on the premise that you can identify someone's personality by having them answer a series of questions or fit a specific profile. The problem with this is twofold. First, it assumes that your personality or identity is two-dimensional at best. In reality, of course, there are multiple dimensions to our personalities.
The second problem with personality tests is that they focus on your personality at a certain point in time and in a specific context. They are based on the premise that personality is "fixed." There is plenty of evidence—both scientific and anecdotal—to indicate that it is not!
Personality tests are limited.
Sentiment analysis uses natural language processing (NLP) to analyze conversations—written or verbal—to offer insights into the emotions, feelings, or sentiments of others. Unfortunately, sentiment analysis is a lagging indicator; in other words, the conversation has already taken place so those insights become hindsight. It's also grossly oversimplified and is not strategic. People are not two-dimensional—they're not either happy or sad, good or bad.
Sentiment analysis is limited.
A New Model for Communication
If you want to really forge a strong relationship to help your prospect move toward a desired action—like purchasing a property—you need a different model than traditionally used in sales.
Effective communicators are different from others. They truly listen and act based on another person's words and actions and choose the right messaging in response that aligns with their goal to sell. They are gifted (or learned how) to see where a person is in their decision-making process and consciously advance them toward a purchasing decision. Not everyone is well versed enough to do this.
Effective communicators think and behave differently from those who are not successful. Their results are different. Their results are better. In this process, they leverage "currency"—or relationship capital—they’ve built. They consider all of the dimensions of the prospect or client and then "ladder" them to the next step in the decision-making process. Each rung of the ladder represents progress toward the ultimate goal—a sale.
This is what works—moving people along in their thinking strategically and intentionally.
Let’s take a look at the rungs of the ladder and the role they play in the sales process.
3 Components of Sales Communication
This new model has three primary components, each with their own blends and nuances. To be an effective communicator, a sales person needs to consider each of these elements for the person they are communicating with.
- Ranked Priorities and Values
- Learning Styles
- Motivation and Commitment
Traditional sales models are around a fourth-grade level of skill; however, really effective salespeople are more college-grade.
Effective communicators truly listen and act based on the other person’s words and actions, which is very hard to do. They choose their messages based on a solid understanding of their intended audience and advancing them—sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously—through the steps required to close the sale.
Priorities, values, and their ranks for decision making
In terms of priorities, people have essentially four real-time decision-making filters:
These four priorities drive 90% of the decisions we make. We establish priorities based on these filters. Understanding how consumers make decisions and the order and relative priority that drives those decisions can help you determine what to say or do to move them along the path to purchase.
The rungs of the ladder represent steps that prospects go through in making purchase decisions—they’re the elements of consideration or concern that prospects think about as they determine whether or not to give up their money to get something in return. They also represent the steps that you, the salesperson or real estate agent, need to think about to help move prospects along the path to purchase.
Values: Ego, Guts
These people act out of instinct. They are impulsive, and don't require inputs from others. They may be CEO types, and may use words like “Give me the bottom line.”
Values: Emotions, Relationships - Community individuals want to talk through options with people, and make sure those people are heard and respected. Community includes the feelings and perspectives of others, even when that’s unnecessary. They may say "let me check with Juan", or "let me ask the team."
Values: Facts - People with Data as their first value want to do the homework and want the details. They don’t want you to interpret the data, they want to look at it and get under the hood. They may ask for files, receipts, or other details that allow them to get the full picture,
Values: Process - Orders are sequential, methodical, and want everything to be thought about in terms of repeatability and scale. They may be thought of as rigid, or judgemental. Orders will ask for or create a project plan, and want to know who is in charge.
A complicated cocktail.
The mixture of each of these priorities, or drivers, is unique to each person. Each will exhibit some mix of the four priorities at a given time. That mix will determine the best way you should communicate with them.
Some of these elements are conscious—others are unconscious. The difference matters. For instance, if consideration is unconscious, you don't need to cover it or touch upon it. In fact, if you do, it might distract or even offend the prospect because they do not even perceive this as a decision-making factor.
On the other hand, if it's something they're conscious of, you must address it, or it will be viewed as an oversight or gap. Depending on the situation, you might very strategically decide to use one of the drivers that is unconscious, perhaps as a means to create insight for the prospect.
In addition to understanding priorities, values, and their relative ranks, we need to consider prospects’ preferred learning styles.
Our preferred learning styles color the way we see the world—it’s the way we see and interpret reality. These are our preferred forms of sensory communication—how we gather inputs to help us make decisions.
These learning styles drive how individuals interpret reality. We actually use all of these styles, but we're better at one than the others. From a salesperson's perspective, understanding the preferred style can provide insights into what kind of collateral to use with them.
Some people are auditory—they need to hear things to help them understand. Auditory people respond best to words and sounds.
Musicians • Public Speakers
Others are tactile—they need to feel or experience something to gain understanding. Tactile people respond best when they can hold or touch
And others are visual—they need to see something to understand it. Sometimes that seeing takes place in their minds. Visual people respond best to pictures and images or charts and graphs.
Painters • Photographers
Motivation and commitment
There is a pathway that consumers follow from interest to action. The pathway represents a progression toward a decision. Each step must be taken, but some may be so innate, so automatic, that the consumer isn’t conscious of actually taking them.
As you can see in the graphic, people start with a desire, with certain language reflecting that stage, and follow a progression of stages until they arrive at taking an action.
People may use the language that best describes where they are in the process.
Desire - "I want that!" or "I wish I had that."
Ability - "I can't have that." or "I can afford that."
Reason - "If I saved up, then I could do that."
Need* - "I have to do this because..."
Commitment - "I am going to do this."
When a person has gone through the other steps and weighed these considerations, they’re ready to make a commitment—or not.
*A note on need. Need can trump reason. The need might be so immediate, and so high, that nothing else matters. For instance, you're at an outdoor event, and you're not dressed appropriately for the weather. There's a store close by, so you purchase a sweatshirt. You have plenty of sweatshirts at home, so, logically, there is no reason to buy a sweatshirt. But, you have an immediate need—you're cold. So, need trumps logic.
From a sales standpoint, you should weigh which elements are present, which are lacking, and to what degree they're lacking. The steps are not necessarily sequential, but the degree of their presence or absence determines whether or not a consumer will act. These considerations will also be impacted by the other factors we've covered: priorities, values, and learning styles.
EXAMPLE 1 - DESIRE > NEED > ACTION: You are invited to a party. You feel neither favorably or unfavorably about attending that party, so your desire level is neutral. You have the ability to attend the party—you're available at that date and time, and you can get to the party—it's close to you, and you have transportation.
It might make sense that you attend because you have a relationship with the person hosting the party. But it's not an extremely important or significant relationship, so your desire is still pretty neutral.
Then you learn that some celebrity you admire is going to be at the party. That might create a need that, as we saw previously, trumps reason and creates greater desire. So you make a commitment. You're going to the party.
EXAMPLE 2 - DESIRE > LOGIC > ACTION: Or let's consider a real estate example. You have a client who would like to live in Newport Beach—they have a strong desire to live there. But they lack the ability—real estate there is priced beyond their budget. Based on that knowledge, you can help the client choose another option, Huntington Beach. They like the area. They have the ability because the pricing is within their budget. Logically it makes sense and they may have the need because they've accepted a new job in the area and need to find a place to live.
We've satisfied all of the elements. We're in a position to drive the prospect toward a buying decision.
This is, of course, a far simplified version of what's actually going on in peoples' minds as they're making decisions. In fact, there are dozens of determinants influencing people's motivations when you add all of the factors up.
Each of these elements—priorities, learning preferences, motivations—are stacked on top of each other. Together they represent the persona or personality of your prospect. The deeper and more accurate your understanding of these elements and the extent to which your prospect reflects them, the more likely you will be successful in achieving your goals.
Importantly, these elements are also situational. As we discussed when we talked about personality assessments, we are not one personality—we reflect different personalities, or preferences, depending on the situation we’re in and the context of that situation.
Putting the Model Into Action
We think of attention, time, and trust as currencies. Only after we have all of those can we get to an action. As a salesperson or real estate agent, you want something from your prospects and clients—you want them to pay attention to what you have to offer. You’re asking for their time. You’re hoping to build a relationship that will lead to their trust. And, ultimately, you’re asking for their money or some action.
In exchange, you're giving something—you're providing information that is valued by, and valuable to, them. That information needs to apply to their needs or priorities and align with their learning preferences. Based on your complete understanding of them, you'll give them your recommendation—you'll match something you have to offer to their needs. Finally, you're inspiring them—you're showing them a future that represents a perfect fit.
Cue a conversational GPS
By understanding people's values and priorities, as their real estate agent, you can meet their needs. That's what successful sales is all about. But exceptional agents don't want just to sell homes. Exceptional agents want to put their clients into homes that meet their needs.
This is where Cyrano comes into the mix. Cyrano offers technology that helps you move people from interest to action. The process is much like using a GPS. With a typical GPS, we enter the details of where we want to go (our priority), and we also have the opportunity to indicate how we want to get there—mainly using highways, taking the scenic route, etc. These choices represent our values. Once we provide this input, the GPS does its work. We don't need to understand how it does what it does. We just need to trust that it will get us to where we want to go in the manner we want to get there.
We trust the GPS. It’s the kind of trust that some salespeople—the highly successful salespeople—can get based on their innate understanding of others and their experiences over time. But this is all a very complex process. For the average person who doesn’t have this innate talent or the time to develop it, Cyrano does the work.
Cyrano is like a GPS for your prospects. It works behind the scenes to match your prospects and sellers' values and priorities to a purchase decision that is right for them. Our technology suggests the right kind of information and messaging to influence their decisions based on their priorities and values, learning style preferences, and motivations.
It's technology that makes it easier for you to understand your prospects to better provide them with what they ultimately need and value. Cyrano both shortens the sales cycle and increases the likelihood that the customer or client will be satisfied with their decision.