Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:November 27th, 2005 07:29 EST
Sales Lessons From The Theater Of The Mind

Sales Lessons From The Theater Of The Mind

By John Palumbo (Mentor/Columnist)

After eighteen years in new home and condominium sales, one realizes that a company`s success is derived from its attitude and philosophy. There are no real trade secrets and no magic bullets. It is time, however, to examine and challenge some of the traditional ideas about the role of product and salesperson in new home and condominium sales.

Throughout the industry, we expect the product and the presentation to be the basis of a successful community. Through most of my career, however, I have worked with communities well in advance of models and had to secure large deposits from buyers before the development was ever started. If we didn`t sell it, it wouldn`t be built. Currently, we are working with many clients whose properties range from starter homes under $100,000 dollars to luxury second homes in resort settings priced well over $500,000 dollars.

In particular, the resort market offers a unique opportunity to learn about pre-sales. The traffic is mainly walk-in, and often there are no models with land development in the beginning stages.

We always recommend a first-class sales center, and require a minimum of $10,000 dollar deposits for each reservation; this is usually done before there is even a fancy brochure. From selling for years in these conditions to this affluent clientele, we have developed a method, or maybe a philosophy, of sales, which will make a difference in any pre-model/ pre - sale environment.

Most salespeople have one presentation and tend to sell best to people who resemble themselves. Take away the models and the expensive marketing and they may feel a little lost. The real key lies in being able to succeed in a barebones environment. Take away the product and you have to sell value, appreciation, future potential, values for the money, a dream comes true. Selling the dream is what I call selling in The Theater of the Mind. "

Selling in this theater assumes a different concept of closing. Closing starts at the very first step, but the end shouldn`t be a salesperson asking for a check (although that`s still a part of it). Closing should end with the customer being ready for the close and saying, Ok, what do we have to do now to get this one? " It is high-pressure sales totally subtle, yet we`re not the ones applying the pressure. Pressure begins when the customers realize, Uh-oh, we like this! " Don`t you love it when a prospect says to a salesperson during the presentation, Now we`re not buying anything today. " More often that not, they`ve seen something they like and the urge to buy is heating up.

Salespeople understand urgency, but they must understand it from the point of view of the buyer. There is always a one of a kind " in the theater. Salespeople understand their product, but they have to do more than answer questions. They must understand the value system of the buyer and carefully uncover their motivation, needs, and expectations. Then they tailor the presentation to fit each individual buyer.

Take qualifying, for instance. It has to be done, but no one likes it, especially the affluent buyer. Rather than the Hi, how are you, what do you do for a living? " routine, we prefer to zero in on a specific location first, asking qualifying questions along the way and listening closely to the answers. Then the salesperson paints a picture of an average client back to the prospect, but also paints it with the subtle details the salesperson has learned about the buyers. The buyers will either feel themselves being mirrored exactly or they will usually explain the areas that don`t fit: Well, my situation is a little different " " or, We`re not at that stage of life yet. " Either way, they end up feeling comfortable about fitting into the community.

We have worked to master selling to a segment of the market who sees themselves as pioneers. " Studies have shown that many affluent buyers see themselves as a breed apart. Not in a snooty sense, but they feel they are able to make decisions that the majority of people won`t. They understand the benefits of buying in on the ground floor, and appreciate buying a benefit others won`t be able too later. They`ve bought four or five homes over the years, and have probably been mistreated by someone along the way. We only work with developers who produce a good product and have developed an excellent reputation in their market place. Their buyers can be tough to deal with, but they have the confidence to make a decision, which is important.

Most of our sales people are hired on as rookies. We screen them very thoroughly with interviews and most importantly the use of a Sales Behavior Profile, along with a Sales Strategy Skill Profile. These tools become the most important instrument in the hiring process. The profile can tell us predictable behavior in a given sales situation, and tell us the skill level by which a salesperson understands selling. We look for people with a thirst for knowledge and a desire for personal growth. During training, we teach a three-stage mentoring process: they watch me do it, we do it together, and, most importantly, I watch them do it. After I listen to their presentation, we discuss any suggestions immediately in a coaching session, while the experience is fresh in their minds. We monitor the salesperson`s presentation throughout their employment. My goal is to help them master the essence of the art of selling and then let them expand their perceptions and adapt it to their own personalities.

Once a salesperson understands the essence of selling in the Theater of the Mind ", they will come to realize that there are no crooked walls or bad views in the theater.


If salespeople learn to sell the intangibles, they will be superstars when they have the tangible tools to work with.