For those of my readers who may not be into Jazz or are younger than I (that would be the majority), “Take the ‘A’ Train” is a jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn that was the signature tune of the Duke Ellington orchestra and is arguably the most famous of the many compositions to emerge from the collaboration of Ellington and Strayhorn. Composed in 1933, after Ellington offered Strayhorn a job in his organization and gave him money to travel from Pittsburgh to New York City, Ellington wrote directions for Strayhorn to get to his house by subway, beginning “Take the A Train.” Interestingly, NASA honored the composition with the creation of the A-Train satellite formation which placed 5 satellites in sequential orbit, providing scientists with different sets of nearly simultaneous observations so they were able to improve their study of climate change.
There was an interesting article posted today on Reuters.com with the headline “Homeowner confidence fell in second quarter: Zillow”. The story went on to state that “Homeowners were less confident about the value of their homes in the second quarter, with one-third believing home prices had not yet reached a bottom…Nevertheless, a significant number of homeowners said they planned to put their home up for sale in the next six months if they saw signs of a real estate market turnaround.”
I was sitting in a community sales office today waiting for the sales team to finish their morning chores. This community is well conceived and professionally marketed and continues to maintain a healthy sales pace and profitability for the developer and the homebuilders. When the sales team and I got together I started our discussion by sharing this article with them and asking their opinion. Universally, the immediate response was negative, ranging from “that’s why we are having trouble selling Windstone (a move up village)” to “it seems that this bad market will never end”.
My immediate thought was “we need a new sales team”. But after a moment’s reflection and recognition of the reality of the marketplace today, that thought changed to “we need more sales training”.
Colleagues and clients in the homebuilding industry will confirm that I am a strategist, not a sales trainer. I would much prefer to spend my time analyzing the market and conceptualizing a new development rather than coach, educate and motivate the sales people and I have neither the necessary patience nor the skill to be a good trainer. There are some truly exceptional sales trainers in our industry – I am constantly impressed with their skill, talent and knowledge and I recommend them whenever possible to my clients. But when an opportunity presents itself and there is no one else present to address an issue, I am also known as being ready to jump into the void with whatever few tools that I may have.
So in my inimitable fashion I figuratively grabbed a baseball bat and hit the sales team over the head to get their attention and then asked why they their response would be negative when I saw this article to be yet another wonderful reason to buy at their community.
After all, I explained, the home values in our community were not declining. Under the guidance of our development team, our homebuilders were introducing new and exciting housing products on a regular basis to respond to the changing needs and wants of the marketplace. We were receiving very close to full list price for our homes because they were unique and did not compete with either the overall resale market or our own previous new home offerings. In ongoing phases of existing villages, regular product and feature updating kept the markets excited and pricing was rising. Were these not, I asked, wonderful truths to use as closing tools? And even if the resale market pricing were to continue to decline slightly, what better time would there ever be than now to buy at our community and take advantage not only of the lowest mortgage rates in history but also our absolute best values thereby leveraging their housing investment?
The second part of that story, that “a significant number of homeowners said they planned to put their home up for sale in the next six months if they saw signs of a real estate market turnaround”, was even better news. As home prices in the local resale market had solidified a few months back and were starting to show slow but steady increases, we had a potentially even brighter future. Our market would be expanding and the natural place for those move-up or move-down buyers to come and purchase their new home would be our proven successful community.
Having had my say, I left the sales team to continue that discussion and, hopefully, embrace the principal that numerous opportunities exist but are often wasted simply by failing to recognize them. And I picked up my cell phone, called the developer, and strongly recommended that they increase their investment in training.
The “A train” to which I referred in the title of this blog is professional, consistent, ongoing training”, more essential to successful new home sales today than ever before. What I see as I travel around the country is, unfortunately, that developers and homebuilders have cut back and are now investing far too little in training. And without taking the “A train”, we will never get this industry back to where it belongs. But that’s just my opinion.
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