HOMEBUILDERS – “WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE!” (reprise)

Recent events have convinced me that there is still a major opportunity for improvement in communication so I am reprising (with some current updates) an “oldie but goodie” blog.

Cool Hand Luke, the source of the headline for this blog,  is a truly great movie.  For those of my readers who are too young to have seen it when issued in 1967, I would recommend renting it one night or downloading it from “on demand”.  The film earned Paul Newman one of his ten Academy Award nominations and won George Kennedy the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  It is included in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains” (number 30 greatest hero) and “100 Years…100 Cheers – America’s Most Inspiring Movies (number 71) and was placed in the Smithsonian’s United States National Film Registry in 2005.  It is classic Paul Newman at his best playing the role of an anti-hero with an indomitable spirit.  And the tag line captioned above is outstanding, applicable to almost every aspect of life these days but, perhaps, especially relevant to the homebuilding industry.

Lack of proper communication continues to be pandemic these days and, in my opinion, is at least equally, if not more, the fault of the speaker as that of the listener.  Saturday evening I stopped at the local Walgreens to purchase spirits of camphor. Not being able to locate the item and as the pharmacy was closed I asked a clerk for assistance.  As she was several decades younger than I and apparently not familiar with the product she asked me what it was and I replied “an astringent”.  Her reaction was an immediate blank look followed by a repeat of her question, “what is it?” and, I without thinking, responded, “spirits of camphor, it is an astringent”.

I admit it, the fault was mine.  I should have realized this person was unfamiliar with spirits of camphor and, as she no doubt was a product of the esteemed Florida public school system and apparently not having been provided with even elementary training in the basic products of a drug store, she was also unfamiliar with the word “astringent”.  When she once more asked “what is it?”, to prevent what I saw evolving into an Abbot and Costello routine of “Who’s on first…”, I did not repeat my answer but explained that it was a liquid in a small bottle typically applied to tighten the skin.  When I was then led to the cosmetics aisle I knew that I still had failed to properly communicate and asked where the rubbing alcohol was located.  I had no success there as the Walgreens in our area no longer stock spirits of camphor but thanks to the miracles of modern technology I ordered it from Amazon.com where it seems you can purchase almost anything.

Monday evening I attended a city council meeting in a town near where I live.  I am involved in the proposed redevelopment of a 30 year old community and this was a special council meeting called specifically to consider our request for rezoning, following two prior meetings of the Planning Board which had lasted four and three hours, respectively.   

We were proposing to develop 150 single family homes on 9 holes of a defunct golf course and to reinstall the other 9 holes creating a new 27 hole golf course with new clubhouse, swimming pool, fitness facilities, etc.  Prior to starting our planning for this development my team and I had met with the leaders of the various homeowner associations within the community to solicit their input and determine what needed to be done to garner community support for our plan as several previous attempts to receive approval for redevelopment had been unsuccessful.

Utilizing the information from this first meeting we met with our planners and created a plan for the development which, I believe, was as close to perfect as is possible.  Every existing home in the community that previously enjoyed a golf or water view but now overlooked a rat-infested unkempt field would again have a premium golf or water view as well as substantial buffering from any new development.  A 30 year old dilapidated clubhouse in need of major repairs would be replaced with a new and far more functional facility and all amenities would be new or refurbished.  Our new purchasers would automatically become club members virtually assuring the ongoing country club operation that now was teetering on dissolution.  And our new development, with home prices well above the median in the community, would revitalize the housing market and stimulate price growth for the existing residents.  I truly believe that this is a “win-win” for all concerned – the existing residents, the city and my client. Continue reading

Proper communication: an essential requirement to make any sale

I was having a discussion with my wife this Saturday morning as we were preparing to begin our morning errands for the weekend including picking up supplies for several home maintenance chores.  She continued to speak as she was brushing her teeth and what I heard her say was “WHA OOH GANO WALD”.  After I stopped laughing, I had a minor epiphany (something that seems to be occurring more frequently as I get older and something that I find somewhat unusual as I am Jewish), realizing that what we hear is often not what the speaker intended to convey.  And this miscommunication, instead of leading to amusement as in this case, often has negative ramifications, especially in sales and for all of the housing industry.

We are all salespeople; we are all selling something to someone every day, even to our children, spouse or significant other.  As general real estate agents and new home sales representatives we are selling homes to prospective homebuyers.  As real estate developers, homebuilders and remodelers we are selling the viability of our business to our banks and investors for continued financing and to our team members for their continued participation.  As subcontractors and suppliers we are selling our companies and products to homebuilders and remodelers, whether they are existing customers or new prospects.  And as professional service providers we are selling our knowledge, talent and competence to potential customers wherever they can be found.  If we are to be successful in any of these endeavors, each sale requires proper communication.  So here is a lesson that I relearned in the hope that my readers can apply the principle to increase their own success and create more sales.

Every day is a great day for me but Wednesday was an even better day than usual as I closed a sale with a new client and, even better, I learned (or in this case relearned) something valuable.  I had first contacted this prospect four years ago.  I was in his housing market in a northeastern city working on an assignment for an existing client and as part of my due diligence had been shopping competitive developments.  I chanced upon this prospect’s operation and saw several opportunities for improvement. 

While I am certain that I am similar to many of my readers in that “cold calling” is not one of my favorite activities, it is one of many necessary components of successful sales so I researched the client and his operation and picked up the phone.  Fortunately, this builder had some familiarity with my company (I put forth substantial time and effort promoting my visibility within the real estate and homebuilding industries) and he took my call and we chatted for 30 minutes on the overall housing market and his operations and I received his confirmation that he recognized opportunities for improvement and thought that I could be of assistance.  After the call I sent a proposal for a market analysis and operational strategy, assuming that the sale had been made.    Continue reading