We conducted our mystery shopping by phone, scripting and replicating a typical call by a potential active adult buyer. Each call began with, “Hello, I’d like to learn more about XYZ community.” Then, we let the sales agent take over.
We used a weighted scoring point system, with the highest attainable score being 100 points. The calls were made over a two-day period, on a Monday and Tuesday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Mystery Shopping Revealed a Lack of Training, Resources and Follow-Through
While the builders had a combined inventory of $1.7 billion and total of 7,564 units for sale, they didn’t invest the same resources in training their sales staffs.
Mystery shopping their communities revealed that their sales training, resources and follow-through were surprisingly weak.
Of the 100 phone calls made, here are the results:
- 75 answered the phone on the first attempt. We left 25 messages.
- Of the 25 messages left, 11 calls were returned.
- Only seven salespeople asked when the caller planned to move.
- Only 28 asked who the purchase was for.
- Only 12 asked how the prospect learned about the community.
- 32 failed to offer to send the caller a community brochure.
- Of the 68 brochures that were promised, only 48 brochures were actually received.
- Only three follow-up calls were made after the brochures were sent to find out if they were received.
- Only 12 salespeople asked the caller to visit the community or set up an appointment.
- Only eight referred the caller to the community’s Web site to learn more.
In addition, the salespeople seldom asked prospects about their preferences and desires or what community and home features they considered most important. Most of the sales professionals were more interested in sending out brochures to the prospects than they were about getting to know or pre-qualify them.
The quality of the material sent also varied greatly. Several brochures were of award-winning quality and depicted exciting lifestyles. Many of these were sent personally addressed to the intended recipient, but some were sent haphazardly. Other brochures were much less inviting. They were prepared or copied sloppily and didn’t contain enough information to pique the prospects’ interests.
The Best Time to Staff Your Sales Office
In addition to mystery shopping, we also analyzed our clients’ peak calling days and times to determine when they should be staffing their sales offices. We used an independent, national tracking service to log the dates, time and duration of all inbound calls to our clients’ sales centers. A total of 4,790 inbound calls made between Nov. 1, 2003, and Nov. 1, 2004 were analyzed. Here are the results:
Analysis indicated that weekdays were the peak days for inbound calls. We instructed our clients to staff their sales offices accordingly. If you are not staffed during these times, you are missing revenue opportunity.
Analysis of peak calling hours revealed that most inbound calls were made between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Many of our clients indicated that they did not staff their offices until 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., which meant that some of our clients were missing as much as 21% of the calls by not staffing their offices one or two hours earlier.
We also determined that the average duration of each call was about 2-1/2 minutes, generally not long enough to build a relationship with the prospects or get enough valuable sales information from them. That makes following up with your active adult prospects even more critical.
The important lesson from these analyses is to spend the time and resources to train your sales staff and pay attention to how — and when —you communicate with your active adult prospects. Active adults demand a quality product, but they also require professionalism in your sales and marketing approach.
Jane Marie O’Connor is the president of 55+ Marketing and publisher of Mature Living Choices in New England, a full-color, digest-sized quarterly resource guide for active adults. Based in Hawley, MA, O'Connor provides coaching and training services about the 55+ market for developers, builders and real estate agencies. O’Connor also is an active member of the 50+ New England Housing Council and the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. She can be reached at 800-782-1722, via e-mail at jane@55PlusMarketing.com, or visit her Web site, 55+ Marketing, for more details.
Attend the 2005 Seniors Housing Symposium in Metro Washington, D.C. Area
Learn more about the fastest-growing segment of the housing market. Plan to attend Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium 2005, the premier educational and networking event for industry professionals serving the burgeoning 50+ market. For more information, click here.
'Building Type Basics for Senior Living' Available at BuilderBooks.com
"Building Type Basics for Senior Living," available at BuilderBooks.com, covers the essentials for the planning and design of housing and care environments for the elderly. This publication provides essential information on a range of building subtypes, including active adult communities, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living, adult day care, skilled nursing facilities and more.To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665 to order.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
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