Manufactured Home Dealers: Professionalism = Profits
Good news! With the economy rebounding and mortgage delinquencies abating, now is the opportune time for retailers/dealers, especially independent dealers, to seize the coming opportunities for prosperity.
The dynamics have changed dramatically over the past 4 years. The number of manufacturing facilities have substantially decreased and the independent dealer has become a small few. The large, vertically integrated manufactured housing factories/dealer would appear to have all the advantages as the industry rebounds. This may not necessarily be the case. The independent dealer who has survived the “tough times” has likely made adjustments in operating their business to make it this far.
As new opportunities arise for increased sales and profits, it may be a good time for the dealer to re-evaluate both system and philosophy to better compete with the big, factory-owned dealers and maximize for more profitable sales results.
These adjustments are “buyer” related and require little or no expense.
A NEW PROVEN SALES SYSTEM
The potential purchaser that visits your display center is quite often apprehensive and defensive about shopping for a manufactured home. They may want to buy, but they do not want to be sold. This feeling is likely due to prior experiences with salespeople at other sales centers.
It’s up to you, the dealer, to negate these previous experiences by creating new, memorable, positive interactions.
Allaying pre-existing fears requires that the salesperson be aware of the customers’ discomfort by being pleasant, forthcoming and helpful from the very beginning. Shake hands and make introductions upon first contact, remember their names and acknowledge anyone who accompanies them (especially children).
Avoid rushing into ‘sales mode’. Allow them to talk about themselves while expressing their needs and remember: always maintain interest in what they have to say.
Some sales systems require that potential purchasers come into the office in order to be qualified while listening to a canned sales presentation before being shown display models. This system often antagonizes prospective buyers. Other systems used by dealers such as the “4 square” system and the “Schwepfinger” system are not very effective in today’s’ manufactured housing business – purchasers do not react very well to used car dealer type selling tactics.
It’s important to engage the customer throughout the buying process and to constantly remind them of their importance. Fostering an environment of familiarity is key. The sales center atmosphere should be a happy, upbeat place where everyone is eager to be of assistance to the customer. Potential customers should be introduced to all sales center personnel that cross their paths. Likewise, the sales center manager or owner should make an effort to meet every customer that visits the sales center, whenever they are on the premises. It’s vital that the customer attach faces to the people hard at work on making their dream home a reality.
Any salesperson who is a careful listener with a keen eye will determine early on who the decision maker is in the family (usually the wife). When showing a model and pointing out features and benefits of the home, special emphasis should be geared towards those features that would appeal to the decision maker.
Although it may run counter to intuition, sometimes not having an answer to a customer’s question will prove to be the more valuable strategy. Put plainly, a salesperson should not have an answer to all the questions a customer might ask about a home. Instead, respond by saying “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll call the factory and let you know”. This shows that you are truthful and it creates a comfortable and causal way of getting their telephone number while providing a reason to follow up with them.
Most manufactured home shoppers have no clue what is involved in purchasing a home, let alone financing, delivery or site preparation and location. By letting them know, early on in the selling process, that you are a full service company that will coordinate all these details, you will relieve them of concerns and frustration while further endearing them to your dealership.
For a seller, in the eyes of a buyer, establishing trust and comfort is just as important as establishing a price.
SALES CENTER PRIDE
As previously noted, the key to a buyer’s trust and confidence rests in the people they meet and relate to at the sales center. To enhance this level of comfort, the environment at the sales center should reflect the impressions created by the sales center personnel.
Sales center office should be clean and organized:
- Literature should be accessible and openly displayed
- Decor samples should be organized and located in a central location. Insist that your factory rep update your samples as changes, updates and improvements are made.
- Designate a private office or area to be used for sales closing only.
- Personnel who smoke should not do so within view of customer.
- Always have fresh coffee and beverages and/or water available for the customer.
Model home display models should be clean and well maintained.
- If a cleaning service is not retained, office personnel can be assigned to specific homes in order to maintain cleanliness.
- Fix and repair all visual defects, such as “squeaky floors” (tighten lag bolts), loose carpeting, broken or missing molding, etc.
- Install light bulbs and globes in all lighting fixtures. Homes show best with lights turned on, especially on cloudy days.
- Make sure all entry and passage doors open and close properly.
- Entry steps should be sturdy and have handrails. Step rungs should not be more than 8 inches and should terminate evenly at entry. (There have been many insurance claims and lawsuits attributed to mobile home “lot steps”). Any entry door without steps should be secured to prevent being opened.
- Some dealers “bump set” some or all display models to save the expense of a complete set-up. A “bump set” usually involves mating the sections of a double wide and installing a temporary roof cap. Viewing homes in this condition has proven to have a negative influence on a buyer’s decision to purchase the manufactured home.
This may be old news to some. But it’s always worth reiterating the importance of the environment we create for our buyers.