You probably chose to become a home inspector not only because you know houses, but also because you enjoy working with people. Chances are, you already have the interpersonal skills necessary to be a good salesperson. That’s great because technical expertise alone doesn’t sell. People skills are essential. You may know everything there is to know about houses, but if you can’t communicate effectively, you won’t have any clients to whom to pass on your knowledge.
Your sales depend on your ability to effectively communicate information about yourself and your services to prospective clients, while listening to those prospects and understanding what they need. Ultimately, success in sales relies equally on personality, skill and hard work. Top salespeople are ambitious, honest, empathetic, responsible and caring, and they are excellent at building and maintaining relationships and servicing customers. This is also the foundation of a successful home inspection business.
Have you ever come away from an interaction with someone and said to yourself, “That person is a really good conversationalist”? If you could play the conversation back, you might find that you did most of the talking and that the other person simply asked questions that allowed you to keep talking about something you are interested in. You can be a really good conversationalist, too, and you don’t have to say much. Just show that you are interested in the other person and ask enough questions to encourage them to talk about what matters to them.
Learn to Cope with Rejection
If you are just starting out, remember that real estate agents likely have established relationships with other inspectors. You will have a few conversations like this:
You: Good morning, I’m calling to ask you to recommend my services as a home inspector.
The agent: I’ve been working with the same home inspector for 10 years and I’m very satisfied. He’s never lost me a deal. No, I’m not looking for anyone new.
This kind of rejection might feel like failure, and you may wonder how you will ever break into the market if most agents already have home inspectors to whom they refer their clients.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the sales process. You are soliciting business from people who don’t think they need what you have to offer. Being told, “No, don’t bother me!” is something you have to learn to live with. But here’s another way to look at it. If you don’t hear “no” from time to time, perhaps you are not knocking on enough doors. Each time you hear “no,” it is bringing you a step closer to hearing “yes.”
A “no” most likely means the benefits of your service are not clear. Treat this response as an opportunity to request more information. The rejection will help you better prepare for the next prospect.
If you don’t like being rejected, then congratulations, you’re normal! It’s important to know, however, that rejection is a part of sales and that successful salespeople know how to confront the fear of rejection. This fear is the main reason why home inspectors don’t like prospecting for new real estate agents.
The number and frequency of your sales calls will determine the quality and volume of your sales results. There’s an old saying among salespeople: “If someone just comes up to you and buys your product, then that’s a purchase, not a sale. You must sell if you want to increase results!”
Understand Flat-out Rejection Versus Soft Rejection
Flat-out rejection is hard on the ego, but there is another reason to reduce your rejection rate. You want to avoid the word “never.” It’s one thing to be told that a real estate agent doesn’t want your services at the moment, but it’s another thing when an agent says not to call them ever again. If an agent says, “Not now,” you may have struck out for the moment, but the door may open later. If the agent says, “Don’t call again,” the door has been shut and locked.
Although you can’t do much about rejection, you can increase your chances of a soft rejection by improving your sales technique. A soft rejection means the prospect said “no”, but not “never.” You can still try again with this prospect at a later date.
How can you reduce flat-out rejection? It’s understandable that, if you call agents out of the blue who have never worked with you before and ask for their business, you are likely to get rejected. Top agents are used to being inundated with sales calls from inspectors and others. Top agents understand sales techniques and are sensitive to being manipulated. Top agents are also the busiest in their profession. So, if your call gives an agent a reason to try your service, you will be far more successful in getting appointments.
Let them know you understand their problems and their world. Perhaps you’ve heard that the agent had a bad experience with another inspector or that they already anticipate how they will feel once they have tried your service. Maybe you can offer your service as being more convenient or you can indicate that you’ll make the agent look better in the eyes of their client.
Everything you say or do must accomplish one of two things: First, you must be able to solve a problem or satisfy a need, and second, you must answer a key question that will help them make the decision to try you out. By uncovering the problems that agents face, you’ll be in a better position to present solutions that will motivate agents to make a decision about you.
Write Your Own Script
Good professionals in any field rarely give impromptu presentations. They script every conversation to some degree, from an initial phone call to formal presentations. Even your doctor has a series of questions that he or she asks you when you feel sick. The questions are somewhat preset, but they also respond to the specifics of your problem. Using a script you’ve created can help you stay relaxed and focused because you have some specific words or questions to fall back on.
Using a script when you approach a prospect also can give the impression that you are an experienced professional. Of course, this assumes that you listen and adapt your script for the situation.
Another benefit of a scripted presentation is that you will be less likely to be taken off guard by a question or comment. When preparing your script, anticipate everything a real estate agent might say to you, and write down responses or key words to use in response. In this way, you can be sure that you touch on the most common objections to trying someone new upfront and get them out of the way.
At the very least, your solid preparation to approaching real estate agents and prospective clients will help ensure that, even if you don’t get the answer you are looking for, you are more likely to get a soft “no” instead of a flat-out “no.”
Carson Dunlop - Consulting engineering firm devoted to home inspection since 1978. www.carsondunlop.com