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Why People DON'T BUY New Homes

Overcome the buyer's fear in today's new home sales environment


Okay, this is not going where you think it is. This is not a religious book, and religion has nothing to do with selling new homes. So for those who don’t know what “WWJD” stands for, it’s “What Would Jesus Do?” (Although, we recently saw an ad for a donut shop that read, ”WWJD? – Who Wants Jelly Donuts?” So the interpretation is up to you.)

So why are we writing about the “WWJD” thing? Well, most people, no matter what their religion, know who Jesus is. And most people, no matter what their religion, know some of the common biblical parables, such as “The Good Samaritan,” “The Lilies of the Field,” and so on. Most people, also no matter what their religion, have a passing knowledge of some of the teachings of the proverbs, in such sayings as “Turn the other cheek” and “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Most know at least a few of The Beatitudes, too, like, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” and “Blessed are the meek…”

When we first got into the new home sales business, we attended a lot of seminars. Several of these were given by “some-a them good ol’ Southern boys.” At a few of these seminars, the speakers said something like, “You should learn from, and do things, the way the greatest salesman of all time, Jesus Christ, did.” At the time, we dismissed this as some sort of admonition to “come to Jesus.” We didn’t particularly like that the speaker was referring to Jesus Christ as a “salesman.” Many years later, about 30 years actually, we finally “got it.” We finally began to understand what “some-a them good ol’ Southern boys” meant and why they are such terrific salespeople. We now attribute much of Southerners' amazing sales ability to their cultural affinity to, and familiarity with, the New Testament. “WWJD” took on a whole new non-religious meaning.

When you’re trying to sell someone, you can employ the methods Jesus did to inspire his followers to change their thinking. Just ask yourself the question “What would Jesus do?” Would he:

1.) Tell a story, like Jesus did with parables.

2.) Use a proverb or “saying,” like Jesus did with proverbs.

3.) Use a statement that assumes something good about the prospect, such

that the prospect is encouraged to act in the way the statement implies, like Jesus did with the beatitudes.

You should be able to switch gears, as if you’re an automatic transmission. We saw that Southerners had this extraordinary ability to weave each of the above seamlessly, with perfect appropriateness, into their sales presentation. We finally got the meaning of the WWJD thing.

So when do you do each of these? Well, basically, whenever you feel it’s appropriate in the sales presentation or closing. We generally use each this way, which doesn’t mean this is the “only,” or “correct,” way to use them. It’s just our general way.

1. We tell a story when we need to make a 180-degree change in a person’s attitude towards something. By using a third-party story, it’s not us, “the salespeople,” who are trying to change the prospect’s mind. It’s this abstract entity whose experience we’re relating to the prospect via the story.

Aesop, of Aesop’s Fables fame, was remarkably adept at the use of third-party stories to illustrate a moral point. Aesop was a slave who was owned by people of nobility. As a slave, he observed the haughtiness, selfishness, hypocrisy, and condescension of his masters and their associates. But given his status as a slave, it was entirely above his social position to offer any criticism of his superiors. So Aesop wrote “fables,” in which animals or other people of various occupations demonstrated a moral failing or an inappropriate attitude or behavior. This way, Aesop could impart his advice or awareness of his superiors’ foibles without directly confronting their sensibilities. It was “the fox,” and not a person, who thought the grapes that were out of his reach were probably “sour grapes.”

Similarly, when Jesus told a story like “The Good Samaritan,” it was to impart a moral principle. In the story, those Jews who held themselves up as being morally superior because they strictly followed Mosaic Law wouldn’t help a fellow Jew who was in need. The hated Samaritan gentile, who did not follow Mosaic Law and therefore was not considered “holy,” would help the Jew in need. Jesus used this story to impart the idea that what was more important than a strict adherence to Mosaic Law was what we actually did for each other. Moreover, in the parable, it was the despised Samaritan who was the “good guy.” This was a wholly new concept that was diametrically in conflict with existing beliefs. Therefore, to “change his follower’s beliefs 180 degrees” away from concepts ingrained in them since birth and reinforced by culture and practice, Jesus told a story to make his point. This story encouraged his followers to think differently. Jesus also didn’t grind it in by saying, “Do you get it? Do you see? Do you see?” Instead, He let the story just stand there. The “story” would serve as an instructive reminder completely on its own.

Stories are powerful transmitters of knowledge. After 2,000 years, when anyone mentions “sour grapes“ or “the good Samaritan,” the listener instantly recognizes these concepts, even though he or she may not completely remember the actual story or even the author. Business schools have long recognized that the use of the “case study” method of teaching creates a powerful memory of the lesson in the minds of students, just as if they had experienced the actual event. Stories are powerful not in themselves.

Stories are powerful because we are creatures adapted to listen to, and learn from, stories. As Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth has shown, we survived and evolved as a spicies by having the older generation pass down information in the form of stories as we huddled around a campfire. Because of this predilection, our species learned to value and remember stories.

When we tell stories, we’re taking the part of the parent, who like the elder tribal leader sitting around a campfire, instructs the adult and child.

2. We use a saying, or proverb, to reinforce something. It’s as if the saying, added to the end of an argument, doubles back and reinforces the entire argument. Let’s say you’re attempting to enhance your company’s ethos by explaining the value of a post-tensioned pad to your prospects. Let’s see how it works:

You conclude your explanation saying ”…now we’re not able to add the extra cost of post-tensioning onto the price of the home. So it just lowers the profit we make on each home. But what it does do is ensure that you have a higher quality home that will last several lifetimes, and will enhance your future resale value. You’ve got to respect a company that does this.”

Can you see how the addition of the line “You’ve got to respect a company that does this.” just makes the whole idea of what was said before even stronger?

3. We use a Maxim.

MAXIM: a statement that assumes something overtly good and complimentary about the prospect, such that the prospect is encouraged to think or act in the way the statement implies.

The maxim achieves its goal of encouraging higher aspirations of buyers through the:

PYGMALION EFFECT: The tendency of people to perform better when higher expectations are placed on them by others.

In several studies, most notably the Rosenthal-Jacobson study, we see that as higher expectations are placed on students by their teachers, the students deliver higher performance. The maxim is the verbal equivalent of placing higher expectations on the buyer.

Of course, this statement can never be delivered in an obsequious way or in a way that would appear to be snobby. (Well, just a smidgen of snobbishness is okay.)

“Of course you would only buy a home in the best location.”

“I’m sure you would never want to buy a home without a high-efficiency heating and air conditioning system.”

“We always build every home with a post-tension pad, because we know this is the only way you would want your home to be built.”

“All the homes we sell always have category 5 wiring. We know you would settle for nothing less.”

The saying “you want your children’s lives to be the best they can be,” at the end of the explanation of why it’s good to buy a home in an area with bad schools, is technically a “two-fer”. First, it is a saying that empowers all that was said before (as a saying would.) Second, it was also a maxim because it assumed a good quality in a prospect that encouraged the prospect to act in the way the statement implies. Here it

is again: “I know this is important to you, because I can tell you want your children’s lives to be the best they can be.”



It took us 30 years to understand what those good ol’ Southern boys meant. But understanding this made us much more aware of how those terrifically successful Southern ladies and gentlemen weave a story, a saying, and a maxim seamlessly into their sales presentation. Of course they do have the huge advantage of that “Southern charm” thing. Nonetheless, Yankees can still learn a great deal from these Southern salespeople, (and emulate them as much as possible,) especially if we’re lucky enough to see them in action.

Employing the techniques used by “the greatest salesman of all time” will help you become a more resourceful and effective salesperson. What is even more important is your success as a human being. This is what Jesus practiced and preached. He meant we should treat our family and strangers — the waitress and the grocery checker, our prospects and buyers, construction and home office personnel — with kindness and love, no matter how they treat us in return. This is a lesson we’re still struggling to live up to and incorporate into our lives.

Copyright © 2011 Steven M. Weston

Sales Superiority Publishing