This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Ben Marks and Leah Turner of Melinda Brody and Company join Greg and Kevin to discuss how new home builders improve the performance and success of their sales associates through mystery shopping evaluation.
Sales associates should not view mystery shopping as a negative experience but as an opportunity to learn and progress. Ben says, “… if you're mystery shopped, don't see it as punitive. These are really an educational tool. I mean, oftentimes we tell managers that this is a training tool that you can work with your sales associates so they can see what they're doing well and where they need improvement. It's much like Tiger Woods or professional golfers watch hours of their swings on video. This is the same way. You're only gonna get better by seeing what you're doing well and where you need to improve.”
It takes training to become an expert new home sales associate and viewing each prospective home buyer as a mystery shopper will help perfect abilities. Leah says, “…treat every single person that walks into your model home as if they were a shopper because not only are you gonna give a great presentation, but you're going to perfect your craft. And then when the real shopper does come in, you're going to make a really good score. So, we hope they do think it's the shopper every single time. They'll do better.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the benefits of testing the skills of new home sales teams through mystery shopping.
About the Guests:
Ben Marks became owner and president of Melinda Brody & Company in 2016, upon the retirement of the company’s founder, Melinda Brody. Ben is proud to carry on the tradition of excellence and customer service since the company was established in 1986.
With more than two decades of working with sales and marketing teams, residential contractors, and design groups, Ben’s experience and expertise is particularly suited to helping home builders evaluate and train their sales associates.
Passionate about inspiring others to develop their innate potential, Ben is recognized by his peers as a strong, empowering, and compassionate leader. He is an enthusiastic team builder with an outstanding interpersonal capability and excellent communication skills. At Melinda Brody and Company, Ben is focused on developing the client base and ensuring the highest levels of customer service.
Ben is a proud, active member of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, the Atlanta Sales & Marketing Council, the National Sales & Marketing Council, and the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.
Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Married for over 20 years to his wife Margo, they have two teenage sons and reside in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
As Sales Coach & Trainer for Melinda Brody & Company, the leading new home mystery shopping company for over 30 years, Leah Turner knows what sets top sales teams apart. Leah has worked with thousands of new home sales and real estate professionals across the country providing ways to improve and enhance their presentations and increase sales.
Engaging, educational, and always entertaining, Leah is a sought-after speaker and has spoken at numerous national/regional trade shows, conferences, and builder associations in addition to conducting private workshops and training programs for new home builders and general real estate firms throughout the United States.
Leah’s experience and expertise in one-on-one coaching, team training, and sales management, gives her the competitive edge needed to deliver impactful, content-rich programs to sales and real estate professionals. And with 25 years as a highly charged sales and marketing executive in the home building and real estate industries, Leah understands the specific challenges and pressures of selling homes in today’s market.
Leah is a proud, active member of the Tampa Bay Builders Association and the Florida Homebuilders’ Association (FHBA). She has served in multiple leadership roles, most recently as the President of the Florida Sales & Marketing Council for FHBA. She is also a Life Director for the Florida SMC.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
Greg Bray: And we are excited today to have two guests joining us. We've got Ben Marks and Leah Turner from Melinda Brody and Company. Ben is the president there, and Leah is the sales coach and trainer. So, welcome, Ben and Leah. Thanks for joining us.
Ben Marks: Thanks for having us.
Leah Turner: Thank you.
Greg Bray: All right, let's start off and let everybody get to know you a little bit. So Leah, why don't you give us a quick introduction? Tell us a little bit about yourself, and then we'll have Ben
Leah Turner: go.
Awesome. Thank you. Well, wonderful to be here.[00:01:00] I hate to admit it, but I've got 30 years experience in this crazy industry, a combination of real estate and new home building. I started my career in general real estate. Went over and started working for a builder later on than that. Then started my own company, and it's been about 13 or 14 years since I've partnered with the Melinda Brody and Company group and have done their sales and training statewide.
Greg Bray: All right, Ben, tell us a little bit about you.
Ben Marks: I have been involved in real estate for about just over 10 years working in the Atlanta area, north Georgia, working on rehabbing houses, and selling single-family homes. Then about six years ago I had the opportunity to meet Melinda Brody. She was ending her career. She was looking for a buyer and I had the opportunity to buy the company and been running it ever since.
Kevin Weitzel: So there really is a Melinda Brody?
Ben Marks: Melinda started the company over 35 years ago, [00:02:00] and she was the original mystery shopper. She would go out and shop the new homes herself, but unfortunately a couple years after she sold the business, she passed away, so.
Kevin Weitzel: Mm-hmm. When you say mystery shop, you're talking about like camera and the spy gasses hidden in a briefcase. That kind of mystery shopping?
Ben Marks: A little less inconspicuous. We've got professional shoppers all across the country and they're really adept at using technology and a hidden camera to record the whole sales presentation.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, we normally just flows right into the next question, which is gonna be the toughest question that both of you're gonna answer today. Well, at least it usually is. Some of our guests are like, whoa. I don't know. I'm gonna start with Leah. Leah, tell us something personal about yourself that people will learn on our podcast that has nothing to do with work or the homebuilding industry.
Leah Turner: Okay, Kev, that's a good question. Something personal. Actually, I'm gonna share two things. One, because if you follow me on Facebook, you probably already know this, but what's really unusual about me is that I own a cow, or actually I own a steer [00:03:00] and his name is Elvis. And when I moved to the little rural town of Dade City, Florida, I somehow, I moved to a farm. So, I got five acres and somehow I inherited this 1800-pound Black Angus steer with horns and everything.
I do a lot of speaking around the country and I'll run into people. They don't remember my name. They have no clue what I talked about, but they always go, how's Elvis? How's Elvis? He's 18 years old. And we were talking about dogs before we went live, he's like my 1800-pound lap dog. So, that's something you may not know about me.
And another thing is that I am a certified life coach. So, that really helps me with my role with Melinda Brody and Company, but I also do just life coaching. Cuz anybody can use a life coach, right? Those are two things about me that people probably don't know and I'm certain they would not just assume that I might have a steer in the backyard.
Kevin Weitzel: Not everybody does.
Greg Bray: I gotta clarify though. You said you bought a farm and just [00:04:00] inherited a steer. Like, you showed up to move in was like, who's that in the backyard? Or you actually knew it was there before you closed?
Leah Turner: You know what? Great question, Greg. Well, when I moved in, there were no animals here, but I had five acres and I was one of these people, you know, it was 10 years ago and I wanted to have those little goats. I wanted to make them wear pajamas and jump around and do videos with the baby goats. And the guy who sold me the farm kept calling me and he is like, Leah, I'm not seeing any goats back there. And I'm like, I've just been so busy traveling.
So, he called me, he said, look, I have a farmer, some animals are getting displaced. Are you interested in some of these animals? I'm like, okay, because you know I'm a big animal person. So, he called me a couple days later. He's like, the good news is everybody has found a new home except for one little animal. And I'm like, oh my goodness. Is it the horse? No. The donkey? No. The cute little goats? No. I go, well, what is it? And he goes a steer. And I'm like, I'll take it. But then I said, well, what is a steer? Cause I'm a city [00:05:00] girl, right?
And then a Barnum and Bailey-sized truck showed up at my house the next day and out came Elvis, horns and all, and literally like running through the yard. So, it was a culture shock, and I quickly had to learn how to be a farm girl and go to the feed store and buy the hay and do all of those wonderful farm things. But now I can hardly imagine my life without Elvis.
Kevin Weitzel: That's cool. So, now Ben, if you tell me that you've got a yak and a llama, I'm done interviewing people. Greg, I quit.
Ben Marks: I do not have a yak or a llama.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, okay. Then I'm still working.
Ben Marks: I do have an 18-pound dog and a 12-pound cat. So, I've got two as well. One of my big passions outside of mystery shopping is fishing and living in north Georgia. Blessed to be close to really pristine trout waters, and love to go fly fishing up here. Fifteen minutes from my house, we have a great river that's stocked with trout, and it's [00:06:00] a great way to just relax and not have to think about anything. And whether or not you catch fish, it doesn't matter.
Kevin Weitzel: Huh?
Ben Marks: Yes.
Kevin Weitzel: What?
Ben Marks: And even if I catch 'em, I release them, typically do not keep them. And then the second thing is I love DIY projects. My motto is I'll try something at least once. You know whether it's replacing a gas water heater, electrical, plumbing. Typically, my best friend on that is YouTube, cuz inevitably you'll find someone that's done it before you and can give you some pointers.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, what a coincidence. Because I just bought a 1965 MG Midget and I'm looking for somebody that wants to do a DIY project of just overhauling the entire motor and restoring it tip to tail. It sounds like something for you.
Ben Marks: I'll come help. Never done that.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, okay.
Ben Marks: Just got back from a trip to Italy where my son is studying abroad, and we had the unique opportunity to take these 1970 Fiat 500s on a little tour in the Tuscan countryside. These are little clown cars. Like we would be squeezing [00:07:00] shoulders, but four-speed. I think they had 16 horsepower, but it was so much fun. And I could see one day getting one of those and just keeping it running and so forth.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, Greg, he doesn't know that my previous car before the MG was actually a Fiat. Should I take it personal that he called it a clown car, or it's actually accurate?
Ben Marks: This is the 1970s version. I've been in the newer ones and they're little.
Kevin Weitzel: They're a little smaller. They're actually good size smaller. Yeah.
Ben Marks: Yeah.
Greg Bray: I am having fun with Kevin and clown car in the same sentence. I'm just working on that. I'm working on it.
Leah Turner: The visual. It's a visual we're getting right now.
Greg Bray: With a bull named Elvis.
Leah Turner: In the back.
Ben Marks: Play Ferdinand if we get all of us in.
Kevin Weitzel: Can you show up to secret shop somebody in a clown car?
Ben Marks: Probably not a good idea. Ideally, you're not gonna stick out, so you're not showing up in a bright pink car or something like that. Like, I've seen that car before, so.
Greg Bray: Well, Ben, for those who aren't as familiar with Melinda Brody and Company, we've already hinted at some of the things you guys [00:08:00] do, but just give us that quick overview of the services you offer, and what you have to bring to bear.
Ben Marks: Sure. Thanks, Greg. We specialize in new home video mystery shops, meaning our shoppers go out to new home communities posing as real buyers and meet with the salespeople. And the goal is to evaluate the salesperson, their presentation, their follow-up, and so forth. Leah will talk a little more about it, but we follow what we call our shop coach train formula for sales success. Which means start with a mystery shop and then use those results with the builders to drive the success of their sales teams.
We also offer other types of mystery shops, whether it's competition shops. So, oftentimes builders will hire us to shop their competitors so that their salespeople are more knowledgeable when selling against their competitors. Around COVID and the pandemic, we had a pivot and we started offering virtual recorded shops over Zoom and so forth because people weren't [00:09:00] doing onsite shops.
Greg Bray: Leah, anything to add or clarify with that?
Leah Turner: Well, I just wanted to back up for a second about Melinda Brody, who was my actual mentor in the industry. Got to know her for 30 years and actually the way I met her was when I worked for a builder way back in the day. We hired her to do all of our video shopping and she really was a pioneer in this industry. When she started it, the word video wasn't used. It was just mystery shopping. So, she would go into the sales offices, have the one-on-one, walk through the whole sales presentation, then come back and make notes.
Talk about technology really having an effect on an industry. No video was even around back 40 years ago. So, we've really seen this evolve from a technology standpoint, incorporating the video shopping, and it's really gotta be sophisticated these days. It's not a big lapel pin that here's your camera or it's not right on the glasses. So, we've really had to be sophisticated with that.
And as Ben said, during COVID, we really did need to take a [00:10:00] pivot because the way that salespeople sold new homes, wasn't the same anymore, and so they all had to grasp this new technology. How do you do a Zoom call? How do you do a model presentation? So, that idea kind of evolved and grew into the online video mystery shopping, and that's totally taking off.
So, in addition, and we'll get into this, but we do two big reports each year. One is the annual benchmark study that we've done for the past 35 years, and it rates all of the video mystery shops that we've had, and we compile and get a score. We also, because of COVID and because of having to expand into new technologies, have the OSC or the online sales counselor shopping tool as well.
Because, if you've been in this industry for a long time, you've seen the impact that the OSCs or online sales consultants have. Kudos to Ben for really grasping that technology and now it makes sense because you're a do-it-yourselfer, right? You like that kind of technology. But really kind of expanding on the services that we are able to [00:11:00] provide to the builders across the country.
Kevin Weitzel: So, this is gonna be a really silly question, but do you ever have a secret shop go so poorly that you have to inform them, kinda like a Maury Povich moment, you know, like Susan Smith, you are the builder of this home? Do you ever have one of those kinda moments, or is it truly just you get it back to the person that paid for the service and you just let them know what happened? Or do you let 'em ever know?
Ben Marks: Typically not. Sometimes the salespeople will think they're being shopped. What we always tell the sales manager is if your salesperson calls you and says, I think I'm being shopped right now. Well, the sales managers say don't know what you're talking about. You know, if it is a shopper you should get a hundred, which rarely doesn't happen.
Leah Turner: Yeah, sometimes people think they know it well, especially after the shop. Like Ben said, you know when I'm doing the one-on-one coaching. They'll say, well, I knew I was being shopped. And I'm like, really? Is that why you made a 37 out of a hundred? If you knew you were being shopped, wouldn't you think you'd make a hundred out of a hundred? I don't really give that a whole lot of value.
What [00:12:00] we have found is sometimes the sales manager, depending on different builders, some builders are incentivized by shop scores being good. They might let 'em know, Hey, you're gonna be shopped within the next quarter, which is fine. One of the things that we found is, you know, and that we train on, is treat every single person that walks into your model home as if they were a shopper because not only are you gonna give a great presentation, but you're going to perfect your craft. And then when the real shopper does come in, you're going to make a really good score. So, we hope they do think it's the shopper every single time. They'll do better.
Greg Bray: I'm curious about the training process for your shoppers as they try to emulate a real buyer compared to what we see with how buyers are educating themselves anyway before they actually show up, with learning and the research and everything else. So, as you're training a shopper who may not actually be looking for their own home, they have get into character, so to speak, and become knowledgeable, how do they go through [00:13:00] that process and how does that maybe emulate what a real buyer is doing in their own research process?
Ben Marks: Sure. So, when we get the initial shop order from our clients, we ask them to provide a budget as well as to list any competitors that their normal buyers would be looking at. So, when our shoppers, before they even go out, they're spending time on the client's website, looking at floor plans, becoming very knowledgeable about that so they can be sure to pick something that's relevant, and so forth. But also looking at the competitor. So, if the salesperson says what other communities are you looking at? They can, you know, say I'm looking at Ashford Oaks down the street, mention amenities, and be able to compare things as well.
Leah Turner: Also just to jump on that, our shoppers are not like Joe Blow living in the street corner. They are people who have gone through a training to be a shopper, number one. So, there's different tiers. So, we have this pool of people who are already familiar with being a [00:14:00] shopper regardless of the industry.
The second piece is if they want to work with Melinda Brody and Company, we have an in-house trainer, not myself, but another person who does nothing but train these already qualified shoppers on the nuances of being a new home shopper, right? So, it's a little bit different shopping for a new home than trying out the pizza at the pizza joint. So, that's phase two.
And then the third piece, which Ben touched upon is, we have a one-on-one with the sales manager prior to, and we discuss each and every community. For example, if they say, you know what? Our salesperson is complaining because they can't sell a home because of that water tower that's obstructing the view, or because the homes are too close to the highway. Whatever those objections are, they share with us, and then we then give that knowledge, information to the shopper.
So when they go in, as Ben said, they've looked at the floor plans, they've looked at the website, they understand who the competition is, but they also know what triggers that the sales [00:15:00] manager may have informed us to bring up. So, we have specific questions to ask and that helps us understand how they overcome certain objections that they may have. So, it's really a three-step process, if you will, with the shoppers that we send out.
Ben Marks: As Leah mentioned, we have a team member that their sole job is to coach and work with shoppers. And really the benefit of doing the video shops is not only are we shopping the sales associates, but we're also shopping our shoppers.
So, we're able to provide feedback to our shoppers. Say, here's what you're doing well, here's where you need to improve. Maybe you need to improve your objections in a better way and so forth.
Greg Bray: So, have you ever had your shoppers go in and say, Hey, your website's terrible. I couldn't find the answer to this particular question. Do you ever have 'em go in with that kind of feedback?
Ben Marks: Typically not.
Leah Turner: But they do often ask if you've seen the website. And a lot of times, they'll say yay or nay, and did you see something specific on the website that you liked? I really liked the Blanton floor plan. [00:16:00] Back to your point too Greg, in terms of how this process starts. One of the things that we've seen evolve over the past, I don't know, 5, 6, 7 years, is that you're not just walking in anymore.
So, oftentimes our shopper's first point of contact is the OSC. So, they're calling, they've gone to the website, they've set the appointment or made the call with the OSC. They've had a little bit of a conversation there to set the appointment, and then they're going into the sales office. So, that dynamic has changed from the old days when it was just, Hey, I'm just driving by. Here I am.
You know, now the salespeople will say, well, I see you've talked to Kevin, our online sales counselor who has indicated A, B, C, and D. So, I think that actually gives our shoppers way more credibility because it's not just somebody showing up at your door. They have literally gone through the website, contacted the OSC, have given them information, and now are an official appointment when they show up at the sales office.
Kevin Weitzel: So, the follow-up to that is that salespeople [00:17:00] are notorious for not wanting to use the CRM. They're notorious for not adopting the technology that builders pay for, you know, using IFPs or using the interactive sales kiosk. Does your secret shopping process ever test, you know, like if a builder had an interactive sales kiosk, like a touchscreen in the sales center? Does it ever test their knowledge on that process itself or no?
Ben Marks: So, one of the things that we do all shops are graded using what we call our scorecard. And the scorecard looks at everything from how well they close, how well they overcome objections, how well they qualified the buyer. One of the sections does look at technology. Did they use the visualizer floor plans, things like that? So, they would get points for that if they use it and, obviously deduct it if they don't,
Leah Turner: To add on to that is one of the things that sets us apart perhaps from other shopping companies is that initial conversation with the sales manager where we personalize and customize. For example, we have had sales managers that maybe have implemented sales offices or some of these technologies [00:18:00] so we can shift our scorecard. We're not cookie-cutter vanilla.
If they say, Hey, we have just rolled out this CRM program and these are the things we expect, our expectations of our salespeople. We wanna make sure that they're utilizing the interactive floor plans. And so that then becomes part of the overall scoring analysis. So, it's not just a cookie-cutter thing. It's really kind of based on what the hot buttons are with that sales manager or with that builder.
Ben Marks: And certainly during the pandemic when we weren't having onsite visit, salespeople were encouraged to walk their prospects through the websites and the virtual floor plans and things like that. So, certainly, the managers wanted to see that they were employing and using that technology.
Greg Bray: So, one of the things you guys have done over the last few years is I know you partnered with Denim Marketing and Blue Gypsy Inc. To do some online, I guess it's a different version of the secret shop, right? Where you were kind of testing websites and responses and some of those things. Tell us a little bit more about that process and how that data was [00:19:00] collected and some of the things you learned there.
Ben Marks: Sure. So, for the past three years we, as you mentioned, partnered with Blue Gypsy Inc. and Leah Fellows, and Carol Morgan, and Denim Marketing. And the goal is each round of what we call our OSC, Online Sales Counselor Benchmark Report, we would pick 50 builders from across the country from various sizes, regional national players, and so forth.
We would start with an online inquiry, going to inquiring about a specific property or community and then tracking the follow-up and what type of personalized emails, phone calls the prospect would get after that initial contact. We tracked that for over 30 days. So, you're looking at how long it took to send that first personalized email, whether they made phone calls to the prospects, and just really seeing the number of touch points from day one.
Greg Bray: I've been fascinated by some of the things that you've found with that. Was there [00:20:00] something about the data that you've seen that just surprised you, that you were like, man, I had no idea that they were this good or this bad at some particular piece of the process?
Ben Marks: Yeah, unfortunately, it's more on the negative side. This past year, or the 2022 report, in terms of personalized emails, so this is after you submit that initial inquiry, how long it would take for someone to send an OSC to send an email to the prospect? Sixteen percent of all builders took more than one day to respond, and 22 of all the builders that we surveyed never even followed up with an email.
Kevin Weitzel: Whoa.
Ben Marks: So, there's a lot of room for improvement. You could say it's just coming off the pandemic and so forth. It's, you know, market conditions, who knows?
Kevin Weitzel: So, this wasn't 1978?
Ben Marks: No. That goes hand in hand with your question about CRM because the CRM automate a lot of those functions or features and so forth, or help. So, somewhere there's a disconnect.
Greg Bray: Yeah. For people to not [00:21:00] even respond in today's world to something that comes through. Either the technology's broken, right? They never got it because something's broken in there in their connection of this to that. Which happens. All right. I admit technology breaks. Somebody updated this and didn't update that, or the response got eaten by the spam, you know, monster, or whatever.
But at the same point, if it never gets there, it never gets there, and you've got people thinking they responded when the person never got it or whatever. It's crazy though. So, Leah, when you hear things like that, what do you go in with your training and kind of say, Hey folks, what's the deal? How do you address some of those types of shortcomings?
Leah Turner: Well, that's a great question, and I was thinking in my head, we have one ideal client that we worked with in 2021, 2022, and they were incorporating an OSC program. So, they brought in Blue Gypsy to help hire the OSC and create that position. In the meantime, they brought me in to work with the sales team to get them looking at their video shops, analyzing that data, and working on those areas. And I think the key [00:22:00] component here is we loved that client because the OSC knew how to work with the on-sites.
If you go back, hopefully, I'm not dating myself too much, but when I worked for a national builder in 2004, 2005, there was no such thing as an OSC. I can remember hiring our first OSC. The on-sites were like, whoa, get outta my back pocket. There was a lot of pushback. And it's interesting to see if it's not rolled out properly, you do get a lot of pushback of us versus them. Where, in my opinion, the smart builder knows how to incorporate the OSC as we are all on the same team.
You know, imagine the football team, the OSC is the quarterback that throws the ball. Now I'm not a big football person, to the people out there that run and do stuff with the ball. So, if we can reposition what that position really does and how it's there to partner with the onsite.
Because the OSC, if they're good at what they do and they have that initial conversation and they qualify and they do the right discovery, by the time they [00:23:00] pass them over to the sales office, in my opinion, it's a be back. It's not just somebody walking into the sales office. This is a qualified lead and almost in a sense a be-back. So, I think a lot of it has to do with, long story short, how the builder positions the OSC and that technology piece and how it can really help the onsite.
And of course, you talk about technology. You've got some on-sites that, like Kevin was saying, CRM, what are you talking about? It is really hard to get them to adapt and embrace some of these new technologies, but they're missing the boat because in my opinion that OSC is the initial contact with the builder. That's their first impression with the builder, and they can be a tremendous resource and help to the on-sites. If the onsite is having a slow quarter, for example, they can brainstorm with the OSC. Go back to the CRM, take a look at the people that have come in in the past three or four months, put together some type of a marketing campaign. So, I think that position has really changed new home sales by having that [00:24:00] position in place.
Greg Bray: What was it that motivated you guys to start doing that research and that level of the study, Ben? Was there some particular trigger of we think, from what we're seeing, that folks need to know that this is going on? Or was it something like, gosh, we don't know how they're doing so we wanna find out?
Ben Marks: A little bit we want to find out. I had the opportunity to meet Leah Fellows at the International Builder Show a number of years ago, and we talked about doing work together and she mentioned the need to shop OSCs that she had placed just to see, evaluate their skills, and that sort of morphed into an idea let's shop a lot of builders. Let's pick 50 from the top 200 builder list and really see what their response times and so forth are. So, we can get an idea of, when we talk to clients, here's where you stand, here's where you should be, and so forth, and come up with industry norms. So, far it's been somewhat interesting.
Leah Turner: And then COVID hit, and then that kind of really accelerated that need because this was how things were now happening. People were not going into sales [00:25:00] offices. They were going online. There was a need for interactive floor plans. There was a need for video tour. All of a sudden they were doing the bulk of their research without even going in to meet with the salesperson. So, I think it was like a perfect storm for a lot of that to happen.
Ben Marks: Yeah. I was just speaking with a national builder client this week and they mentioned they're eliminating their OSCs position nationwide, which sort of blows your mind because these are the people that are supposed to hand that lead to the on-sites. Now it's gonna fall to the responsibility of the onsite to take those leads. We know through our mystery shop benchmark report that they have a hard time, I think looking at the numbers.
Leah Turner: Onsites are looking for instant gratification as we know. You're in my sales office. Do you wanna buy today? Not today. How about tomorrow? They have no idea how to do the cultivating of a relationship. Florida, for example. We're just down here for vacation. We don't retire for another two years. [00:26:00] So, do you think the on-site's going to keep up with that person for two years? No.
If you don't have the CRM or the OSC or somebody who is continually touching that person, whether it's through a newsletter or a just keeping you abreast of something via email, you're going to lose that person. That's again, another critical piece of the OSC. They can cultivate and watch that database. Because your on-sites are not gonna do it.
I don't care what you do, what you say, they are on to their instant gratification. And if you're not buying for three more months, bye-bye. Typically. That's not where their strengths lie. So, an OSC is able to do that.
Ben Marks: The other thing that we found interesting for the OSC benchmark report was, oftentimes we're going onto the websites, entering the leads, and sometimes it's not clear whether or not they have an OSC or not. Some websites it's pretty clear because they have a person's name, they have their face, they say, click here for more information. But oftentimes you would enter [00:27:00] information on like a contact page, and then once you got the response back, you could tell from the email signature that yes, they in fact had an OSC, but the website didn't really market that or promote that. Which I found kind of interesting.
Greg Bray: So, when you got those kinds of responses, how much did you engage in kind of the continuing the process as part of this? Or was it more just measuring that first outreach and seeing how quickly they would respond?
Ben Marks: Good question. So, after that initial response for 30 days, we did not respond to any emails, phone calls, or anything.
Greg Bray: Okay, so you just went quiet and wanted to see what they would do is basically what you're doing. Okay. Interesting.
Ben Marks: We do offer OSC shops and we have what we call our 45-day tracking shop. So, day one will enter a lead. Again, we haven't responded to anything, but on day 30 we'll reach out to the OSC and say, I wanna make an onsite appointment. So, then we set up an onsite appointment for typically seven days later. We purposely no show for that [00:28:00] appointment to see what kind of follow-up you get after that.
Greg Bray: This is a level of testing that I'm sure a lot of builders have never done of their team, right? Because you're testing the breaking points in the process, not the ideal march through, oh, now I want this, now I want this. And yes, we test objections and things but now you're saying, okay. They didn't respond, they didn't show up, they didn't do this, they didn't do the things they're supposed to do. Right. You know, and from a software standpoint, we call that edge testing, right? We're trying to find the edge cases of where things are gonna break and try to prevent them from breaking. And I think it's fascinating that you can do this with people and/or processes. So, just really interested in all this.
Ben Marks: Yeah, and I think we can all agree that you don't wanna write them off this potential prospect off either. I mean, we're all inundated with emails, texts, and so forth. Just because someone hasn't responded for 35 days doesn't mean they're not still interested in buying a home.
Greg Bray: Personally, one of the big aha's I've had just in my career is this idea that because I sent someone an email does not mean that they have mastered or even read all the content [00:29:00] that I sent them. We make that assumption, right? I sent an email, therefore they know everything that I put in that email. They know it backwards and forwards. They understand it. They understand all the implications of their decisions they need to make and all that.
And the reality is they didn't even open it, even though I sent it, they didn't even open it. Email newsletters with a 20% open rate are like, fantastic. That means 80% didn't even open it. We need to go a little bit beyond just sending an email, and hoping they got it. And this isn't just about sales, right?
This isn't everything we do. We're so dependent on email and text today that sometimes we forget that people don't necessarily read 'em all. And even if they did, they might forgotten to respond, or they accidentally deleted it. Who's ever, never accidentally deleted an email cuz you're hitting too fast with your finger?
Leah Turner: Or they're waiting for you to respond to them because we're in sales. That's our job. That's our role. That's why I think the OSC position compliments the onsite so well when they work together as a team. It's not up to the prospect to go, oh my gosh, I got an email from Greg. I gotta [00:30:00] respond right now.
That's how these two positions really, I think, have revolutionized how we sell new homes. You've gotta have both, in my opinion, to cover all your bases for those people that don't read all the emails or are just waiting. How many times have you left a car dealership? You know, that guy's gonna call you in 15 minutes or an hour and Oh, I talked to the manager. That's sales. That's sales. That's what we're supposed to do.
Ben Marks: Yeah. On the marketing side too what we looked at with the OSC Benchmark Report is, it's not just phone, it's not just personalized emails. There are other types of touchpoints out there. There are video emails you can send, texts, and so forth. So, it's not one method is the best method. It's, try lots of different things, and hopefully, you'll find something gets through.
Kevin Weitzel: Now, I doubt that this probably falls into the scope of the secret shopping, but are your secret shoppers noticing retargeting ads? Are they seeing that when they're playing Bejeweled Blitz, that they're getting blasted by D.R. Horton? That, you know, oh my goodness, we recently just visited D.R. Horton, here's your new lead here. [00:31:00] Is that happening or no?
Ben Marks: Can't speak to that. I mean, from personal experience, when I go look at a builder website and then I go back doing other things on Facebook, inevitably something pops up about a community or things like that.
Leah Turner: Yeah, I think they're using it more. Like with Ben, when I drive by, or if I go into, cuz I do a lot of just going by the sales offices and then I start seeing that retargeting for sure. I think that's one of the cool big brother features. You're out there or even if you're at a restaurant and you're within X number of miles from this builder and you've done some research online, all of a sudden their ad pops up. It's kind of that subliminal big brother checking in.
Greg Bray: Yeah, you crossed the geo-fence, Leah. That's what you did.
Leah Turner: Love it.
Greg Bray: Well, this has been a fascinating conversation. It's been really interesting to get your insights. Just as we kind of wrap up, wanna give each of you just an opportunity to say if you could give one piece of advice, stop doing this or start doing that. What would you share with our listeners today? Leah, we'll let you go first.
Leah Turner: I would say to those [00:32:00] salespeople that are a little bit hesitant about technology to grasp it. Last year our big focus, when we did our training, our shop coach training, was about getting back to basics. You had mentioned before about there are a lot of people that haven't known anything but these past three years and our market is shifting back to somewhat of what it used to be.
But I would encourage people to get back to the basics of selling, understand that as an onsite, but grasp this new technology. Did y'all watch 60 Minutes Sunday night about the AI, all of the artificial intelligence? I mean, this stuff is coming in waves. Builders are typically late to the dance when it comes to technology, unfortunately, and there are opportunities.
With the builder's story, for example. A lot of our salespeople, they overlook the builder's story, which it kills me every time because your builder's story is your brand. So, are there ways through technology, I know we have the interactive floor plans and website and that communication, but there's so many other, I think we're just beginning to see the impact of [00:33:00] technology and what we can do.
So, for those salespeople who are out there sitting the fence, I'd say jump in, learn it. If you don't know it, partner with some of the younger people that are maybe more tech-savvy. For the sales managers. Make it a part of your weekly agendas. What type of technology are you seeing? How can we use this to enhance builder land, to enhance the whole sales process? That's what I would say. It's a combination. Get back to the basics of selling, selling 101, but do not overlook some of these great things that can happen with the evolution of technology and how it can help our industry.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Ben, what's your last words of advice here?
Ben Marks: I'd say, I mean, if you're a mystery shopped, don't see it as punitive. These are really an educational tool. I mean, oftentimes we tell managers that this is a training tool that you can work with your sales associates so they can see what they're doing well and where they need improvement.
It's much like Tiger Woods or professional golfers watch hours of their swings on video. This is the same way. You're only gonna get better by seeing what you're doing well and where you need to [00:34:00] improve.
Greg Bray: You can't improve what you haven't measured or benchmarked, right?
Kevin Weitzel: Greg, you wouldn't believe the number of hours of Elvis videos I watched just to see how to grow my sideburns. Hours, days even.
Leah Turner: And you perfected it. You perfected it. See?
Greg Bray: The problem now, Kevin, is the word Elvis has a whole new meaning after today.
Leah Turner: I know. I'm thinking about my steer.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much, Ben and Leah, for joining us. Ben, if somebody wants to learn more or see about engaging with you guys, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Ben Marks: You can go through our website, Melinda Brody, B R O D Y.com, or ben.marks@melinda brody.com, or 4 0 4 2 3 4 4 0 5 9.
Greg Bray: All kinds of choices. Awesome. Well, thank you so much again for being with us, and thank you, everybody, for listening today to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you. [00:35:00]