Sales: Avoid Elephants at Your Peril

In July 2020, we decided to buy a new house and embarked on what would become a long saga in trying to secure a house, near an amazing school for our kids.

The whole story is a long one, an almost epic tale of ups and downs of the housing market. However, one part of the journey has really stuck with me and so relevant to business today I thought I’d share.

Non-Negotiable Decision Criteria

In November, we found a house 100 yards from the school our kids have been attending. Not quite the house we were looking for, but walking distance to the school, a beautiful victorian home, in a great neighbourhood.

After several failed attempt on purchases, due to less-than-transparent legal issues on the vendors side, we had given the agents a specific set of criteria for our purchase to ensure it was quick*.

[*I appreciate I was asking a lot for a fast house purchase].

Luckily for us this house was chain free - and according to the agent could be completed quickly.

With the house in such a great location, we unfortunately found ourselves in a dutch auction for the property.

When the agent called me to ask for our BAFO (Best And Final Offer) I decided to just qualify the vendors situation to ensure we could have a hassle free sale - we wanted to move fast.

“Absolutely, no issue” said the agent. I enquired further about the nature of their move and was told until we had secured the house, no details would be shared - but I could "rest assured" that it was all very easy/quick to complete.

24 hours later, after a successful bid, the agent called - “Good news - your offer has been accepted. The vendors are moving to a house at the bottom of the garden on a separate piece of land so they can move as quickly as you need”.

Red Flags

“Can I just check that property is on a separate deed" I enquired, "I wouldn’t want to drive the price up for anyone else if we find out this is not the case".

"There is no cause for concern. I am sure this is all fine. We can’t check though until your offer is accepted".

You can imagine what happened next.

We proceeded in good faith then found out that no, it wasn’t on a separate deed and in fact it was going to take months for that chain-free-easy-sale!

Avoid Elephants at Your Peril

We revisited the house and I confronted the agent about the lack of transparency on the purchase.

Let’s just say after a long conversation, I learned a few things:

  1. A Clear Criteria on Deaf Ears = Loss in Confidence

Whilst I am a huge believer in influencing sales, if a customer has non-negotiables - we must listen. We kid ourselves if we think we can avoid these obstacles (or elephants in the room), by performing some sort of Jedi-mind-trick.

  1. No integrity = No trust = Risk

It became clear the agent wasn’t interested in building our trust. 

Why is trust so important? It takes 10 weeks to buy a house - this is plenty of time for doubt or temptation of other properties. Iif you lose trust, you introduce more risk into the process as your buyers’ eyes will start to wander.

Also, with the customer’s trust diminishing, they will not share their concerns, objections etc. Then you"ll get an unwelcome surprise.

For our agent, the unwelcome surprise was we quickly lost confidence in everything they said and withdrew from the purchase. 

Decision Criteria: Must Haves vs Nice to Haves

Whilst sales has always been considered a bit of a dark art in "influencing" buyers on what they should buy, customers often have fixed requirements - non-negotiable needs - which must be met.

If we avoid these elephants, thinking a Jedi-mind-trick can influence the decision, then we are just creating risk in the sale. Risk for everyone.

Transparency & Integrity Can Save the Day (In Advance)

So what’s the lesson here? I have thought a lot about this over the last few weeks, as we really liked the house. 

For me, if the agent had been up front about the challenge in the beginning, I could have seen us working on the problem, being more patient or changing our criteria. 

I would have appreciated the transparency and openness, which would have given us some scope to qualify and decide. 

Customers Need the Power of Choice

Customers need to have the power of choice in their decisions. It’s ok to educate and influence, but it’s imperative this isn’t smoke and mirrors, to build great long-term customer relationships and advocacy.

No one benefits from unhappy prospects or customers, so don’t avoid the elephants, meet them head on and invite them into the conversation.

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