10 Things Every Customer Wants

Surprisingly, the best price and best value is at the bottom of the customer’s priority list. See what’s at the top.

Why does a customer buy from one vendor rather than another? According to research recently conducted by The Rain Group (detailed report here), customers tend to buy from sellers who are superlative at the following tasks:

1. Bring New Perspectives and Ideas

If customers could diagnose their own problems and come up with workable solutions on their own, they would do so. The reason that they’re turning to you and your firm is that they’re stuck and need your help. Therefore, you must be able to bring something new to the table.

2. Be Willing to Collaborate

Customers absolutely do NOT want you to sell them something, even something that’s wonderful. They want you to work with them to achieve a mutual goal, by being responsive to the customer’s concerns and ways of doing business. Ideally, customers want you to become integral to their success.

3. Have Confidence In Your Ability to Achieve Results

Customers will not buy from you if you can’t persuade them that you, your firm, and your firms offerings will truly achieve the promised results. It is nearly impossible to persuade a customer to believe in these things unless you yourself believe in them. You must make your confidence contagious.

4. Listen, Really Listen, to the Customer

When they’re describing themselves and their needs, customers sense immediately when somebody is just waiting for a break in the conversation in order to launch into a sales pitch. In order to really listen, you must suppress your own inner-voice and forget your goals. It’s about the customer, not about you.

5. Understand ALL the Customer’s Needs

It’s not enough to “connect the dots” between customer needs and your company’s offering. You must also connect with the individuals who will be affected by your offering, and understand how buying from you will satisfy their personal needs, like career advancement and job security.

6. Help the Customer Avoid Potential Pitfalls

Here’s where many sellers fall flat. Customers know that every business decision entails risk but they also want your help to minimize that risk. They want to know what could go wrong and what has gone wrong in similar situations, and what steps you’re taking to make sure these problems won’t recur.

7. Craft a Compelling Solution

Solution selling is definitely not dead. Customers want and expect you to have the basic selling skill of defining and proposing a workable solution. What’s different now though is that the ability to do this is the “price of entry” and not enough, by itself, to win in a competitive sales situation.

8. Communicate the Purchasing Process

Customers hate it when sellers dance around issues like price, discounts, availability, total cost, add-on options, and so forth. They want you to be able to tell them, in plain and simple language, what’s involved in a purchase and how that purchase will take place. No surprises. No last minute upsells.

9. Connect Personally With the Customer

Ultimately, every selling situation involves making a connection between two individuals who like and trust each other. As a great sales guru once said: “All things being equal, most people would rather buy from somebody they like… and that’s true even when all things aren’t equal.”

10. Provide Value That’s Superior to Other Options

And here, finally, at the No. 10 spot (below everything else) comes the price and how that price compares to similar offerings. Unless you can prove that buying from you is the right business decision for the customer, the customer can and should buy elsewhere.

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Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts@Sales_Source

Hot Seattle Residential Real Estate Called ‘Surge Market’

When Dolly Lenz, called the queen of U.S. real estate, speaks, people listen. And that’s what a select group of John L. Scott Real Estate high-end luxury real estate agents did when Lenz and real estate appraiser and consultant Alan Pope of Alan L. Pope and Associates spoke at a recent breakfast put on by John L. Scott for their top sellers.

As vice chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York City, Lenz has sold more than $7 billion in real estate, more than double the next top agent in the country. This was her first time in Seattle. She loved it and spoke of increasing opportunities in the real estate market.

Pope says the market in our metro area is up 15 percent and that he is seeing the same kind of buying frenzy that he saw six years ago.

“Yes, it has been a fabulous recovery in the housing market,” says Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L .Scott Real Estate. “I saw it formulating 18 months ago. The confidence of local homebuyers has come back strong,” he says.

Scott says sales for his company are up 25 percent in the last 18 months and called the sales activity “a strong to surge market. The last four months has definitely been a surge,” he says, “fueled by the fact that there is such a strong economy with historically low interest rates.”

The Seattle area is one of the top markets in the nation, with strong job growth. Scott points to a shortage of housing inventory on both the West and East coasts. “And in our area there’s a one- to two-month supply of homes available. A healthy market is 5-6 months of inventory.”

And, he says, the shortage is happening in the above $1 million range as well. “In King County, we are down to a four-months supply in houses above $1 million. A healthy market would be six- to seven-months supply.”

Listing and Staging a home over the Holidays

This is a great article we came across by Mark Fitzpatrick, broker and CEO of Fitzpatrick + Prince Real Estate
Group in Irvine, California

Gone are the days when houses were best listed come spring when flowers bloomed or in late summer before the beginning of the school calendar. Now, any time of year is good for selling if the property is priced correctly, clean, and in good condition.

But with Thanksgiving past and Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year fast approaching, many sellers wonder if December bodes well, given how busy people’s lives get and because so many home owners like to decorate their houses. Holiday decorations can distract buyers and make it hard to focus on a home’s important architectural features when, for instance, rows of stockings camouflage a beautiful period fireplace mantel or a toy train set takes up the entire living room floor.

Help your sellers understand how to attract buyers and showcase their house to maximum advantage at this time of year, yet not forgo their favorite seasonal traditions and merriment. And don’t forget to remind sellers that if they’re located in a cold, snowy region, it’s paramount they make their homes safe to enter by clearing all walks, steps, and the driveway and putting down some salt.

Holiday_Lights_stock_photoHere are answers to nine frequently asked sellers’ questions from real estate salespeople and brokers coast to coast:

1. Should we take our house off the market if it’s listed or not list it until the holidays are past?

Absolutely keep it in play, say most real estate pros. Those who brave the weather in colder climates and during this busy time of year often are the most serious about buying, says Randy Bell, sales practitioner with HomeSmart Realty Group in Denver. “November and December tend to be two of our best months, since we get folks who are willing to bundle up and head outdoors in cold temperatures; they’re not just tire kickers,” he says. Susan Stynes, GRI, with Long and Foster in Midlothian, Va., agrees, “While sales may go down at this time of year, the buyers looking definitely are among the most serious.” Some buyers also like the idea of purchasing before the end of the year for tax reasons, says broker Jennifer Darby with ERA Justin Realty Co. in Rutherford, N.J. And this year buyers may house-hunt during the holidays for two more reasons, according to Mark Fitzpatrick, broker and CEO of Fitzpatrick + Prince Real Estate Group in Irvine, Calif. “Inventory is going down in California, and rates are still low,” he says.

2. What kinds of outdoor decorations are appropriate?

Simple, classy, and classic are the three operative words, according to experts. What that means are trees and bushes with some lights, and potted plants and a wreath at the front door. Too many lights during the daytime can turn wires into an eyesore, says Stynes. The bottom line is to create a festive, warm holiday mood without anything becoming gaudy, says Maike Scherer, CEO of Capital Home Management in the Washington, D.C., area. What crosses the line into tackiness are huge, inflatable Santas on roofs and lawns, oversized Nutcracker soldiers, and human-sized candy canes, as well as so many lights that you think you’ve stepped into Santa’s workshop. The light colors should be kept to white or to discrete pairings of the season, such as red and green or silver and gold.

3. How about inside? What’s best and what’s to be avoided?

Again, real estate experts suggest erring on the minimalist side rather than going overboard. “Avoid clutter, and try to stay neutral,” says Gillian Luce, marketing manager of Homes.com, which offers an idea gallery online to inspire home owners how to display their personality subtly throughout the year. Good ideas from her include one tree with a few ornaments and wrapped presents, one wreath, a few stockings along a mantle, some candles and a holiday inspired runner on a dining room table or buffet, and maybe a simple garland up a staircase. But displaying all holiday cards, yards and yards of tinsel, and every single ornament you’ve always owned can become too personal and messy. “The goal is to get buyers to imagine themselves sharing the holidays with their family in the house, and if the rooms are so crowded with your stuff, they can’t,” says Bell. “Use common sense,” he adds, “and stage your house and rooms in the same way you would at other times.”

4. And religious decorations — OK or not?

OK, but the key again is not to have too many on display — lots of nativity scenes or menorahs, for instance. “If these objects are very meaningful for home owners, you don’t want to ask them to change their traditions, but it’s better if the house remains more neutral,” says Stynes. It also may depend in part on location. In Denver, Bell describes his area as a melting pot where various religious traditions are respected, welcomed, and celebrated.

5. What about music?

Soft music is fine; experts disagree about Christmas music, however, which some buyers may be tired of hearing in elevators and stores and on car radios at this time of year. Most agree that religious music should be avoided to appeal to the widest buyer segment.

6. And those sugar and gingerbread cookies and cinnamon spiced candle smells? Do they entice buyers or are they perceived as a bit kitschy?

Baked goods and nice fragrant candles always bring a warm, welcome smell. “They help introduce a nice emotional touch that lets buyers make a connection with the property,” says Luce. But the caveat is to avoid smells that might prove overwhelming.

7. Can sellers say no to appointments if they’ve got family visiting or are having holiday parties, or does that make them seem too Scrooge-ish?

Of course, they can say “no.” But if they’re going to say no repeatedly, it might be better for them to wait and list in January, says Darby. If they have a party or two to host, experts advise they do a thorough cleaning right away.

8. When should decorations come down?

Sometime in the week after New Year’s Day. “Nobody wants to see a house decorated for Christmas on Super Bowl Sunday,” Bell says.

9. And photos or videos with Christmas images used in online listings?

Those, too, should be changed fast, says Fitzpatrick. Darby agrees. “If you’ve got pictures with holiday wreaths and lights at the end of February, it will quickly date that the house was on before the holidays,” she says. Better to use only nonseasonal photos if you’re not going to have two sets.

And remember to wish all buyers and real estate pros who come to look at a listing to have a happy, healthy holiday and new year. Seasonal good cheer is always in style.

Residential Housing Inventory Shortage

From Lennox’s Blog…

We are now experiencing, in most market areas, a shortage of homes available for sale. Favorable market conditions have produced a surge of local home buyers (backlog) on top of the elevated number of residential investors. This combined with fewer homes coming on the market has created a shortage of inventory in the more affordable and mid price ranges and the upper end close to job centers.

Possible Sources of Additional Homes for Sale and How to Optimize Support:


1. Sellers with Equity – there has been a major market change

  • Sellers can sell their homes in today’s market
  • OK to buy/sell within same market timing
  • By waiting for higher prices, the next home purchased may also be at a higher price

2. Underwater Sellers – Short Sales

  • Streamline response / acceptance process
  • Pre-approved short sales

3. Resale Condominiums

  • Move up to 70% FHA occupancy ratio

4. Home Price Appreciation – will unlock current “underwater” sellers

  • Appraisal process is restraining the housing recovery

5. New Construction

  • Promote presale product
  • Need streamlining of land development permit process

6. Foreclosures

  • No bulk sales to National investors (market by market analysis)
  • Keep foreclosures available for local home buyers/investors

7. New Condominium Projects

  • Need to overcome construction financing  and take out home buyer financing

8. Apartments converting to condominiums

  • Streamline Process

Real Estate’s Top Ten for 2012

From Lennox’s Blog

Image2012 has been an historical year for real estate. We have seen a positive shift in the market; driven by historically low interest rates and lower adjusted prices which have brought out motivated buyers. The shortage of inventory has caused multiple offer situations to become increasingly common. The following are the top stories of 2012:





  • There is a shortage of homes for sale in the price ranges where approximately 90% of sales activity   is taking place


  • Need to be buyer ready to get a home




  • Elevated number of residential investors in the market
  • Local home buyers regain confidence and reenter the market
  • Surge of buyers close to job centers
  • Market conditions activate “on the fence” buyers


  • Underwater sellers waiting for an increase in home prices
  • Few new condominiums have come on the market
  • Sellers with equity have been waiting for prices to increase



  • Mobile real estate apps give buyers an extra edge when searching for a home
  • Mobile GPS home search apps instantly pull information on homes for sale from wherever the user is currently located


  • Their decisions will impact the foundation for a sustainable housing market


The National real estate market continues to maintain steady growth and appreciation, as evidenced by the latest Case-Shiller Index, which showed steady increases in month over month home prices, across 20 major metropolitan areas. Since the beginning of 2012, the indexes have risen 3.5%, a sign that the bottom of the market may indeed be behind us. What is even more encouraging is the year over year appreciation, as noted by the index, posting the first positive numbers since the end of the home buyer’s tax credit of 2010.

As the housing market gains strength, the inventory of both new and existing homes has dwindled. Motivated buyers are moving off the fence to take advantage of the historically low rates and adjusted prices. Because of this, multiple offer situations have become increasingly common and have intensified the market. The strong sales activity has triggered prices to rise in the more affordable and mid price ranges as well as the higher price ranges near job centers; signaling a flip in the market.

Initiated by the elevated number of residential investors and local home buyers gaining confidence and reentering the market, the Northwest housing market has seen a surge of buyers.

Another market trend we have observed is the increase in the use of mobile technology among both buyers and sellers. The John L. Scott mobile app gives buyers an extra edge when searching for a home and gives sellers targeted exposure to quickly and successfully sell their home.

These indicators show that moving into 2013 we will likely see a continuing of the fundamental strengthening of the local real

Entering the Fourth Phase of the US Housing Recovery

From Lennox’s Real Estate Blog

Five years ago, the U.S. government took unprecedented measures to end the subprime mortgage crisis. Since that time we have seen the rolling aftermath. Underwater home owners, short sales, and foreclosures cast a dark shadow over the market. The federal government and the real estate industry have been focused on three pressing issues since then:

  • Helping distressed owners stay in their homes.
  • Moving the housing recovery and US economy forward.
  • Creating an environment for a sustainable housing market.

Many strategies have been attempted since the financial meltdown to turn real estate around. The creation of the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) and its conservatorship of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ensured a flow of capital to the housing market. The home buyer tax credit, loan-modification refinancing reforms, and the efforts to streamline the short-sale process have given buyers and sellers the tools they need to navigate their way through the tumultuous market.

We are now on the road to not just a temporary recovery but a sustainable recovery. What follows is an explanation of how we got here and how to continue down a positive, sustainable path.

Phase 1, 2009 to Spring 2010: The Home Buyer Tax Credit

The home buyer tax credit worked. It helped bring buyers into the marketplace at a critical time, in particular first-time home buyers. This phase of the recovery helped slow the steadily declining US economy. By the fall of 2008, the Consumer Confidence Index had dropped from 117 (100 being a healthy number) to a staggering 25. We have since seen the Consumer Confidence Index return towards the 70s.

Phase 2, Fall 2010 to Fall 2011: Residential Investors

Around November 2010, everything began to come together to create an opportunity for investors. The Federal Reserve purchased mortgage-backed securities to lower interest rates. This, combined with the lower adjusted prices, created a positive cash flow possibility for investors. They came out in force, snapping up a great deal of the glut of homes on the market with purchases of foreclosures and short sales. This helped to reduce inventory and stabilize values of homes below the median price-points in many areas.

Phase 3, Fall 2011 to Present: Surge of Local Home Buyers

Moving forward to November 2011, the backlog of local home buyers started coming forward to purchase homes, taking advantage of the historically low interest rates and lower adjusted prices. In particular, the low interest rates pushed the National Housing Affordability Index to the highest level since recording began.

This surge in local home buying caused a chain reaction of sales up through various price points, which also reduced inventory in the mid-price ranges. In certain markets with strong job growth, sales activity also increased in the upper end, supported by the rise of high-balance loan limit financing.

Phase 4, Creating a Sustainable Housing Market

In the coming years years, the residential housing market will be entering the fourth phase of its recovery — sustainability. The fourth phase will feature a return of the first-time home buyers. The group leading the charge in this sustainability phase will be the “echo boom” generation — also known as Millennials — who are now 17-31. A recently released Homebuyer Poll from TD Bank, reveals that the vast majority, 84 percent, of the Millennial generation intend to buy a home.

To help this generation of home buyers achieve the American Dream and create a sustainable housing market, we must create a healthy environment for them. This is a critical year for the future of housing. Several major decisions will be discussed and decided within the next year that will set the foundation for a sustainable housing market. Qualified residential mortgage (QRM) regulators have recommended, among other things, that a 20 percent down payment be required for a home purchase. This could devastate the market by excluding up to 30 percent of potential home buyers.

Reform and replace Fannie and Freddie with a transparent federal government support system necessary for keeping a secondary home finance securities market to attract world investors to purchase U.S. mortgage securities. The FHA’s 3.5 percent core down payment financing, USDA rural home financing, and high-balance loan limits for credit worthy home buyers are solid programs that should be continued and made permanent in order to have a sustainable housing market after the surge of backlogged local home buyers and residential investors pass through the market.

While the housing market continues to gain strength, we must maintain the solid programs and tax incentives we currently have in place in order to build a sustainable foundation for the future of housing.