Social Garden’s resident CEO/Co-Founder Michael Bird and Client Services Director Nik Sproal sit down to discuss how greenfield developers, apartment & townhouse developers, home builders, as well as project marketers and sales agents can better understand and map their customer journey.
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MIKE: Hey, my name’s Mike from Social Garden. I’m here with Nik Sproal who’s our Client Services Director for our property business. Today we’re talking about the customer journey, but before we do, Nik, do you want to just quickly introduce yourself and talk a bit about your experience in the property market?
NIK: Yeah, absolutely Mike. So I’ve had just over 16 years’ experience in the property market working on both the client side and the agency side and working with a diverse group of brands including Stockland, Lendlease, Investa, Simonds Homes, Mirvac. So right across the whole spectrum of the offering.
MIKE: Yeah, great. And so, in terms of the customer journey, obviously a lot of people are talking about that right now in the property market. How do you see the customer journey within that space and what are your thoughts, generally?
NIK: Within the property side things have changed dramatically in the last 5 to 10 years. Buyers now have way more information available to them much more freely and are divorced from the process of dealing with the developer or builder directly. So what that means is, that people are starting their prospecting a lot earlier, finding a lot more information before they start to engage with the sales team. So, it really fundamentally changes the relationship and puts more onus on the developer and the sales team to change their way of looking at things.
MIKE: How have you seen developers successfully manage that longer customer journey in some regards but increase lead volumes in general?
NIK: Yeah, look, it’s an interesting one. I think initially a lot of developers have a bit of a mindset change required because they’re probably used to dealing with people who are much closer to the purchase point and therefore are literally walking into a sales suite to really just validate their recommendations and then do a sale. Whereas now the sales team and the marketing team by extension are forced to deal with people who are starting much earlier. There’s a lot more hand holding required, there’s a lot more questions being asked, there’s more time through the process and therefore there’s a need to adapt to that policy and really I guess understand what information people need at what stage to help them move through the journey.
MIKE: When we look at our data we’re seeing huge differences in terms of the length of the customer journey on the first home buyer side, versus the investor side. So, what are you seeing in that space and how should people be thinking about it?
NIK: I think it’s really about understanding the mindset of the consumer. So, the first home buyer, it’s a very daunting process. There’s a lot of emotion attached to it, there’s a lot of thought required for it, they don’t know what they don’t know so they need a lot of education. They’re going to ask a lot of questions, they’re going to take time. They don’t want to be rushed or pushed, they want to be educated, supported, nurtured, and held through the process. Whereas your investor is looking really rationally forward. Does this equation meet my needs? Can I see a return on it? Am I confident I’m going to get value out of this equation? And often their process is faster but they are way more educated and way smarter in the property sector. So they are a bit more ruthless than the first home buyer in the way they make their decisions.
MIKE: Because the first home buyer journey is so long, and as you said, there is a lot of hand holding required, unfortunately, a lot of developers are thinking that either those leads are not in the right space or their sales team really need to nurture them via the phone. Realistically, that’s just not feasible; the cost is too high. You need your sales agents focusing on prospects that are ready to go now. So what have you seen work well in the property space, particularly in the first home buyer market? And what are you seeing that’s not working as well?
NIK: I think what works well is when a developer or a builder engages all aspects of the marketing technology offering. If you do say ‘lead gen’ in isolation you end up with a situation where the sales agent is bombarded with leads, they don’t have the tools or the approach or even, I guess, the business directive to know how to nurture those leads. So it creates friction, which ultimately reflects back on marketing and it becomes a challenging situation to deal with. Whereas if you match the lead generation with the marketing automation and actually have those two pieces working together, both sides of the equation being sales and marketing, are doing the lifting together, it creates harmony and everyone’s moving in the right direction. So, I think where you see those elements working together and a really strong understanding of how each of those elements works to do the job, it tends to deliver the better results.
MIKE: But also I think it’s really important that people realise that there’s a big distinction between the job that a sales agent needs to do, if they’re working mostly face to face, versus someone that’s on the phone pre-qualifying these leads. And we’ve seen a tremendous uplift from a lead to appointment conversion rate of say, 6 per cent when a lead is passed directly across to a sales agent, compared to up to 20 to 25 per cent, when we’ve got a really strong sales conversion specialist that’s pre-qualifying leads and passing them through, So, certainly an interesting space at the moment.
NIK: I think the other key point to make as well is that when you understand that customer journey, not only from initial enquiry to deposit but also beyond, you’re able to identify where the blockages are and where the issues are and build a strategy around addressing those issues. So, it becomes an opportunity for you to really increase your sales velocity by understanding the pain points in the customer experience and building a strategy around addressing those and moving people through the process.