In the ever-changing world of sales, a debate among sales scholars has been raging since the construction of Uruk.

Sales scholars and academics debated the fundamental differences between selling a ready property to an off-plan. The house was divided between sales veterans that believed there were no significant differences, and sales warriors who firmly believed that major dissimilarities existed.

I have always been aware of such debate but never tempted to explore the subject further. However, eight months ago, a seismic shift materialized as the tectonic plates of the Dubai real estate market moved. The foreshock started 18 months ago in the form of higher commissions paid by the developers to incentivize the brokers.

At the beginning, we thought that the high commission was just a phase. But the termers kept coming, unleashing a tsunami of astronomical commission followed by lottery-like bonuses.

What triggered my interest in the old debate was my business partners’ argument about whether all of the Real Estate brokers can successfully make the shift from selling secondary market properties to selling off-plan.

After many discussions, my partners convinced me to investigate the matter further in light of my latest obsession with sale enablement and my new vocation as a Sales Coach. I began searching the internet for content that would highlight the fundamental differences, but after many moons in search of a sacred scroll, I reached a dead-end. Like any eager researcher, I turned to the collective experience of my accomplished partners in the real estate brokerage world. 

My objective was to identify the set of skills required to close off-plan deals, understand the buyer’s journey, and align it with the sales process. I wanted to create a training engagement to serve as a guide to sales professionals selling off-plan properties, helping them sell more and sell faster. So, I started working on the training content with the objective of creating a modular content where a sales professional can customize his/her engagement based on a unique requirement.

The modules were designed to be taken together or as “required basis”, through a singular or multiple combination of modules. Furthermore, the training content was mixed with business context to create a relevant learning experience. 

The Training Engagement content will always be a work in progress, as the universe of sales keeps on changing, and the customer buyer’s journey keeps evolving. The following is what I believe to be some of the major fundamental differences and variations. 

Prospecting

Prospecting has, and will always be, the most critical activity and discipline in sales. When it comes to off-plan properties, there’s a significant difference between prospecting to secure the listing and for customers to sell them a property. With the latter, the sales professional must prospect to develop a database of likely customers and then systematically communicate with these people in the hopes of converting them from potential customers to customers. The sales professionals must have a well-defined prospect relationship management process and a follow-up cadence.  

Storytelling and communication skills

Storytelling has existed long before any recorded history. It’s been the vessel with which humans shared vital information on their survival throughout the generations.

Since the sales process has morphed over the last 20 years, successful sales professionals are connecting with their prospective buyers through stories. They are communicating the USP of their product and services through telling a story.  When selling off-plan properties, the sales professional must depend on his/her communication and storytelling skills to sell the vision of what the property will be.

They must have the ability to take the marketing collaterals and build a story that engages the customer’s imagination. The customer needs to be inspired by the property, the lifestyle that it represents, and the investment potential.

Applying sales process and methodology

Since the first sales transaction in history, some kind of sales process existed. Having clearly defined steps and trigger points guides the sales professional from prospecting to presenting, to asking for the business. Without it, the sales success becomes random and the probability of things going wrong increases.  

In the off-plan property buyer’s journey, there are more stages and complex milestones to navigate. The sales professional must utilize a process aligned with the customer’s buying journey. He/she has to acquire a methodology that engages the customer at each step of the sales process. 

Building trust

When selling off-plan properties, the sales professional must connect with the customer on a personal level. The customer needs to trust the sales professional’s capabilities to convey the accurate information that will fit to his/her requirement. Although trust is key in every transaction, it becomes crucial when the end product is not there for the buyers to inspect. 

A subject matter expert

Unlike selling a ready property where the customer can inspect and purchase the product through a straightforward purchasing process, with off-plan purchasing the sales professional must provide clarification about the property, the community, the developer, and the state of the real estate market.

They must know the product inside-out, back to front, and upside-down. They also need to know the purchasing process and understand the terms and conditions applied to the Sale and Purchase Agreement. 

Financial acumen

With selling off-plan property, several factors and variables affect the economic viability of the purchase, such as the payment terms and the anticipated ROI (return on investment). The sales professional must have the knowledge and the ability to demonstrate in specific terms what monetary results buyers can expect to achieve. They must provide different financial scenarios depending on the down payment required, the payment plan selected, and the impact of a post-completion payment plan on the ROI versus taking a mortgage. 

Building a customer-centric USP

When a property is still being constructed, it becomes vital for the sales professional to build a unique selling proposition for the unit, the property, the community, and the lifestyle.

The USP allows the sales professional to break down the project’s key selling points into components and communicate it effectively on how those key selling points will benefit the customer – and solve their pain points. The FAB methodology (Functions, Advantages, and Benefits) is an excellent way to start building a USP.

For all the brave sales warriors out there, to succeed in today’s market you need to be a product and industry expert or perceived as such, have the ability to take the property and communicate its features in a story like benefit that the buyers can relate to, and, last but not least, be equipped with a Prospect Relation Management and sales processes.

Whether you are selling an Off-Plan or a ready property, the road ahead is very intriguing,  and just doing what worked before doesn’t cut the mustard any more.

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