I was reminded of the following case study after reading an article recently published in The Wall Street Journal about football coaches and their expensive homes.
Will and Helen sold their business just before the current economic meltdown. They received top dollar for their more than 25-year-old business. Up until then the couple lived the millionaire next door lifestyle in a nondescript 3-bedroom home. The home was dated to say the least. So Will and Helen decided to “treat” themselves to a new one. They placed a deposit on a 1 acre lot in an upscale development. The couple did this in anticipation of having one of the developer’s builders construct the home.
About three weeks after making the deposit, the agent who represented the development telephoned Will with “great news.” She told him, “I thought you would be excited to learn that over the past weekend we wrote contracts for the lots bordering the right side of yours and the one behind yours. Both lots were bought by professional athletes. To your right is a baseball pitcher just brought up from the minors and behind you is an NFL ballplayer.” How did Will and Helen respond to this news? Neither one of them had any interest in having neighbors who were professional athletes. They did not have a positive image of these athletes in general. Specifically Will thought that pro athletes had a tendency to overspend on homes, cars, entertaining, etc.
In fact, Will told me that he had asked the realtor early on about the occupations of the people who already lived in the development. He was told that corporate executives and successful business owners were most prevalent in the community. Will and Helen were comfortable with this situation.
The agent violated one of the most important rules in selling: having empathy for the needs of prospective customers. She just assumed that Will and Helen would be thrilled to be sharing their property lines with pro ballplayers. But just the opposite was true. Fortunately for Will and Helen their deposit was refundable within 60 days. They never told the realtor the real reason why they decided to build elsewhere. Whether one is in sales or not, it is important to understand and properly respond to the needs of others.