• Hugh Baker-Smith

On the move ....

I have just sold my house.

I am not alone in this success. Despite the challenges of Covid (or perhaps because of the enforced requirement to work at home where possible) more than 500,000 UK homes have changed hands over the last year. It has certainly been a sellers’ market, but I am pretty sure that most of those sellers also made some effort of their own to make their homes more “saleable”. Indeed, there are entire websites and numerous television programmes dedicated to this topic.

We are advised to “de-clutter” and “de-personalise” in order to help potential buyers visualise themselves living in our house.

It is suggested that we redecorate key rooms in neutral colours, and perhaps repaint the front door and external windows to maximise kerb appeal. We might hang mirrors to add light and a sense of space, and undertake a deep spring clean of kitchen, bathrooms and carpets.

Larger property developers use professionals to “dress” their showhomes as they recognise that they are selling a lifestyle as much as a building. In many cases these are our “competitors”.

Alongside these efforts, of course, most vendors still retain the specialist services of a relevant Sales professional in the form of an estate agent, with many interviewing several candidates and seeking recommendations before appointing one. However, even then we don’t simply leave everything down to our agent. We will keep the house clean and garden tidy. Some vendors might bake bread or lay out fresh towels to create a pleasant aroma prior to a viewing, and we will all fit our lives around the schedule of viewings.

All of this makes sense of course. If we find ourselves selling a home then this is probably one of the most important “sales” that we will be involved with during our lives. But if we work in business then it will almost certainly not be the only sale.

In my early engagement with client companies, I am sometimes told that “our product is not easy to sell”. In many cases this is true. These companies are often offering new and disruptive technologies, and their products cannot be considered commodities - and almost certainly those products will not sell themselves. However, this isn’t a valid excuse not to look for ways to make sales easier.

Can these companies “de-clutter” their messaging to better define what they are offering and the actual benefit that it can deliver? At least in my experience, successful companies have an “elevator pitch” that condenses what they do and the benefits they can bring into under thirty seconds.

Can these clients clearly visualise their typical customer, and then tailor their marketing and target their Sales activities accordingly? Can they better structure commercial terms in a way that meets the needs of those customers as well as themselves? How could they support customers more effectively, or offer better value? Are they nice people to deal with, and would they buy from themselves?

When we live in a house for several years, we can become blind to our own clutter, or to a leaking gutter, or to a worn carpet. We might think purple walls and garden gnomes are the very height of sophistication, but we should also recognise that they are not to everyone’s taste. Putting that house on the market is the wakeup call we sometimes need to address these things. Employing the right sales expertise is of course important, but we must recognise that it is not enough on its own.

If your product is not easy to sell, don’t just hope for a seller’s market – these will come and go through factors outside of your control. Instead, why not take an honest look at yourself through the eyes of your potential customers. Time and effort spent making your product easier to sell will never be wasted.