No one wants excess inventory. That’s especially true when your product generates daily revenue—for example, airline seats, hotel rooms or retirement community residences. In an ideal world, you’d be sold out with a waiting list. You may be one of the few communities in this category. If not, are you taking the right steps to handle those hard-to-sell apartments, cottages or carriage homes? Are you starting at the right point in the process?

Don’t dive right into problem solving.

Every day that residences sit empty is a day when they’re not generating revenue. Therefore, it’s natural to want to move them as quickly as possible. Quick solutions also appeal to our human nature. But, as Tim Hicks writes in “Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace,” “the biggest challenge is to overcome the tendency to immediately come up with a solution.” Trying to do so ignores the steps at the beginning of the process—which are necessary to achieve the best solution. Let’s take a closer look at how that plays out when you are trying to get commitments on hard-to-sell homes and apartments in a community:

1. Form a task group to address the issue.

Set up a task group with the people and resources you need to solve the problem. In the case of unsold residences, the group should clearly include members of both the Sales and Marketing teams. This helps ensure good communication and coordinated efforts. The task group could also include members of other departments throughout the organization—like Operations/Facilities Management—who may be able to offer insights into the problem and/or be a part of the solution. It can also be useful to bring in an outside perspective, especially as you move into step 2.

2. Identify the root problem.

You know that you have an apartment that remains vacant. The question that many fail to ask is, “Why?” Does it have an unappealing view? Are the fixtures outdated? Or do you have too many one-bedrooms when your prospects want two-bedrooms, or vice versa? Those are just a few of the many reasons why prospects pass on available residences. The reasons will be as unique as your community and as the specific house or apartment. And the reasons may not be obvious. This is where input from a variety of different people from inside and outside the organization can be so helpful. When we believe in the product we’re selling, it can be difficult to see flaws that might be more apparent to someone with different information or less of an attachment. Sometimes it just takes fresh eyes.

3. Profile the ideal clients.

The old adage says, “There’s a key for every lock,” and that applies to residences as much as it does to romance. To understand who might be the right fit for your unsold apartments or cottages, you have to know who your customers are and what they value.  Accurate customer profiles can go a long way toward making sure that you’re providing what your customers want. Start by looking at your database and CRM, and talk with your sales team about the feedback they’re getting from people. Surveys and other feedback tools can help you gather even more robust information on customers and prospects—the more, the better. Update the information regularly to stay on top of trends, which are always evolving over time.

Once you have customer profiles, you can better target prospects. For example, you could decide that single men might be the ideal target for your one-bedroom apartments that aren’t selling. If you’ve done your homework, you might find that men in one of your markets are concerned about whether they can afford your product, so your marketing message to them might focus on affordability; men in another market know they can afford your community, so you might target them with marketing messages about value and how much more they get for their money at your community.

4. Develop a plan to attract your ideal client and sell those hard-to-sell properties.

Let’s say you’ve done your research and found that your ideal client values spacious, light-filled floorplans, and you’re challenged with selling a smaller residence, or one that tends to be dark. Your plan to make the property more attractive to your prospects might involve adding lighting or staging the interior, using strategic furniture placement and paint colors to make it appear larger and/or brighter. If you’re targeting an active demographic, interior designer Jana Crane suggests incorporating details like a calendar of community activities, an outing invitation on the table or photos on the refrigerator of residents enjoying themselves in your community. Different challenges will require different plans.

5. Execute your plan.

We would all love the process to end here, with signed contracts soon to follow. If so, then, “Congratulations!” If not, then…

6. Re-evaluate and fine-tune.

If you didn’t get the results you wanted, why not? What happened instead? Go back through the process to determine what information you might have missed—or misinterpreted. Maybe you need more feedback. Maybe you need to amplify your approach or try a new one. Maybe you need to bring a fresh perspective to your task group—to look at the issue from the balcony instead of from the middle of the room. Resist the temptation to get frustrated. Remember that challenges offer an invitation to dig deeper—to think things through from new angles—and an opportunity for your team to grow their collective problem-solving skills.

Patience and process pay off.

With unsold residences, it feels like the clock is always ticking—because it is. But instead of rushing to find a solution, take the time to find the problem’s root cause, identify your ideal clients and develop a plan to present your clients with the product they want. That’s the secret to selling hard-to-sell apartments, houses and cottages. If you’d like to build a bridge between your unsold properties and your ideal clients, we’d love to hear from you.

To learn more about how to build a process that works for your organization, contact Ric Myers, BridgeBuilder.