Episode #012: The Sales Mastery Series with Tom Incorvaia
In This Episode of The Buyer’s Mind with Jeff Shore:
Tom Incorvaia is the #1 sales agent at The Villages of Florida, one of the largest active adult communities in the nation. Today Jeff talks with Tom about how he cultivates sales referrals (his primary source of leads!) and other sales secrets he’s learned over the course of his illustrious sales career.
Topics we’re going to cover on today’s podcast:
[2:08] Quote of the Day
[4:47] Sales Tip of the Day
[7:55] Words of Wisdom from Tom
[9:09] How to work with a cautious buyer
[11:44] Selling to two people
[13:02] Referral business
[19:00] Most satisfying sale
[20:57] What gives you your drive
[24:23] Motivational Summary
More about our guest Tom Incorvaia:
Tom has lived and worked at The Villages for the past 10 years. Growing up on Long Island, New York, he earned a college degree in criminal justice. Tom decided on a sales, marketing and purchasing career working for P.C. Richard & Son, a family – owned business that operated with the values of reliability and integrity. Those are the core values that Tom still lives and works by today.
Tom relocated his family to Ocala, Florida in 1989 to give his family a better life in the sunshine.
Tom has received many sales awards including #1 in home and relocation sales multiple times.
Links from today’s podcast:
Jeff: You know, it’s one thing to sell an impulse item in a 10-minute transaction. But what if your sale involves an entire new life for your customer? Let’s talk about it today on the Buyer’s Mind.
Announcer: Welcome to the Buyer’s Mind where we take a closer look deep inside your customer’s decision making mechanism to reverse engineer the perfect sales presentation. Now, please welcome your host, Jeff Shore.
Jeff: Welcome to the Buyer’s Mind. So glad to have you with us. We’re gonna take some time to investigate exactly what is going on in the psyche of prospects who are considering a purchase decision. This podcast is all about taking a stroll through the buying brain. It’s about knowing the customers so well that the sale begins to roll out right in front of you. But we do that in a way that celebrates this wonderful whacky world that we call sales and marketing. I’m your host, Jeff Shore. You could read the full bio in the show notes or you can visit jeffshore.com. And while you’re there, we would love it if you’d sign up for our free, free weekly video newsletter every Saturday morning like clockwork a little instruction, a little motivation, a great way to start your day.
As always, I am joined by our show producer, Mr. Paul Murphy. What has really struck you so far?
Paul: Well, I’ve gotta tell you man, there’s so many great insights from how the brain works and the neuroscience of what happens in our nonconscious brain. Who knew all of that connected into being a better salesperson?
Jeff: Yeah, it has really been some cool stuff that’s come along just that we’ve learned so far in regards to the inner workings of the brain. And there’s so much that we really don’t understand about ourselves and to me, that’s exciting because it means that there’s a lot of runway out there. There’s a lot that we can learn and then apply and we’ve had some great guests and I think we will today. You’ll see here in just a little bit. Before I forget to mention it, stay with us because we always, always give something away at the end of the podcast. We’re writing a contest right now that you definitely want to take part in.
Our quote of the day comes from President John F Kennedy and this is his quote here, I love this quote, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” I love that quote. You can apply it to the way we run our country, you can apply it to your own life and you can apply it to the value that you bring to your customer. Our job is to bring a better future to our customers. And yes, that does require change and to help marshal our customers, shepherd our customer through that time of change. And for many people, change can be scary. Look, I love change. I’m a change freak but for your customer, they look at it as a whole new world and they need to be introduced to that world. If we can step them into that better future as to what their future is gonna look like, I think we’re gonna serve them very, very well.
We wanna let you know that this podcast is brought to you in part by our good friends at Home Street Bank. They’re not just our show sponsor, they are my lender of choice. I used Home Street in my last home purchase just a couple of years back and I have to tell you it was the smoothest transaction that I’ve ever had. And I’ve purchased a number of homes. These people are wonderful. They’re professional, dependable, great rates, great service and if you’re a real-estate professional, you’re just not gonna find any better to work with when it comes to how they will take care of your clients. And they could do it all, banking, home loans, credit lines, you name it. Go to homestreetbank.com to learn more. That’s homestreetbank.com.
Hey, coming up in just a few minutes, we’re gonna do something a little different here on the Buyer’s Mind. We want to be relevant and we wanna cover every angle. So from time to time, we will bring you what I’m calling our top sales pro series. We are gonna hear from frontline sales professionals from different industries as they share their experiences. And I have vetted these people to make sure that we’re only getting the best of the best. We are getting proven, award winning, top performers in what it is that they do. And in just a while, you’re gonna hear from a top performer who is also…boy, I don’t know how to say it Murph. Can we just say that Tommy I. is a hoot?
Paul: Actually, I think hoot sums it up quite nicely.
Jeff: Tommy is a…he is a kick in the pants. Mad sales skills, great stories and just a really, really good guy. So we’ll hear from Tommy in just a little bit. Before we get to that, I bring you your sales tip of the day and it has to do with what the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman refers to as anticipated memory. And this is what he says. He says, “We think of our future in terms of anticipated memory.” As you are selling, as you are in that process with your customer, they think of their future in terms of anticipated memory. There are these narratives that take place in their mind. There are life pictures that take place in their mind. Your job as a sales professional is to bring clarity to anticipated memory.
Let me say that one more time. Your job as a sales professional is to bring clarity to anticipated memory. When your customer feels their own future, when they are emotionally engaged in the life that they’re gonna live, that’s when the magic happens. The future isn’t about features or specs or price. The future is about a new version of life and that’s really why we buy. That’s why everyone buys because they want a new version of life. You know who does this well? Go through a Westin Vacation Ownership presentation. Just a disclaimer here, this is not a client of mine. I’m not a customer of theirs but they’re really, really good at presenting that future vision. Not based on amenities or the resort but based on how you feel about it. What are you doing to increase the emotional engagement of your customer into their future? Your job is to bring clarity to anticipated memory.
Hey, before we get to our interview I wanna take just a moment here to shout out to real-estate sales people with a very special opportunity to literally transform your career. We offer at various times and various locations around the United States a 13-week program called our 4:2 Formula Academy. Now, that’s based on our core real-estate curriculum, the 4:2 Formula. This is three days of intensive live training with pre-training videos, post videos, webcasts, certification tests.
It’s a one of a kind program that has had a major impact on hundreds of real-estate sales professionals around North America. And I have to tell you, people are transformed at our 4:2 Formula Academy. They come away fired up and they sell more homes. So just go to jeffshore.com and click on the events tab. You can take action right now to make a huge difference on your future success.
Okay. Hey, let’s get to our interview. I am so thrilled to have on the show the one and only Tommy Incorvaia. Tommy I. as we call him. Tommy hails from New York. It’s not gonna take you long to figure that out but for the last number of years, he’s been a top performer at the Villages of Florida. Now, there’s almost 200 people on that staff and Tom consistently walks away with the top price. He’s a proven winner, a really good guy. Tom, welcome to the show.
Thomas: Thank you, Jeff and I appreciate the compliments.
Jeff: Hey, let’s just do this. Before we get into the conversation on sales, Tommy, just feel free to drop a knowledge bomb, okay. Here’s the deal. You’re out with the fellows, you’re enjoying a couple of refreshing adult beverages. Someone asks you to say something profound, keeping it clean, of course. What do you wanna say?
Thomas: Well, if I’m sitting over there hanging out with the guys, I would say this, “I am using the Babe Ruth clothes these days.”
Thomas: Babe Ruth was arguably the greatest baseball player who ever lived. When he retired at 1935 he held a record for the most homeruns and held that record for over 40 years. But Babe Ruth also had one of the highest percentage of strikeouts. You can’t hit a homerun if you don’t swing the bat and you’ll never be a top producer if you don’t ask for the sale. So just keep swinging the bat for success.
Jeff: I love that. Spoken as a true New Yorker which is your background. That’s your background, right, Tom?
Thomas: That’s right. New York, New York.
Jeff: Yeah. And so, tell us sort of you migrated somewhere from New York was it? It’s Long Island, if I’m not mistaken. Is that correct?
Thomas: Correct. After Brooklyn, we grew up on Long Island, moved to Florida 30 years ago and it’s been great.
Jeff: That’s great. You are one of the top salespeople. You’re consistently walking away with the awards at the Villages. This is a really interesting place to sell because you’re dealing with the senior buyer, with the active at all buyer. And you’re working with people who can be very risk averse. You’re selling to seniors who really, they wanna make the right decision, they don’t feel like they could afford to make the wrong decision and so they can be really scared, very nervous. And they can take a long time to make a decision. What’s the secret to working with someone who is otherwise very cautious in their decision-making style?
Thomas: Well, first of all, we’ve really gotta get to know each other before we start talking about selling homes or product. I always ask, you know, where are they from originally? I wanna know what kinda work they did. I don’t care if the guy comes in and he’s in his 90s. I’ll say, “What kind of work do you do?” And he says, “Well, I’m retired.” I can normally find some common ground, having them tell me about their past. I wanna know why they are trying to improve their lives. While exchanging information, I go deeper than a general answer. It normally takes one or two questions down to get them to reveal the important things so that I can best help them.
Many folks know a lot about our community before they get here. They research our website, they speak to people that live here. There’s even books written about the Villages. These days, many customers are quite savvy. Some will ask questions just to test us. We have to be knowledgeable, demonstrate what our business is all about. Once they feel comfortable and have confidence, they will relax, allow me to guide them through the process, what I have and I got them.
Jeff: You said something really interesting there. You said that your job is to try and figure out what is going to improve their life. The Villages is a very cool place. There’s a lot to talk about but your…it sounds like your main thrust, your main goal here is to say, “Boy, how do I understand where you are now in order to figure out what life improvement looks like for you?” Is that a fair way to put it?
Thomas: That’s a great way to put it and as the process goes on, when we start touring and if there’s some apprehension from time to time or there is some pull back, you know, we kinda go back to what it is they’re trying to do to improve the…remind them of what they told me and it helps.
Jeff: What do you do when…you’re so often dealing with a buyer and a co-buyer, very commonly a husband and wife, of course. What do you do when he likes it and she doesn’t or she likes it and he doesn’t? What do you do when there’s a little dispute there between buyer and co-buyer?
Thomas: The classic.
Thomas: It’s not an easy thing to handle but both of them have to in so many words get your undivided attention and you try to find some common ground, okay. Almost like politics, okay. And the common ground often can mean that people have to make some adjustments or will give in a little bit but everybody gets eye contact. I ask, you know, if you direct it too much in one direction at one particular party, it’ll hurt you. So I’m 50-50, right up the middle.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s such a critical aspect because boy, we’ve all seen it happen. We’ve…perhaps we have engaged with one person more than the other. We’re really enjoying the conversation with him. Meanwhile, she’s feeling like the third wheel, like she’s left out. We lost her. We didn’t even know we lost her. I think we’ve probably all made that mistake at some point.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. All right. You’ve been at the Villages for a long time. You have a very healthy, healthy referral business. What’s the secret to working your referral base?
Thomas: Well, first of all, 70% of my business is referrals. I personally hold an annual customer appreciation party. I’ve done it since I’ve began 14 years ago. I had 450 people at my party last time, last year. And that cost me over 20,000. Many of the coworkers say, “I don’t understand why you do that, why you spend the money.” And my answer is, “I pay for my party at my party.”
That means while I am at the party, people are coming up to me telling me they wanna upsize the house, downsize the house, they’re telling me about their friends and relatives that are coming to buy. Also, when I get a referral, I always keep the people that gave me the lead on the referral…I keep them updated. Many times, they will help me move the sale along. After all, we know they want their friends and relatives to move here too.
Jeff: That customer appreciation party, how long have you been doing that?
Thomas: Fourteen years. Started out in a small place and now I think I may need the Yankee Stadium next year.
Jeff: That’s incredible. So you’re inviting everybody in and they’re telling you, “Hey, this is a…these are our friends over here. We wanna talk to them.” How much of that is you just sort of saying hi and thanking people or how much do you walk in saying, “Boy, I’m gonna walk away tonight with 20 referrals.” I mean, do you walk in with that kind of a mindset or do you just build the relationship and let it happen?
Thomas: I bet, you know, the referrals come naturally, you know. I’m up there on the stage there giving out some throw out prices. And thanking everybody who attended many of which have been there 14 years. Not everybody can make it every year but it’s just a natural thing and I do mention, you know, nonchalantly, “Thank you for…everybody that has sent me referrals over the years to help me pay for my party.” And I always get a little chuckle out of that.
Jeff: Sure, yeah.
Thomas: And then of course I also say, “Thank you for everybody that RSVP’ed,”
Jeff: Right, sure. You have a lot of clients or people that you have worked with over the years who you consider to be friends. Actually, that’s an…I’m assuming that’s the case. Is that a fair statement?
Thomas: Yeah, absolutely.
Jeff: Do you set out from the beginning to build a friendship with these people or does it just work out? Because I’ve seen you walking, you know, the town square at the Villages and you’re like the mayor. I mean, it’s just, “Tom, Tommy, Tom, Tommy.” Do you set out from the beginning to build a friendship or does it just sort of happen?
Thomas: Well, I greet every person that I meet for the first time as though I have sold them a house and I’m happy to see them, okay. So you know, we start out on a very friendly mode. I see my customers that I’ve sold at least once a year. If I get invited to any of their social events, birthday parties, anniversaries and sometimes sad things, I do my very best to go and make it. I’m always there for them when they need me. I do while selling but I am at my very best if they need me after the sale. That makes the difference in building strong friendly relationships.
Jeff: Is it difficult for you to turn it off? There are a lot of sales professionals who are gonna look at it and they’re gonna say, “You know what? Here I am. It’s nine to five, I’m doing my job but then after that, I’m gonna just shut it down and I’m not gonna be the sales guy anymore.” But it sounds like this is…your work is kind of all-encompassing it because you enjoy it so much. You’re okay with that. I don’t wanna read too much into this and we’ve never had this conversation, Tom, but what are you doing? Do you strive for separating times or are you just sort of always you?
Thomas: I’m always me and of course I’m married for 42 years so sometimes it’s a little difficult to have my wife on board with all my, you know, social events and whatnot. But there comes a point from time to time where I’ve gotta kind of put my hands up and slow it down a little bit, kinda refocus. But you know, there are friends that are customers that, you know, we’ve built a bond and I can never turn them away if they need me.
Jeff: Sure. Let me ask you…let’s talk about the approach and how you approach the process of asking for the sale. Is it more of a direct thing? Is it more of a soft close? Just sort of share the most common way that you go about helping somebody to purchase.
Thomas: Well, I would say in sales I’m kind of an old school. I’m a firm believer in getting the little positive tie downs as we’re touring the community. I find out what’s most important to the folks that I’m with and I show them those things. And I ask them right out, “Do you see yourself doing this? Would you enjoy doing that?” Be getting positive comments 95% of the time. And then I do come to the ultimate, “Do you feel that our community is where you’d like to spend your happy retirement years?”
When I finally get and show them a home and I see they’re excited about the particular home, it comes pretty natural to say, you know, “Would you like to make this home yours?” It’s kind of a smooth process.
Jeff: Right. Just an extension of the relationship though up to that point. My guess is that your take would be that the more work you’ve done upfront, the more you have gained those agreements along the way. Boy, at that point, you know, they know. It’s more of a celebration than anything else.
Jeff: You have just an arsenal of great stories. I know this first hand because I’ve heard many of them. Tell us about your most satisfying sale.
Thomas: Well, it’s interesting. It was one of my first customers 14 years ago when I started. I had a customer who had a very tight budget. She was a single lady and we spent two days looking at everything but we were not having any success to find a home that she’d like, that she could afford. So she finally said, “I guess we have to go look at some manufactured homes.” And she looked very sad. And we went and we looked there and still couldn’t make something click. She then told me…she said, “I’m gonna have to call my ex-husband.” And I’m saying to myself, “I must be pretty bad at this if she’s gotta call her ex-husband to find a home.”
Thomas: Well, George came. We hit it off well. At lunch time, I gave them a gift certificate to have lunch but after I picked them up after the lunch they came out and said, “We decided to remarry.” I almost fainted. They said, “That’ll give us enough money to buy the home we want.” That was 14 years ago. They’re still married. I get referrals regularly. It’s a classic story I love to share.
Jeff: That is a…that’s such a great story and especially because it happened early on in your career when you were still trying to gain you confidence, you’re not quite sure what you’re doing and that’s a gift right there.
Let me ask you this, Tommy. You and I have talked in the past about sales theory. It’s not just about your personality, it’s not just about the fact that you’ve got something wonderful to sell but you are a real student of the sale and, you know, listen, for as long as I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, you know, I see people who get to a point where they kinda feel like, “Nah, I’ve got this figured out.”
And they don’t really care to stretch them self, to invest in themselves. They’re finding success and that’s good. That’s good for them. But that’s not the way you approach it. You are a real student of the sale. What gives you that drive? I mean, you…it seems to me you’d be the perfect person or perfect candidate to be able to play the “I already know that” card and yet, that’s not the way you approach things. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Thomas: Well, I’ve been selling since 1964. I was a paper boy way back then and over the years, I evolved. I did retail sales, and in fact, the Villages was my account when I worked for AT&T Wireless, corporate sales. But it’s kinda like the same thing that I would give to new salespeople often. New salespeople will come over and say, “Hey, could I talk to you? Can I pick your brains?” And this is what my philosophy is. I always say, “Know everything you gotta know about the product.” Then as we’ve been trained effectively, only share the things that are important to the folks that you’re with. I firmly believe in the positives. Stay happy.
Always do what you say you’re gonna do. Stay in front of people. If you’re not in front of people, stay on the phone. Share my good practices with teammates and then it’ll come back to you. And then read books. I’m reading, I’m watching videos, I attend every training opportunity that I can do. I’m always questioning myself after the customer leaves that I didn’t sell. What could I have done better? And even if you get in a slump some time, I pick up the phone. I don’t really get in a slump but I tell people, “Call a customer that you sold and it’ll be upbeat and then you’ll surely recover.”
Jeff: That’s great. That’s great. Tom, I think it’s safe to say that you got a good gig. I mean, you’re doing what you are supposed to do. Do you have those “pinch me” moments like, “This is pretty dang awesome?”
Thomas: Oh, yeah. This is my favorite job I ever had in my life.
Thomas: And it’s because we’re helping people, you know, improve their lives. It becomes simple, you know, and it’s rewarding.
Jeff: That’s great. Right, that brings us full circle. Well, there you have it. Tom Incorvaia, one of the great sales professionals in the business but also just a really, really good human being. Tom, thanks for being on the show today.
Thomas: Thank you very much.
Jeff: Well, Murph, I really enjoyed that and I actually enjoyed every time that I’ve ever talked to Tom. He’s just a really, really interesting guy. And colorful. I think we used the word hoot earlier. He’s a hoot. What else are you gonna say? He’s a hoot.
Paul: He is a hoot and, you know, just very practical stuff, you know, when it comes down to knowing your customers and meeting their needs.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. And boy, the referral party for 400 plus people. I don’t know how much money he’s spending but it takes guts to do it but clearly it works. It’s pretty impressive. I love the way that he takes a very customer centric view of his entire life. I didn’t get the sense that this was the Tommy I. Show. This was Tommy being the facilitator for a better life for his customers. Does that make sense?
Paul: Yeah, it does. It’s amazing how he really reaches out to people and makes that connection from, you know, friend to friend to friend so he gets those referrals all the time.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. Well, there you have it, fantastic. Really, really good stuff and that sort of ties into what I wanted to end with here as we think about our motivational finish and that is that you cannot replace positive energy. You can’t do it. You have to have enough positive energy for you and for your customer. And that positive energy is absolutely contagious. You have to give it out all day long. So if you have to give out positive energy all day long, you would better be eating positive energy for breakfast and you better be snacking on it throughout the day. So let me just ask you real quick about your morning routine.
What are you doing to start the day right? And here’s a suggestion. Avoid the negative. Turn off the news. It’s going to be negative. I’m gonna tell you right now. There was an earthquake somewhere and the stock market did this and there’s a political story, okay. Just turn it there. You’re now fully informed. Turn it off. You don’t have to listen to talk radio. Feed your brain with positive energy right from the very beginning. You will not be disappointed by the time you’re done.
Hey, at the beginning of this show I told you that there would be a contest and here it is for my faithful listeners. Get ready. You have the chance to win the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones. These are amazing. I love my headphones. I love these when I’m traveling. I love them when I’m listening to the podcast or when I wanna hear great quality music. And for the winner, you can take your choice of either the over the year or the Noise canceling earbuds. I love these so much that I actually own both of these. So you listen to the Buyer’s Mind while you’re working out, you get both a physical and a mental workout at the same time with your Bows Headphones.
I’m also giving away several Shore Consulting Swag Bags. That’s five books, coffee mug, motivational CD and a bag to carry it all in. Now, all you have to do is download all of the Buyer’s Mind episodes on iTunes and subscribe to the podcast and then leave a quick review. It’s gonna take you just 30 seconds. And then go over to jeffshore.com/podcast and click on the contest link. You just enter your email address and the name you used to write the review on iTunes and we’ll pick the winners from there.
Ten lucky people are gonna win the Shore Consulting Swag Bag and remember, the grand price, the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones or the Noise Canceling Quiet Comfort 20 Earbuds. You can take your pick. All right. Good luck with that. That’s a wrap on our podcast, the Buyer’s Mind. Hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, go out there and change someone’s world.