Sept. 25, San Jose, Calif. – What’s the first thing builders should know about selling green houses? It’s the same approach as selling any other home. That’s one of the leading messages given by industry guru Gord Cooke during two sessions at the West Coast Green conference. The second? Make the process easier on buyers by understanding their needs before you promote your houses. The concepts of selling green are not new, said Cooke, a trainer with Building Knowledge, and it’s important to remember that the prime motivators for buying a home are not whether it’s green but rather location, community, lifestyle, and space.

The steps to selling green homes are the same as selling any house: meet and greet, understand customers’ needs, demonstrate your “product,” address concerns, and close the deal.


Remember: You need to get potential customers talking about themselves, not about business, Cooke said. When they walk in the door, do not ask, “How may I help you?” or “How much do you have to spend?” Ask something unrelated, such as “What have you folks been up to today?” Then thank them for coming and take gentle control of the conversation and transition it into business by asking them questions.


But first, you need to ask their permission. Find a segue. For example, if a buyer says, “I don’t have a lot of time” respond with “Since you don’t have much time, may I ask you a few questions to help focus our conversation?” This simple step will allow you to ask twice as many questions (six to 10) than if you hadn’t asked permission. And, the minute they say, “Sure,” you are in control and can guide the conversation.

Asking questions is a powerful selling tool because it allows you to find out what the customers value and it saves you time from having to talk about features later that don’t interest them. And “the more they talk, the more they trust you,” said Cooke.

Good questions should be easy to answer and encourage long answers. Show genuine interest in their responses. And don’t ask questions that elicit yes-or-no responses. Instead of asking how many kids they have, try, “Tell me a little bit about your family.” You will learn more with fewer questions this way.


Following this Q&A, transition into talking about what you offer based on the information gained. Use language such as “I could show you dozens of things, but today I’m going to show you four or five.” This narrows your offerings so as not to overwhelm them, and it keeps you focused on what they need.

“Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody wants help in buying,” says Cooke. Become their advisor. “It’s about listening and then finding what meets their needs. It’s about educating so they can make informed decisions.”

Break down each offering in three ways: features (What is it? What are some facts about it?); advantages (What does it do? How does it work?); and benefits (What can it do for the homeowner? What problem does it solve?).

Here’s how it might work with an energy-efficient window:

Features: Low-E coating; dual-pane glass; vinyl cladding

Advantages: Blocks UV rays; insulates; low-maintenance

Benefits: You can leave your furniture near the window and not worry about it fading; you will save money on your energy bills; you won’t have to waste time or money painting.

“It’s important that we constantly find a way to [point out] personal benefits,” Cooke stressed.

Other tips for making an effective presentation include:

  • Use numbers and facts whenever possible. The buyers may not remember the actual number, but they’ll remember that you did and that it was a significant savings.
  • Describe four to five features, about 45 to 90 seconds for each.
  • Plan and practice presentations so they don’t sound rehearsed.
  • Let customers observe and touch the product. People only retain 15 percent of what they hear, but 90 percent of what they experience.
  • Move people through the house in a logical way, ending in the kitchen or dining room—places where you can close the deal.


Objections are inevitable. Handle them with the following steps:

  1. Thank them for their question.
  2. Relax, including your body language, and ask them to clarify their concern, even if you’ve heard it a million times before. Sometimes, if they repeat it they may answer their own question.
  3. Provide an explanation.
  4. Offer proof.
  5. Encourage them to make a decision.

In order to move smoothly into the closing stage, salespeople must be well-versed in the home’s green features. Role playing and on-site training are effective ways to familiarize staff with the ins and outs of each element. Manufacturers and trades can be helpful sources.
And remember, as Cooke said, overall, it’s about “helping people make good decisions.”