FloorPop FloorPop (Flôr-pop) n. 1. The homebuyer who visits a Builder's community and writes a contract for sale the same day. 2. The sound made by a salesperson clicking their heels high in the air and returning to the floor after a prospect signs a contract the day they first meet.
Interactive Marketing Best Practices for Homebuilders, August 2, 2006 Vol. 7, Issue 5

The Turn Around: Advice from America's Best Sales Trainers

Centex's earnings are off 31%, D.R. Horton's are down 21%, Pulte's are down 20%, and the sky is falling!

It's okay to read the newspaper, but stop talking about it. While we are unaccustomed to down cycles, the sky is not falling. However, if we talk to sales people about unfavorable conditions or focus attention on lower traffic, we only perpetuate the problem.

The market has changed. Now we have to as well. But what to change? Let me share sagely advice from some of America's best sales trainers.

First, What Not to Do

We need to stop talking about the market. I spoke with Myers Barnes of Myers Barnes Associates, about the market and what he felt builders should be doing. As for the market, "It only gets bad because we perpetuate it." said Barnes. I'm not saying you should stick your head in the sand, but when we focus on the negative news, it becomes an expectation.

Next, we need to get our sales teams selling effectively again. After several years of a remarkable market, it has come as a shock to many sales people that they are not prepared for a changing market. Is it the sale counselor that is the issue? According to Barnes, "The truth of the matter is there are no bad sales people. The truth of the mater is that there are only bad sales managers. They placed them there. They hired them. They trained them." Or, as the case may be, they did not see the need to train them.

Look Internally First - Tom Richey

Johnny can't sell. Is it Johnny? Is it the market? Is it the builder down the street putting on a fire sale? No, we need to look in the mirror. According to Tom Richey of Richey Resources, "Sales management is the Achilles heel of the building industry." Where you find ill-trained, ill-prepared sales people, you find ineffective sales management.

Do you feel your sales team is not prepared for the change in your market conditions? I asked Richey what a builder should do. Here's his prescription:

  1. Assess your sales management ranks to make sure you have the right person in there. "We have to look at management first, consider the voids, and shore up those voids first."
  2. Assess your current people and processes and immediately shore up those voids.
  3. Then train, train, train. Put training at the forefront of everything you do.

Analyze First - Myers Barnes

Take heart, as Barnes sees it, "You are not part of the problem. You are the solution." So, let's get focused on solutions:

What's Barnes prescription for a turn around?

  1. Analyze first. "Lack of sales is not a problem. Lack of sales is a symptom." Could it be that in the exuberance of a great market we may have bought the wrong location or priced a product too high? "There may be some products for which we may have to just cut and run."
  2. Bring in sales training. In good markets, training is often neglected. You have to train every week and coach every day. "If you have sales people that have only known good markets. If all they have ever known is how to manage traffic and how to manage a priority list, then they do not have the behaviors they need in order to be selling." It's not just about hiring great talent. "You have to lead by example. You have to do everything they are doing."
  3. Get the right people in the right jobs. Unfortunately, not all your team will be able to make the transition to the new market. "Some people are really scarred. They have made 250 thousand dollars in the biggest market in history without basic selling skills. They may not accept the education."

A Market of One - Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore of The Shore Company, has strong opinions about how to get your team moving again. He sees the weak state of sales performance attributable to executive and sales management. "Sales management is not holding salespeople accountable." But why?

It's too easy to point fingers at sales management. The fact is, the role of sales management has changed. In response to a good market, executive management has mandated many changes in the way sales counselors are managed. "The sales manager's role over the past 5 years has been radically redefined as problem solver, magician, keep all the balls in the air, firefighter, everything except lead conversion expert."

Shore thinks our training needs to redefine the market. Too often the market is defined in terms and concepts that are totally out of the control of sales counselors. How does Shore define the market? "One sales person plus one customer, that's the entire market." Shore believes that if sales counselors treat every customer interaction as the whole market, then they will come to maximize every opportunity to make a sale. "Everything boils down to the customer in front of them."

So, what's Shore's formula for a turnaround? He focuses on 4 key points:

  1. Eliminate the entitlement mentality. "A good market lulls sales people into a false sense of security." Sales people begin to think, "If I show up, people will come in and they will tell me when they are ready to buy." And what do we replace this attitude with? "Sales people have to get out of the entitlement mentality and into the maximize mentality." This means taking every conversation as far as it can possibly go.
  2. Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate. "The frequency of model demonstration is woefully low. You have to demonstrate like crazy." Why? "Because the closing process begins in earnest during the model demonstration." Everyone knows they are supposed to close. As Shore sees it, "Closing is a process. It begins in the model. If you are not in the model, you cannot begin the process and will never become an effective closer."
  3. Everything has to push toward the site tour. "If they go out on a homesite tour, it means: They have already found the right floorplan. It means they have already accepted the community. They have already accepted the value equation. They are okay with the price. They are okay with the location. They are okay with the builder. They are okay with the sales person. It is all done. If you take them out onto the homesite tour, there is nothing left in the sales process, therefore the customer has no choice. There are no outs. It's time to buy."
  4. Fast follow-up. Not just follow-up, but fast follow-up. "We are so unbelievably slow at it." Shore sees follow-up rates of less than 10% in many markets. "So often, customers are passively eliminating them because they forget about them." The point is that you have to be memorable to stay on the short list. "If you are counting on the sales encounter as being the only point of memorability, then you better be really, really good." Shore believes that follow-up needs to happen within 24 hours. "Two days is a lifetime for a homebuyer." He gives this suggestion to make your follow-up easier and more effective: "The moment they walk out the door, immediately take their registration card, turn it over, and write down exactly what you are going to call them about."

Summing it Up

Now is the time to assess your land positions, your product, and your people. It's time to refocus on the training that will help change behaviors and power your sales through any market. Hire an in-house training manager or find a sales training partner you are comfortable with. Then stick with the program long enough to produce the strong results you deserve.

Blair Kuhnen is the publisher of FloorPop and plays free safety for Crozier & Henderson Productions' Realty InfoLinks Division in Dallas, Texas. He can be reached at 817-658-7698 or via email at kuhnen@earthlink.net.

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In FloorPop for September

Are you still trying to figure out how to assess your sales team?

Mystery shopping can give you insight into sales counselor performance. Be sure to read FloorPop next month we explore mystery shopping best practices with Melinda Brody, President of Melinda Brody and Company.


Contributors to FloorPop this Month

Myers Barnes, Myers Barnes Associates, Inc. can be reached at 800-261-7613 or via email at sellmore@myersbarnes.com. His website address is http://www.myersbarnes.com.

Tom Richey, Richey Resources, Inc. can be reached at 713-622-0877 or via email at tom@richeyresources.com. His website address is http://www.richeyresources.com.

Jeff Shore, The Shore Company can be reached at 530-210-0233 or via email at jeff@jeffshore.com. His website address is http://www.jeffshore.com.