Sales Training: Is There a Right Way?
What is the best way to train your sales staff?
While I am not certain that there is one single “best” way, certainly I would recommend that every sales team member enroll in NAHB’s Certified New Home Sales Professional CSP designation as an essential introduction to the concepts of properly selling new homes in an onsite environment. And the courses, “House Construction as a Selling Tool” and “Essential Closing Strategies,” provide wonderful additions to the basic knowledge and skills that every salesperson needs.
There Are Many NAHB Resources Available
Our industry is fortunate that it has several excellent professional sales trainers who will work with your staff in a number of ways — personally through off-site seminars, on-site presentations and one-on-one training.
A number of books, audiotapes and videos are also available, and the NAHB convention and builder regional conferences usually offer several outstanding sales programs. All of these will help to further increase selling skills and motivation.
Tailor Your Program for Your Company
Each company must create a program that reflects the individual personality of that company. The primary responsibility for regular sales training on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis for any company must rest with the sales manager.
Following are some of the programs that I would recommend:
- Learn More About the Homes You Will Be Selling
Prior to opening a new development, have the architect and land planner meet with the sales staff to explain why they have designed the homes and community as they have and what special features they have included.
Visit the homes under construction and walk through several with the construction manager to learn more about the special building techniques and extra quality that are provided.
The interior merchandiser should also walk through the models with the staff to explain the design concepts and demonstrate the livability of the homes and the unique benefits that will be provided to the purchasers.
- Everyone Should Shop Their Competition
Each member of the sales team must individually shop every competitive development and prepare a written analysis of each of the developments. This analysis should then be reviewed and discussed in a group meeting.
Repeat the competitive survey process at least quarterly so that everyone will have current information about new products, sales performance and traffic.
- Learn More About the Community You Will Be Selling
Still prior to opening, and with the benefit of the competitive analysis, have each salesperson walk the community they are selling and each model home in it. Then prepare a written list of every positive and negative that they find.
Have the salespeople discard the positives so they can concentrate on the negatives. These negatives should become the items for intensive training so that your sales staff can overcome these negatives and be able to sell your homes and the community.
Several weeks after the opening, review the lists again to be certain that you have changed each potential negative into a strong selling positive. Also review telephone skills or, for new salespeople, schedule a special sales training session on telephone selling skills.
- Roll Play the Selling Process
And finally, still prior to opening, spend several days role playing the selling process in the sales office and model homes. Sometimes this can be painful for the sales staff as they may feel pressure or be uncomfortable in front of their sales manager or peers. But if they can’t properly handle the process when the sale can’t be lost, how can you expect them to handle it with a customer when the sale is on the line?
Videotape a sample sales presentation for each salesperson and give them the tape to study. Instruct them to look for opportunities to improve mannerisms, posture, expressions and voice.
- Hold Company-wide Weekly Sales Meetings
Conduct weekly company-wide sales meetings — Monday mornings usually work best. Alternate the meeting locations between a central facility (such as a home office) and one of your sales offices. Ask each salesperson, in rotation, to lead a meeting on alternate weeks and on the topic of their choice.
Any meetings led by the sales manager should concentrate on motivation and training ― not sales goals or performance; that’s for another meeting. The sales manager meetings often should include an outside speaker such as a lender, supplier, trainer or motivational speaker.
Keep the companywide sales meetings positive and include plenty of opportunities for staff personal improvement.
- Conduct Weekly Sales Team Meetings
Conduct weekly meetings in each of your sales offices with that particular sales team (or person). Use this meeting to review the traffic and sales for that week and to analyze each visitor in order to plan the proper approach to generate a return visit and purchase.
Work with each salesperson on an individual basis with ongoing role playing.
“Shopping” the sales staff is essential to maximizing their productivity. Note: This process should never be utilized to determine the ability of the salesperson. Rather, structure these meetings so they give your individual salespeople the benefit of the buyer’s view their performance.
Record the shops on audiotape and, together with a written report, give this to the salesperson to review. Then discuss the results privately with the sales manager, concentrating on opportunities for improvement.
- Conduct Company-wide Sales Training
Hold company-wide sales training meetings on a semi-annual basis, usually at an off-site location. Have the meetings feature an outside sales trainer or motivational speaker.
If you don’t have the budget for this type of meeting, team up and pool your resources with other local builders so your sales team will get the best exposure possible..
- Be Active in Your Local Sales and Marketing Council
Require your salespeople to be active members of their local NAHB sales and marketing council. Have them serve on committees and regularly attend the council’s programs and functions.
These councils are an excellent networking and referral opportunity as well as a great source of information on the market.
- Be Active in Your Local Board of Realtors®
Require your salespeople to be active members of their local Board of Realtors® and serve on committees and attend programs and functions. This, too, is a networking, referral and information opportunity.
The performance of your sales staff will only be as good as the sales management they are provided. Proper sales management requires the sales manager to be in the field, and at the communities on a regular basis, personally assisting the sales staff in making each of the sales ― not sitting in the home office doing paperwork.
Daniel R. Levitan, MIRM, CMP, CSP, SHMS, RAM, CPB, is president of Levitan & Associates, a Florida-based marketing and strategic consulting firm serving builders, developers and lenders throughout the country. He is a past president and multi-term trustee of the institute of Residential Marketing, a past three-term trustee of 50+ Housing Council and winner of the Bill Molster, John P. Hall and IRM's Excellence in Education awards. For more information, e-mail Levitan, or call him at 954-473-4244.
Originally published in NAHB’s Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine ©2004.
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