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Sales training is almost always one of the first items on the chopping block when it comes to paring budgets in a down market. That’s unfortunate because having better-trained salespeople than the competition is one of the best ways to gain the edge, especially in this market.
But don’t take my word for it.
According to a blind study of 12,000 salespeople by the Greensboro, N.C.-based training firm, The Brooks Group, salespeople who follow a linked, sequential selling process stand a 93% chance of getting the sale. Without one, their chances drop to under 40%, less than half their potential sales.
Those numbers are too large to ignore.
“In this time of limited budgets, training is usually the first item to be cut,” said Dave McKown, sales and marketing director for William Lyon Homes, headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif. “My philosophy is it should be the last.”
“The battle is won and lost on the sales floor, and to win you must have every agent at the top of their game,” he said.
It is quite amazing, when you think of everything that goes into starting a new community — purchasing the land, planning, land loans, holding costs, approvals, studies, research, competitive analysis, building permits, community and house plans, grading, construction, model complexes, construction loans, architects, building inspections, roofers, fencers, pool companies, decorators, landscaping, marketing teams, graphic artists, signage companies and more — that they no longer want to invest in the very agent who is going to sell their community.
Not only don’t I get it, sales training is actually the least expensive element in the entire development and sales process.
“We noticed an immediate increase in sales once we implemented a regular training program,” said Jill Hardy, sales and marketing manager for Regis Homes of Northern California. “We feel we have a team of highly qualified sales professionals selling our homes, but the sales training polished skills that needed to be honed on a constant basis.”
She said the sales agents appreciated the training because it helped them become more effective, but also because Regis Homes was making an investment in them and their future.
The company benefited as well. “We have noticed an upturn in sales, even in this slow market, and I feel it is directly related to training, confidence and skill sets it brings to my team,” Hardy said.
Make Your Traffic Matter
What also amazes me is how many business owners and sales leaders, when complaining about sales, tell me they plan to increase their marketing to drive more traffic to their models.
Why increase marketing to increase traffic when the traffic you already have isn’t being handled correctly? The smarter solution is to train the sales team to maximize their efforts with everybody walking in the door.
We tend to think that a sales slump is simply the result of a lack of activity, but bad markets are generally the result of a combination of factors and there are buyers out there. What matters is if they are buying from you.
Seven Steps Agents Can Take to Maximize the Traffic You Already Have
There are seven steps agents can take to prepare for and engage the traffic you already have walking through your models:
Winning Sales Attitude: Your agents need to have a great attitude. They must believe that they are better than their competition, that their product is better and that there is no reason why buyers don’t want to buy from them. If they bring that attitude to work with them each day, you will see an increase in sales.
Act: Action will help clear an agent’s head and slowly start bringing in the business they — and you — so desperately need. So all new-home agents should be getting out of the office, calling on Realtors® and marketing to key businesses on a regular basis. The networking opportunities are endless, and the more often they network, the more comfortable — and effective — they’ll become.
The Golden Goose: The most important thing you, as an agent, can do is close in on the business that walks through your door. Don’t just let them walk away before you discover their key motivations for buying and their timeline. Build rapport and either close the prospect or arrange a “be back” appointment.
Change Prospecting Strategies: Find and implement proven strategies that can help build your sales team’s confidence. Include them in your prospecting efforts; it will make them feel like they are part of the marketing plan. They’ll appreciate being part of the process.
Smart Follow-Up: Some agents hate to follow up and if one of these agents works for you, it’s time to part company. You want agents who regard follow-up as an opportunity. Most prospects are not going to make the biggest purchase of their lives in one visit. So you should have extensive notes about their needs and wants and anything else involved in their decision-making process. A sure way to get that information is through follow-up.
Ask Why They Didn’t Buy: If 20 prospects visited my model during the week but there was only one sale, I’d want to know why the other 19 prospects didn't buy. As a sales manager, your sales reports should include a section about “non-buyer” follow-up, including extensive notes about how the sales team is following up with them. Your agents should know who their next 10 buyers are at all times.
Increase Expectations: We must increase our expectations of our salespeople. In today’s market, your salespeople should be networking, strategizing, following up, conducting campaigns and seminars, and analyzing the competition. Expectations set by the builder and sales managers will set the pace and help them be better salespeople.
The bottom line is: if you have to make cutbacks, don’t cutback the sales training for your sales teams. It’s the most important element they’ll need to increase their skills, spirits — and sales.
Shirleen Von Hoffmann is president and sales coach of Home Builder’s AdvantEdge, which specializes in sales agent secret shopping, sales training, seminars, one-on-one onsite training, sales coaching and builder consultation. A published author, keynote speaker, sales trainer and former top producer, she has closed more than $1 billion in new-home sales during her career. For more information or to contact Von Hoffmann, visit www.homebuildersadvantedge.com or www.thequeenofsales.com.
In “Option Selling for Profit: The Builder’s Guide to Generating Design Center Revenue and Profit,” authors Gina Gullo and Angela Rinaldi share their hands-on understanding of high-powered selling in the ever-expanding market of options for new homes.
By offering a range of options and upgrades, the design phase provides the best opportunity to make a lasting impression and ensure that buyers will favorably remember the entire buying experience.
“Think Sold! Creating Home Sales in Any Market,” available at NAHB BuilderBooks, is a practical, how-to guide for developing the self-awareness, knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the competitive field of new home sales.
The book covers everything from the home buying process and new home financing to strategies for making better sales presentations and sizing up the competition. It teaches readers how to overcome customers’ concerns and provides specific examples of how to explain the benefits of new home features in customer-friendly language.
“Think Sold” provides insights on how to approach sales and life from a position of optimism that will create successful outcomes; how to improve upon potential customer prospecting and follow-up skills; and how to communicate effectively with various types of buyers and learn how to adjust communication strategies to increase rapport and alignment with buyers’ motives.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
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