My career has been built on the promise of sales training. At the beginning and along my long path, I relied on the training and development of salespeople for over 20 years to be a solution. We’ve all heard the age-old adages of “Sales solves everything” and “It’s all about sales!” We know that sales do solve most things, but sales training alone does not solve sales. My goal in writing this article is to give back to an industry that has been so good to me by offering some ideas of how builders everywhere can achieve more success in sales right now.
This summer, the market turned quickly, exposing many inefficiencies — both in sales and operations. I was quoted in an article as saying we went "from interest lists to incentives in thirty days." Not only did the FED downplay inflation as “transitory,” they let labor and supply chain costs grow unabated while supporting it all with artificially cheap money. Most building companies had to settle for pieces of land and product types that weren’t inside their strategic plan but were all that was available. Value propositions have now been eroded by real market forces, only to be fully exposed by a more hesitant buyer sentiment and decreased buying power from inflated rates. Sales have come to an abrupt halt in so many places across the industry, and cancellations have decimated backlogs.
My professional responsibility is to lead sales for several builders across the nation. I work inside the largest privately owned company selling new homes in the U.S., New Home Star. I focus on new home sales from morning til night six days a week in this particular season, looking for any way possible to advance the sales and revenue goals of our partners. The rest of this article shares what we’re learning with the hope of helping our industry gain its footing more quickly and recover from the blows we’ve been dealt.
Your horses can only run as fast as your horses can run. You can dangle bigger carrots, but that won’t make a meaningful difference if they’re already running their fastest. Your sales team undoubtedly will benefit from better training, and you should do that. By the way, a lot of what you’re seeing and believing as “better” falls very far short of what your team needs and what you believe you’re giving them. Still, you have whom you have on your bench, and you need to give them what you can give them to help them reach your goals. Extra training will provide a lift; I don’t see it as sufficient to get you where you likely want to go.
There is a process that your sales leader needs to understand and follow, and it likely needs your support to navigate. Your sales leader is in the best position to execute this process, but you should collect the best minds in your organization to huddle around this process.
Gain the customer’s perspective.
Your customer feedback loop is more critical than ever right now. You must understand the perspective of your buyers and your non-buyers. Why should and would someone buy a home from you this month? Hint: Most shouldn’t and wouldn’t, but some can and will. Who are those “some,” and why does it make sense for them? You must be able to get clarity on this. Who would buy from you in your project this month and why? You must articulate this clearly for your strategy.
Optimize the value proposition of your project for your target consumer.
This isn’t just sales jargon. You are in the position, with the understanding of your customer, to optimize what you offer them. Your executive team needs to be a team of problem solvers. In any project’s lifecycle, it’s important to continually reassess what it has to offer to the customers who would value it most and how that compares to the competition. This is especially critical right now. Solve the problem at the executive level and equip your sales team with solutions. They will sell your solutions.
Drive goal-oriented discounts and incentives.
Margins are eroding quickly — the market gave, and now the market is taking away. Still, get the maximum impact with your money. There are methods to use money in high-value ways and other ways that may simply throw it away. Incentives and discounts should be used very intentionally. Are you using them to drive traffic, or are they intended to convert buyers? What problem are you solving? How is your sales team be trained and guided on using your dollars to solve customer problems?
Create a confident selling position for your sales team.
Your salespeople are emotional, and you need to instill belief in them. If they don’t believe in whatever they’re trying to sell, they will not be as successful. You need to help your team understand why now is a great time to buy for some customers and to believe that what you’re offering is the best option. Market conditions are scary, and it’s essential that your team can combat that with real enthusiasm. We say that “enthusiasm” comes when the last letters of the word IASM represent “I am sold myself.” Visitors must feel like they've come to the right place at the right time and that requires real enthusiasm. That enthusiasm has to start at the top — with you.
We acknowledge that we are in really challenging times. Still, we’re seeing encouraging achievement by following these guidelines and other initiatives that go far beyond simple sales training. We’re watching smart strategic moves take market share from competitors who are slower-moving or less strategic. Our strategy is to turn attention towards the customer and create solutions for them, solutions that help them to buy confidently and to buy now. In doing so, we sell more homes and protect more margin. You can too.