The “magic bullet” for the home building industry is not the greenest homes, the most innovative products, or the coolest marketing campaigns. It's the people. Selling more homes in today's environment starts with changing company cultures from being product-based to sales-based.
The debate over whether to build green is one of the most prominent discussions in the home building industry today. A greener house may very well be a superior product, but improving the product is not the industry's singular answer. A greener home cannot sell itself; it's the sales associate who can effectively communicate the value of the greener house and who will sell the house. Typical home shoppers need to see a practical value, such as dollars saved on utilities, to really care.
In many ways, our industry puts the sales pressure on product development and marketing and advertising. While they are crucial pieces in driving traffic, what happens after the customer comes through the door is even more important. Someone has to successfully communicate why the benefits of buying a home outweigh the risks.
So, it only makes sense for builders to devote at least as much energy to improving their sales teams as they do to developing their newest green product. They should evaluate their sales teams, hire a different breed when necessary, provide the best training, and hold salespeople and managers accountable. And the training must teach the sales force not only good communication but also leadership and emotional intelligence.
Gary Probert, senior vice president of sales at Pardee Homes, says his sales teams outsell the competition in each of their divisions because his organization focuses on development and coaching. When competitors ask what they're doing different, they don't believe the answer is simply training. Their paradigm is stuck on product and incentives.
Recently, I attended a private builder executive seminar on increasing sales. However, the group spent 16 hours discussing lowering costs, changing product, and building green, and six hours on marketing topics. They only spent two hours on salespeople and training.
I asked the 30 executives present whether they felt they had more control over construction or over the people selling those homes. They unanimously agreed they had more control over construction.
Whether we like it or not, the market has pressed reset on the way we approach and execute our businesses. And shifting from a things-based organization to a sales-based one begins with company leadership. Take, for example, how executives at Texas-based Grand Homes have made the selling process a primary focus. While most home building organizations have a ratio of around 30 salespeople to one manager, Grand Homes has a ratio of 10-to-1. Of this heavy sales culture, which is one of the reasons the company is one of the most profitable in the state, executive vice president Mike Mints says, “Sales managers that are most successful are the ones that make prospect conversion their No. 1 responsibility.”
The salesperson is the most powerful source of customer confidence, motivation, and hope. Better homes don't overcome uncertainty. Better salespeople do. Enough with all the bells and whistles. Let's focus instead on building better salespeople who can communicate the value of the products and on shifting firms from product-centric to sales-centric. Then we'll get somewhere.
Jason Forrest is a speaker, sales trainer, sales management coach, and author of “Creating Urgency in a Non-Urgent Housing Market” and “40 Day Sales Dare.” For more information, visit jforrestgroup.com.