Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, knew that if his team couldn’t keep up with the Russians (their biggest and most well-conditioned competitors), it didn’t matter how fancy their footwork was or how quick they were with the puck. They would inevitably fall behind. Brooks proclaimed, “the legs feed the wolf.” Similarly, sales feed every other part of the business. Without them, you don’t need a purchasing department, and you can say goodbye to your construction team.
Still, many see sales and salespeople as a necessary evil—about as desirable as the hours of straight-up conditioning Brooks forced on his team. How are sales perceived in your business? When a sales team is merely tolerated, it indicates that your final product is your primary business. This is backwards. A solid, sales-centric organization, on the other hand, can sell anything and indicates a healthy culture. When a genuine company-wide attitude acknowledges that sales and customer service are the core business from which everything else flows, you have a sales organization. And sales organizations are the titans of the home building industry.
Carry out the following three steps to transform from a homebuilding organization into a sales organization that happens to build homes:
Step 1: Get the Neighborhood Right
I don’t care how great the rehabilitation center, if Lindsay Lohan steps out and goes back to the same people and environments that got her there in the first place, she’s going to end up back on drugs. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. When you’re committed to making a transformation, the first step is to make sure that your business culture supports the new direction.
Do people at every level of your organization agree on what sales is all about? Do they see the sales team as valuable contributors, or prima donnas? How about you—where do you spend your time and energy? If you talk about operations all the time, spend 90% of your time focusing on process improvement, and only think about sales when numbers are low, it’s obviously not a central consideration. What you devote effort to gets bigger and better.
Want to know what it looks like when a leader really values sales? Eric Lieper, owner and CEO of LGI Homes, attends every new-hire sales training and talks about sales all the time. Though his demonstration, Lieper is modeling the kind of culture that values sales and salespeople.
Step 2: Instill the Mindset That Selling Is a Noble Pursuit, Not a Necessary Evil
Leaders set the tone for organization. Get everyone on the same page and using the same language to talk about sales in positive terms that reflect your conviction that it’s a noble and worthwhile pursuit. Consider the following statements, and work the ideas they express into your internal communications, directives to members of all teams, and even your mission statement:
The Definition of Selling: Giving certainty and education while building rapport with another person.
The Purpose of Selling:To convince the “just looking” buyer to buy from you—today—over all alternatives.
The Golden Rule of Selling: Make it easy for customers to give you their money.
The Two Objectives of Selling:
1. Make the customer feel more wanted than anyone else does.
2. Lead the customer to make decisions that achieve resolution better than anyone else.
Start making opportunities to infuse everything your business does with these principles, and the days of people thinking of “sales” as a four-letter word will be over.
Step 3: Provide Coaching All Along the Way
So you’ve changed the neighborhood around sales and promoted the idea that sales is a noble pursuit. That’s great, but you can’t stop there. Can you imagine watching a Patriots game and not seeing Bill Belichick patrolling the sidelines? Would you notice if the always-animated Pete Carroll stayed home from a Seahawks game? Great coaches teach at practice, but they’re also there to oversee the execution of their plans come game time.
Transformation doesn’t come cheaply. With its focus on painful, inglorious conditioning as its foundation, the 1980 Olympic team upended an empire (the Russian team had won the gold medal in 6 of the previous 7 Olympic games). The young American players went on to win the Olympics (and international fame) as the players behind the “Miracle On Ice.” It takes everyday effort to build a commitment to and a right perception of sales in every nook and cranny of your business. Is it worth it? Absolutely!