Name: Carlos Puente
Company: Neal Communities
Title: Vice President of Sales, North Region
Previous Employer: PulteGroup
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration and master’s in international business from the University of Florida; MBA from Indiana University expected later this year

Neal Communities recently welcomed Carlos Puente to its Lakewood Ranch-based team as the vice president of sales in its north region. Puente brings over 10 years of experience in the real estate and home building industry to the builder. As the vice president of sales, he will lead a team of more than 30 people from Tampa to Englewood.

Prior to joining Neal Communities, Puente served as general sales manager for Pulte Homes, working with its sales team for nine years. While with the builder, he developed and executed all sales strategies across 11 communities, ranking third among all general sales managers throughout the country. Here, BUILDER talks with Puente about his sales strategies.

How would you describe your approach to sales?
My approach is a consultative selling approach strongly tied to the individual buyer’s personality and needs. These days, most people do not buy something that they don’t want or need, and every buyer is a little different. Providing transparency and clarity to the home buying process is a major factor of success.

What are the top three things you ask your salespeople to keep in mind when working with customers?
--Although you should not skip critical milestones in the conventional sales process, you do have to approach each buyer differently, specifically catering to the needs you have uncovered during the discovery stage. Hence, each presentation will have slight variations from one another, but in the end, should render the necessary key piece of information to move the purchase forward.

--Today, when prospects come through your door, they’ve already eliminated many others, and you are already on their shortlist, therefore most of the people you are seeing truly are potential buyers.

--People do really prefer to purchase from those they like so being professional, easy to work with and establishing good rapport early on will enable you to push harder for the sale, without scaring them away.

How is the Florida housing market holding up?
The Florida housing market numbers are good and, for most regions, continue to improve month-over-month. That said, in my opinion, we are reaching a natural plateau that should slow things down to a normal sales pace over the coming 12 to 18 months. Of course, some markets will notice it more than others. The level of slowdown will significantly be influenced by macroeconomic factors, such as interest rates, job and income growth, as well as resale housing markets in our feeder states.

What are the top lessons you’ve learned from your years working in the industry?
Times are changing dramatically, mostly due to the internet and smartphones. Over the past five to eight years, the consumer has rapidly gained easy access to a wealth of information (though not always accurate), which they utilize to make their home purchase decisions. Yet, our home building processes and methods have not changed as much nor as swiftly.

Being an informed sales professional is key to stay ahead of the competition, as the days of assuming you know more than your prospects are rapidly coming to an end.