Sales leaders wear numerous hats in an organization, as motivators, coaches, mentors, and managers. From finding the right talent for the future to motivating teams to produce top results, the scope of responsibility touches many parts of the business.

During a Q&A session, “The Rally: An Immersive Journey Into the Future of New Home Sales,” at the International Builders’ Show, Shore Consulting founder and president Jeff Shore spoke with four nationally recognized sales leaders to share thoughts on what should be priorities and essential skills for sales leaders as well as how to identify good sales team members.

What Should Sales Leaders Prioritize?

The panel of leaders, including Alisa Poncher of Dream Finders Homes, Brooks Sears of D.R. Horton, Shant Samtani of Esperanza Homes, and Taylor Humphrey of Pacesetter Homes, agreed workforce training and recruiting should be important to sales leaders regardless of market conditions.

“Regardless of the market, training and development of our teams need to happen. We see in a good market, that’s when a lot of builders decide it is not the time to focus on training,” Poncher, national director of training and online sales for Dream Finders Homes, said. “By the time the market changes, what we find is we are behind the eight ball, and we are trying to get our teams up to speed. We should be coaching and developing and raising the bar at all times with our teams if we want to be successful.”

The prioritization of recruiting and hiring also should not be dependent on business performance. Shore, who was the panel moderator, said oftentimes the worst hires are made when companies are desperate, while the best hires are made when companies find the right person and work to place them internally. He urged attendees to do away with the mindset that hiring only needs to occur when a company has openings.

“A lot of times you are asked to hire, and I think hiring is different than recruiting. You [need to be] out every week interviewing and looking for the next best person. And looking internally as well,” Sears, vice president of sales and marketing for D.R. Horton, said. “I think the recruiting aspect of [sales leaders], both internally and in the market, [are important].”

What Skills Do Sales Leaders Need?

The panelists shared that the ability to motivate and sell their teams on daily goals as well as humility and a continued willingness to learn are keys to improvement and sales leadership success.

“The most important and impactful skill that carries from any market is the ability to motivate. To be able to pour into your sales team so they can pour into your customers,” Samtani, vice president of sales for Esperanza Homes, said. “Sales managers do not get the opportunity to sell directly to customers, but you get to sell something valuable: belief to your team. Those skills of being able to motivate are so crucial to be able to bring out the right behaviors and attitudes [from our team].”

Humphrey, director of sales for Pacesetter Homes, said sales leaders should continue to learn and work on growing as leaders and individuals. He stressed it is important to remember that success and leading the team “is not about you.”

“So much pride gets in the way, especially with young leaders. I work for my team, and I am there for them,” Humphrey said. “I’m approaching every day thinking about what I need to do to get obstacles out of my team’s way. If you make it about you, and if you are wrong and double down, your team knows, and you are going to lose a lot of respect.”

Humphrey said sales leaders should also leverage their peers for knowledge sharing and advice to ensure they are able to best serve their teams.

“When we become sales leaders, we think we need to solve the problems for everybody. When I became a sales leader, I thought I was doing the best job and was an amazing leader because I was putting out fires all day,” Poncher said. “I think we have to empower our teams so that they don’t have to call us to put out every fire, and we can be doing different things that give them the opportunity to be better at what they do. I really think empowerment is a big part of that.”

What Makes a Great Sales Team Member?

When searching for team members, the panelists advised looking outside the box of traditional candidates and asking the right questions to find out about work ethic and willingness to improve prior to the onboarding process.

“[One] of the things I look for is someone who is coachable. A lot of times you are asked to get the A player and pluck the best person out of the market. You bring them in and interview them, and they wow everyone. But they are rigid and are stuck in their ways and don’t want to hear coaching,” Sears said. “A lot of the questions in the interview are asking what are you doing to improve yourself, what have you done in the last few years to grow and get better. I think that is the big thing I look for when I’m interviewing and looking for the next hire.”

Samtani and Poncher shared that some of the best hires can come from outside the industry and with individuals who have never sold homes.

“I look for the person with the [most] sky-high achievement drive that you can possibly find. I prefer to look for people who have a unique skill set. A former athlete, someone with a unique degree, someone who plays an instrument, something different,” Samtani said. “Those people are coachable because they have practiced being coached, they know what it’s like to achieve, they know what it’s like to course-correct, and they know what it takes to get better.”

Poncher said soft skills and work ethic can translate regardless of experience level.

“[One] area that I find makes for great salespeople are people who come from hospitality. They are all about understanding the importance of relationships and building connections with people. In my opinion, that’s where the magic happens, and that’s where the sales happen, getting to know [buyer] stories and building those relationships,” Poncher said. “I can teach anyone how to sell a house, I can’t teach everybody how to develop a relationship with a customer.”

Keep the conversation going—sign up to our newsletter for exclusive content and updates. Sign up for free.