Category Archives: Management Tips

Video Mystery Shopping: POP! 10 Secrets to Build and Manage a Firecracker Sales Team!

Are you ready to build a Firecracker Sales Team? Most new home sales managers WANT to build the best team possible; however, it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Before we start giving you tips on HOW to build your firecracker, I thought it might be useful to share with you some common mistakes that sales managers make in the process

Most managers assume that A GREAT new home sales rep will have the same characteristics of a GREAT new home sales manager. Not true. The characteristics you need to be an effective manager is pretty much the polar opposite of the characteristics needed to be a firecracker salesperson. Take that into consideration when building your team.

1-Hiring in your own image and beneath you.

When hiring your sales reps, sales managers often think they need to hire someone in their own image. While this might be flattering to the sales manager, it doesn’t always work out since the skills sets for the two roles vary so much. Also, I have seen sales managers hire people ‘beneath’ them, or with less sales talent. One reason could be that they do not have to worry about the sales rep wanting to take their job, but the reality is these ‘under achievers’ require a great deal of hand holding and training.

2-Becoming the Fire Marshal

Fire Marshals are always solving everyone else’s problems. Don’t take on the problems of your team. Allow your team members to become their OWN fire marshals.

3-Getting too friendly

It is common nature to want to become friends with the sales team. However, as a sales manager you must always remember that YOU are the boss. It is often hard to discipline or reprimand a friend.

4-Only interviewing when you have a spot to fill.

Part of your role as a sales manager is to Interview all the time. You always want to keep abreast of fresh talent!

5-Managing, not developing, the team

Develop your team into becoming strategic thinkers. Poor video shop scores are a direct sign of poorly developed or trained sales people. It is YOUR job to get out there in the trenches with your team on a daily basis. Remember, you can’t run the zone if you are sitting on the throne.

Next, let’s discuss Sales Meetings. This is your one consistent opportunity to be in front of the entire team. It should be a time for team building, training, and motivating! Not just a time to update everyone on policies and procedures! Here are 5 Secrets for conducting a Super Sales Meeting.

1-Involve the sales team –

How do you involve the team? You get them engaged and interacting during the meeting. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways:

  1. Delegate a team member to host and coordinate the sales meeting
  2. Ask Questions throughout the meeting. No one likes being ‘talked at’ for an hour.
  3. Team Building activities
  4. Add a Training component – ask your sales people to conduct a mini-workshop on a skill or subject matter they excel in (IE. Overcoming objections)

2-Change it up!

Sales people getting bored easily. If you are conducting your sales meeting week after week in the same sterile conference room, think about changing it up a notch!

  1. Try meeting in a mystery location (a car dealership or retail store)
  2. Hold your meeting in spec home that’s sitting a long time, and use part of your meeting to brainstorm ideas on how to sell the home
  3. Have a ‘standing’ room only meeting (Meetings tend to move much quicker if the entire room is standing up!
  4. Give the bagels and donuts a rest! Why not take the team out for pancakes, or better yet, have a pot luck meeting and ask your team to bring in their favorite breakfast or brunch foods.

3-D-I-M-E…..Develop, Inspire, Motivate, Educate.

Make this the overall theme of ALL your sales meetings. Keep administrative topics to a minimum. Your role is to motivate your sales team to SELL more homes, not bore them to death!

4-Have an agenda with action items and “next steps” for accountability

People don’t plan to fail…they fail to plan. All the great advice and motivation you provide your team will be for naught if they set goals and create action plans to meet those goals. Ask them to get very specific with their goals…providing you with dates, names, next steps, and timelines.

5-Show Best Practices

SHOW your sales people what you expect from them. If you have a sales associate who did exceedingly well in a video mystery shop, SHOW specific scenes to the entire team. Another idea is to incorporate role-playing into your meeting.

These 10 Tips will help your sales team to grow, prosper, and become the FIRECRACKER team you envisioned. It ALL starts with you. Remember, you are their leader and you lead by example. By getting involved with your team, and showing them that you are their coach, they will support you and do everything possible to make your proud!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Interviewing for sales associates? Look at it from a new perspective!

New home sales are picking up. I know this because I have seen a huge increase in the number of video mystery shops ordered by new home builders. Dare I say the market has turned around? The word I keep hearing from my friends in the industry is a resounding YES!

Sales are picking up, new home communities are opening, and sales managers are hiring new sales associates. This is GREAT news! For those of us who have weathered this insane storm for the past 6 years or so, let’s all do the happy dance! Yahoo!

Sales managers that I have spoken with lately have said they are excited about the opportunity to build their sales teams up again, and are aggressively recruiting new members. Many have asked me if I had any suggestions or words of advice when it comes to interviewing and hiring new sales people.  So, I have decided to dedicate a couple of blogs on various tips that I believe will enable you to hire the best sales people out there!

First and foremost, I encourage you to look at interviewing from a new perspective. Don’t get stuck in the same old interview process that has been around since the beginning of time. The opportunity to interview potential sales associates is your chance to really determine if they will be a good fit with your organization and an asset to your team.

So, here’s the first ‘new perspective’ idea:  Instead of conducting the interview at your corporate office, ask the sales candidate to meet you at the office and then go for coffee or breakfast together. But here’s the catch….have the potential new hire drive you both to the restaurant! You would be amazed what you can learn about someone by the type of car they drive, how clean and maintained they keep their vehicle, and how their actual driving skills rate.

Remember, in many cases, your sales people will be driving new home prospects to model homes and home sites, so it is important to catch a glimpse of how this experience will be for your potential home owners.

When you arrive at the restaurant be sure to observe how the candidate treats the waiter or waitress. Are they polite? Do they make eye contact? This gives you the chance to see how your potential new hire interacts with strangers. Finally, pay attention to what they order and their eating style. I am certainly not a prude in any way, but good manners never go out of style. I once had a client who utilized this interview method and he told me that he RARELY hired anyone that salted their food before tasting it. Why? His thought process was – how do they know it needs salt to season the flavor if they had not yet taken a bite of food? Hummm, makes sense to me!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: My ‘world-famous’ Thanksgiving stuffing FLOPPED! (Or, why your top producer didn’t score well on their Video Mystery Shop)

Last week was Thanksgiving, and as is tradition in my family, I am in charge of making my world-famous Thanksgiving stuffing each year. It is YUMMY and my family loves it! I take great pleasure and pride in my stuffing, so you can imagine the horror and shock I experienced this year when my stuffing was a flop!

I am not sure what happened. I used all of my normal ingredients, cooked it the same way I have for YEARS, and yet something wasn’t quite right….instead of fluffy, melt in your mouth stuffing…I had spongy, stick to the roof of your mouth stuffing! What went wrong??

This experience reminded me of what I oftentimes hear from new home sales managers when they review the shops of their top sales associates and discover that they scored extremely low……they always ask: What went wrong??

So, let me explain a couple of things. We will start with some basic definitions. A ‘top producer’ has the ability and skill set to sell ANYWHERE. A ‘sales associate’ can sell as well, as long as they have an excellent PRODUCT, with great a great PRICE, in an ideal PLACE (Location), and with a nice PROMOTION tied to it. In other words, the product sells itself. Or, as I like to say, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.

So many times, new home sales managers confuse their ‘top producer’ with a ‘lucky sales associate’.  So, how can you tell the difference? One of my clients puts his top producers in hard-to-sell situations and offers them an increased commission. A ‘hard-to-sell’ situation might be a community that isn’t ideally geographically located, or a close out community that isn’t generating a lot of traffic. He typically experiences great results with this strategy because a top producer can sell and close anywhere, not just in an ideal environment.

Understanding the difference between a ‘top producer’ and a ‘lucky sales associate’ will help you evaluate the scoring from Video Mystery Shops much more effectively. A video shop is a snapshot meant to give you an overall idea of what is happening in your sales offices. It scores a sales person on the basic skills and techniques needed to sell new homes in this market.

Most true ‘top producers’ WELCOME video shops and look at them as a way to showcase their talents and improve their overall sales performance. A ‘lucky sales associate’ may become offended or insulted by a bad shop, because in a sense, they are being ‘exposed’ to the truth for the first time. A ‘top producer’ can sell and close anywhere and anytime. A ‘lucky sales associate’ cannot.

So, if you get a video shop back for one of your ‘top producers’ and the score is low, I encourage you to dig a little deeper and see if there are certain things happening ‘behind the scenes’ that you may not be aware of. My guess is that your ‘top producer’ is not a ‘top producer’ after all. It may be that they are lucky and have found the proverbial ‘acorn’. If this is the case, it isn’t necessarily a lost cause. Training, coaching, mentoring and additional shops can help to improve the situation.

By using Video Mystery Shopping as a sales and coaching tool, you are giving your top producers and your lucky sales associates a gift. In most cases, how they receive the gift can be very revealing.

PS – in the case of my ‘FLOPPED’ stuffing, I later found out that the oven I used to  cook my stuffing was not working properly and it never heated up to the temperature necessary to create my culinary masterpiece…..I guess it is time to find a ‘new community’ for my world-famous stuffing! It wasn’t quite the ‘top producer’ I thought it had been for all the years!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Time Management? Is it really possible in the land of New Homes Sales?

Let’s face it; there are just NOT enough hours in the day. That’s a fact…and unfortunately, one that we can’t change.  If you are a manager in new home sales, this probably comes as no surprise to you. In your role as sales manager you wear many different hats and have various tasks to accomplish each day. You KNOW that your time is best spent in the field with your sales people, but how many days a week are you actually able to do that?

And, when you do get out in the sales offices, how often are you distracted by phone calls, e-mails, texts, etc.? It is very difficult to focus on doing your job well when you’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions! What about taking personal time for you? Your sales offices are open and operating seven days a week……………are you doing the same thing???

So, here’s the question: how can you manage all of these roles, be the most effective sales manager you can be and STILL have a life?

Here are a couple of time management tips for you. Now, they won’t add more hours to your day, but they will help you navigate and make the most of your day!  

  1. Designate 2 or 3 days per week your field days. Let the office staff, division president and everyone else know that these are your designated field days and that you will be checking e-mails and voice mails only at specific times. Change your voice mail and your e-mail auto-responder to reflect what time you will be returning calls. You owe it to your sales team to give them your full undivided attention when you are with them.  Finally, DO NOT go into the office on your field days if at all possible. 
  2. Learn to delegate and/or let go of tasks that are not really a priority. I know most sales managers no longer have the “staff” they once had, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t delegate.  Talk to the other managers (Purchasing, Operations, Accounting) and see if they would be willing to let you *borrow* a support staff person for a couple of hours per week.  Also, learn to let the non-priorities go.  
  3. Be proactive with your time. Schedule certain times during the day to return calls, answer e-mails, and do other administrative tasks. I find it most effective to do this twice per day: In the morning and before you leave for the day. Schedule this time in your calendar! Treat it as you would treat an important meeting.  After all, it really is!
  4. Be careful of ‘Manager Meeting Mania’. Because New Homes Sales managers touch so many areas of the new home process, oftentimes they feel a need to sit in on every meeting that comes up. Back Log, Model Merchandising, New Community Planning, Managers Meeting, Sales Meetings, Land Acquisition, Sales Training, etc… could make a full-time job out of attending meetings! Remember, your time is valuable. Only you know what the highest and best use of your time is; however, I can guarantee you it isn’t sitting in meetings 8 hours per day.
  5. Work Hard, Play Hard. In the 25 years I have been in the new home sales industry I have seen many EXCELLENT New Homes Sales Managers burn out and leave the industry. Why? Because ‘all work and no play’ does not equate to a balanced life. Trust me; I know how hard it is to ‘turn it off’. But, if you don’t give yourself a chance to recharge, you will burn out.   

Your team is counting on you to be the best you can be, and that means making time for YOU!

Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Recruiting and Retaining GREAT New Homes Sales People

In last week’s blog I discussed the importance of hiring the RIGHT new home sales people the first time. I introduced my B R I G H T tips for interviewing new home sales people. The BRIGHT philosophy is actually part one of my 3 step program called: BRIGHT – MIGHT – LIGHT, all focusing on building the best sales team you can.

 This week, I want to talk to you about Recruiting (MIGHT) and Retaining (LIGHT) the best new home sales people. Your role as a sales manager is to always be on the lookout for new talent.  And, once you attract that new talent, you want to have a system in place to retain your sales superstars. So, here are a few tips I have found helpful in both recruiting and retaining your new home sales team!

Recruiting – MIGHT

M – Marketing: Make sure you have professional and up to date marketing materials representing your company. This includes your website and social media presence as well as the traditional marketing items like brochures and flyers. This is the first impression potential sales people have of your company.

I – Integrity: Always keep the highest level of integrity when recruiting sales people. Remember, this is a small industry with a big mouth and a LONG memory!

G – Get involved:  Don’t just JOIN the local builders association, get involved on a committee. This is the best way to interact with potential sales people in a very non-threatening way.

H – Have patience! Recruiting the right folks doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about building relationships based on trust.

T – Team support: One of the best ways to recruit new home sales talent is to have your sales team work as company ambassadors! Sales people love to talk, and if they love their job, their builder, and their sales manager…. guess what?? They are going to tell others! So, if you lead by example your team will automatically talk about it.  

Retaining – LIGHT

L – Listen to your sales people:  Don’t just ‘run the zone from the throne’. If your sales people have ideas and comments about how things should be done, let them express this to you. You might just be surprised at what you learn! Don’t forget, your sales force is in the trenches everyday!

I – Insight: Don’t work in a ‘new home sales’ vacuum. Look to other industries to learn what they are using as sales retention tools. Be a trail blazer and don’t be afraid to think ‘outside’ of the box when it comes to employee retention.

G – Get your team’s buy in on new programs and procedures. Remember, most folks don’t like change, but if they feel they are part of the change process they will take ownership and be very supportive.

H – Have FUN: Nobody likes working in a place where things are stressful and unpleasant. Schedule some fun time for your team! Make your sales meetings interactive and enjoyable.

T – Training: It is so important to continually provide your sales team with the latest and greatest tools and techniques to adequately do their jobs! Make sure Training is at the top of your list. Invest in your team and they will invest in you!