Where Have All The Salesmen Gone?

Any of you who have been reading my blogs for awhile know that I’ve been around new home selling and marketing since the mid 1980s. (I was 12 when I started.) It was a cruel world for new home sales consultants back then. We were called salesmen, even though many of us were women, and most builders thought that their homes sold themselves. The general attitude was that salespeople were like buses . . . another one would be along in a minute.

When my agents complain of having to come in on a day off for any reason, my eyes roll back in my head recalling that back in the day we were only given one day off a week in new home sales, often working our days off writing contracts by hand on the hoods of our cars in front of vacant lots . . . Our models opened at 9AM sharp and we were often there until eight and nine o’clock at night working appointments. It was under such selling conditions that I developed a work ethic and learned how to close the sale. If I didn’t, someone else would. There was no benevolent sales manager ensuring that everyone played nicely in the sandbox together.

Recently, I’ve been working on a housing market research project. Part of this research required me to visit a new housing communities incognito and speak with the home builder’s on-site sales consultants, and gather some general information.

My associate and I visited a number of builders and presented a viable cover story regarding our new home search. We encountered ‘sales consultants’, ‘community sales managers’ and ‘sales associates’ across a broad swath of territory and price range.

Here, dear builders, are the results:

Sales Score:

  • 80% of your agents failed to register us (Among the 20% that did register us, there seems to be a lot of passive selling going on; one ‘selling’ sales manager assured us that unless he heard from us, we wouldn’t hear from him.)
  • 60% failed to ask us even one qualifying question
  • 100% failed to ask us our time frame
  • 80% failed to determine our motivation for moving
  • 100% of the ‘sales assistants’ failed to register us
  • 50% of the sales assistants were not familiar with the floor plans, including which plan was the model sales office we were standing in
  • 60% of the sales agents, having failed to identify our needs, proceeded to talk themselves out of the sale by pointing out what they perceived to be positive attributes to the homes and communities.
  • 40% of the agents toured the home with us
  • 20% of the agents pointed out features to us; none shared with us the benefits of those features
  • 80% of the agents failed to do a new home presentation

From a sales standpoint, is this the best that we, as a profession, can do?

We like to think that ‘our’ sales people would never do this . . . but I’m not so certain that they aren’t, even some of the time.  It seems to be a trend for builders to reduce their overhead and leave the sales and marketing to inexperienced people, and this is the result.  Without some type of formal sales management system in place, some well-trained sales director meeting with the sales people and routinely going over traffic, prospects, and leads, how does anyone know that every sales lead is being properly worked until that lead is exhausted? Don’t all sales start at point of contact and end when the salesperson offers the solution and closes the sale?

I’ve talked to associates in other markets, and they’re agreeing with my findings.  As an industry, the state of our sales departments is weakened.

Somewhere a builder is comforted in knowing that his community sales team has met their sales quota for the month . . .

One of the model centers I visited – one which had a less than a stellar performance – had their monthly sales quota posted on the board in the sales office, and it seemed as if the sales team there had met their quota.  As a long-time sales manager, I couldn’t help but wonder how many more sales the community could have had had everyone been playing at the top of their game and actually given us a presentation or asked a few questions.

Sometimes we set our sales people up to sell our homes and move inventory off our books by lowering prices and giving things away when a true sales person wouldn’t have the need for such incentives. We complain that our margins are too low, yet fail to determine if it’s us or the market at fault.

Marketing Score:

  • Overall the models came off as looking very professional, displays were well-done, decorating appropriate to the target market, and so forth.
  • 50% of the marketing materials missed the mark.  Not one builder presented us with a builder brochure that scored 100%. We were given photocopies, papers stapled together, and apologies for not having the floor plan of the homes we would most likely be interested in. No one had a jacket or pocket folder to contain loose papers, business cards, and sales collateral. 

One agent went so far as to tell us that we could print all the floor plans we were interested in off the internet.

Mhmm. The typical shopper, after looking at a handful or so new homes in a day, won’t remember your home unless something specific stood out to attract them to that home.  Chances are, if you’re relying on the prospect to download and print their own brochures, you’re losing sales.  After all, selling is all about salesmanship. It’s helping the customer reach the decision that you have the very best home for their needs.

The market’s tough, but it isn’t dead. There are opportunities all around us . . . we just need to take them and make the most of them when we do. Forget the fancy titles like new home coordinator and new home sales consultant and just be good old fashioned salesmen again.  Let’s stop with the passive selling and get back to following the critical path in new home sales, doing full presentations, and collecting the customer’s contact information. After all, nothing happens until a salesmen sells someone something.

One response to “Where Have All The Salesmen Gone?

  1. Pingback: The car sales business is changing, for the better | Roberts Communications Blog

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