The cover story of Time’s July 14 issue is a 39-page special report, “The Smarter Home.” Naturally, I had to read it.
How to cultivate a take-charge culture
Having a clear strategic vision, demanding accountability, and performing as both a leader and manager are vital to taking charge of a new-home sales organization, writes sales management and training expert Bob Schultz.
In last month’s article on “11 Strategies to Boost Your Sales Power in 2011,” I focused on the importance of accountability as a critical call to action for new-home sales organizations. The words of General Norman Schwarzkopf say it all: “when placed in command, take charge.” The more time I spend in and around new-home sales operations across the globe, it becomes more apparent to me that in today’s market conditions, this challenge is the one that can make the most difference in increasing sales revenue, while reducing or eliminating unnecessary costs.
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Whether you’re a builder with one salesperson, a manager with many, or you employ the services of an outside sales operation, the concepts and principles that follow, in and of themselves, may not seem that important. But, I trust they will cause you to think about what is profoundly important to your future sales success.
The titles of individuals that are charged with the responsibility of leading a new-home sales team may vary, from VP of sales to sales manager to sales director. Illustratively though, I believe that the most appropriate title is “chief revenue producer.” The primary objective of this position is to be constantly and relentlessly increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of each member of the sales team to produce the maximum amount of profitable sales revenue, while focusing with other members of the management team to reduce unnecessary costs.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey suggests that “management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” An inherent challenge in our industry is that anyone who is in charge of a sales organization must perform as both a leader and a manager. Here are the key differences between the two:
Leadership is about:
- The future
- The way things could be
Management focuses on:
- Day to day
- The way things should be
- The process
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The speed of the leader determines the pace of the pack.” With this in mind, when you’re in charge, you must establish the pace of things to be accomplished. Instilling a sense of urgency is vital. For instance, you cannot afford to take a year to accomplish what can be accomplished in a month, or a month for what could be achieved in a week, or a week for what can be attained in a day.
Sales and motivation guru Zig Ziglar has stated, “You’ve got to be before you can do, and do before you can have.” Specifically in new-home sales leadership and management, the roles might be defined, but the tasks often vary. Therefore, it is required that when in charge there is a clear and strategic vision of where the sales operation needs to be and what it needs to do to achieve the financial objectives of the company.
In my experience, it is quite easy to get distracted from that most important function of producing sales revenue that is consistent with stated and attainable company objectives. All too often, the leader-manager is taken off course from the high-impact activities that produce the highest ROI on time and other resources by getting involved in activities involving sales that have already been made. This takes leaders away from the important focus on actions that will produce new and additional sales revenue. The following chart exhibits the role to be and tasks to do so that the organization can have that additional sales revenue.
In a speech prepared for delivery in Dallas the day of his assassination, President John F. Kennedy wrote, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” I translate this to mean that when in charge of a sales organization, we must be both constant learners and students ourselves, as well as to become extraordinary teachers, trainers, and coaches, with high accountability built in.
To be more effective when placed in command, follow the advice of legendary NFL head coach, Tom Landry, who stated, “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” For instance, learning scripts, role playing, and holding periodic mystery video shops are things that most new home salespeople firmly and vocally resist, but must be accomplished correctly and consistently. Regrettably, I see all too often sales managers not do these things because their salespeople are “too experienced” and think they don’t need it.
I leave you with a thought from humorist and author Lewis Gizzard: “Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”
Bob Schultz is president and CEO of Bob Schultz & The New Home Sales Specialists, a full-service management consulting and sales company based in Boca Raton, Fla. Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.