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This article first appeared in the PB November 2013 issue of Pro Builder.

If you look at what you are doing and the way you are presently doing it, how many sales and how much revenue do you think you are missing? How much are you misspending in the process, and what can you do to fix it?

To begin, it is imperative that you understand the differences between marketing and sales, and that you have a process to consistently manage and measure the objectives and results of each. For home builders, marketing takes two predominant forms:
1] The first involves research, analysis, and interpretation of information to determine whether your product is well positioned in your marketplace.
2] The second is to provide a reasonable projection of what your sales absorption should be expected to produce.
The following list offers 25 ways your sales operation can benchmark, assess, and improve its processes. A single step, in and of itself, will not make a substantial difference as none of them is a silver bullet, the one thing, the big secret, or the newest strategy guaranteed to increase your sales. Review them all and evaluate your current standing against the entire list. Commit to an action plan for making improvements where they are needed, and you will begin to make a significant difference. The magic is in the mix.
These steps aren't easy. Embarking on this path will require focus and an understanding of the value of these principles. Only then will you be able to motivate your team to take the action needed to create more sales success.

MEASURE: Home Builders Need to Measure for Future Sales Success

1. Periodically conduct an independent competitive market study and positioning assessment of your company and its offerings.
2. Track monthly sales and closings in your competitive resale market areas and price ranges. Analyze trends, such as the number of closings, days on market, and who the selling agents are, on a quarterly basis.
3. Review and print the complete website of all competing home builders and check each one again monthly, noting any changes in offerings or the status of sales.
4. Send salespeople to personally visit and provide a competitive shop report of all competitive builders at least quarterly.
5. Conduct Realtor focus groups twice annually.
Another critical role of marketing is the creation, implementation, and measurement of resources used to draw homebuyers to interact with your salespeople. This is especially important when using social media. Being liked is highly overrated if it does not lead to a measurable number of contacts, and then to sales. Measure the following; this data will let you know if the likes are producing sales:
6. Website visits against source, customer contact information provided on website, contacts made, appointments set, and sales converted.
7. Cost of traffic units by source.
8. Cost of sales by traffic source.
9. Conversion ratios by salesperson, by source.
10. Referral sales.

MINE: Home Builders Should Mine Their Contacts for More Sales

Selling new homes is a contact sport. To maximize the number of contacts, take these recommendations to heart:
11. Be open for the convenience of the customer.
12. Be properly staffed, especially during peak traffic times.
13. Utilize assistants. One good new-home salesperson, working in conjunction with a well-trained, motivated assistant will outsell two salespeople in the same situation.
14. Hold a monthly drawing to acquire basic and accurate contact information from all visitors.
15. Have your sales team focus on follow-through and contact all prospects. Measure that activity and its results.

PREP: Sales Prep Can Improve Home Builders' Conversion Ratios

The point of purchase is where the rubber meets the road. Spending money and human resources just to generate traffic is wasteful and simply gives your salespeople more chances to fail—unless your team has mastered the necessary skills. To improve your conversion ratios, follow these tips:
16. Use a targeted form of compensation where money is earned and escalate for achieving and exceeding levels of sales on a quarterly basis. The compensation should be calculated to be congruent with profit levels, and restarts each quarter. Do not use a fixed percentage of the sales price as your gauge.
17. All that the customer sees—signs, landscaping, models, sales office, amenities, selections center, and the like—must be show ready at all times.
18. Communication, demonstrating, closing, and negotiation skills must be highly developed through inculcation and become second nature when interacting with a customer.
19. Every sales representative that a customer encounters must be psychologically and emotionally ready to sell.
20. Everyone must expect a sale to occur on the first visit, or if that doesn’t happen, a conditional sale; or if that is not going to happen, an appointment to meet again will be made; and if that doesn’t occur, an agreement for a call or contact; and if that doesn’t happen, it’s time to assess why not.

MANAGE: To Increase Sales, Home Builders Need to Effectively Manage Their Sales Teams

You can't manage and therefore improve what you don't measure. To create a high-performing sales team:
21. Learn to hire right, and when required, fire right. Do not hire for experience, as far too frequently that experience is the greatest barrier to becoming extraordinary.
22. Train for the purpose of skill development and to provide a well-proven basis for change of behavior. Motivate to provoke the use of those skills, and don’t confuse the two.
23. Use simulated selling drills to increase sales competence to a high level of accountability performance. These drills, which salespeople know unfavorably as role-playing, are not an option and should not be subject to popular opinion and consensus.
24. Mystery video shop and score against a high standard, view with your salespeople, and coach using the video shop at least twice annually.
25. Lead with a purpose. When placed in command, take charge.
Given the uptick in the market for many builders, the prospect of having a modicum of success can become the biggest breeder of complacency. Don’t let that happen. This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a good place to begin an assessment; consider converting it into your own self-evaluation tool. And please feel free to contact me with any questions or situations you would like to discuss.