Bill Gates is often quoted as saying that success is a lousy teacher because it seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. For home builders, the comparison is obvious. In a hot market, looking at sales as the benchmark of success is easy. But it skirts the tough questions. Continuing just as you have been, how many sales are you missing? How much revenue and profit? Why? What do you need to do to fix it?
Role, Task, Objective
In “Leadership and Management—Not One and the Same” we established those differences in the context of new-home sales and presented the concept of having to be (filling the role) before you can do (performing the task), in order to have (meeting the objective).
Leadership expert Mike Moore, whom I spoke with for that article, sums it up best, saying that human nature causes us to seek comfort, and this, in turn, has us always looking for the easy way. You can’t simply do exceptional, excellent, or extraordinary; you have to be those things. People don’t do a positive attitude, we have to be positive. As Moore says, “To be or not to be” isn’t the question, it’s the answer.
This means accepting the role of the leader: creating the culture for enthusiastic implementation of the formula you create, establishing benchmarks for accountability, and celebrating more than just sales results. It also involves mastering the role of manager: evaluating total success through assessment of results and the processes that helped achieve those results.
In other words, tasks, objectives, challenges, and opportunities.
Leveraging the Tools
Training that fails to achieve significant and measurable improvement in demonstrating required knowledge and skill sets has simply failed. That challenge gets bigger when you couple booming market conditions with essentially no barrier to entry, which is what draws many people into working new-home sales.
One of the fundamental forms of sales training is role-playing. But, when incorrectly implemented, it hobbles and actually keeps salespeople from mastering the tools they need. Although unscripted role-playing is increasingly popular, it doesn’t work. That’s because winging it puts people in the position of failing. In my experience, the result can be trainees flailing around in a role they’re uncertain of because they’re being forced to perform without the benefit of the knowledge and understanding of the appropriate words to use.
I’ve renamed role-playing and now call it “simulated selling exercises.” This takes the pressure off by establishing a culture of practice makes perfect through scripted scenarios that offer trainees phrases, questions, and statements that serve as useful sales tools. The focus here is on becoming competent with the process—also known as conscious competence.
Measuring progress is best done with mystery-shop videos. In fact, they’re essential in marking the progress of developing salespeople. The videos also set the stage for getting everyone on board with training and evaluation. Mystery shops can be intimidating, too, so I’ve renamed them See Me With the Customer evaluations.
Industry expert Leslie Jeter, president of Clear Evaluations, in Houston, a national mystery shopping company that specializes in video shops, shared her views on mystery shops. Jeter maintains that they’re the only way to find out how salespeople are performing on the floor when you’re not watching. There’s no other way for you to see, accurately and through the eyes of the customer, a picture of what transpires on the sales floor between the customer and your salesperson.
Unfortunately, new-home video shops aren’t always used properly. So many sales managers order them simply because they are told to do so. They fail to follow through with a review, assessment of the process, and coaching sessions designed to bring about rapid improvement. Effective leaders make sure that this starts at the top, and effective managers make sure that outstanding results are obtained, thanks to the tools being used consistently and effectively.
A Quick Action Plan
Schedule a round of mystery-shop videos as soon as possible for each member of your sales team: Each salesperson views their individual video, and then sales management reviews those videos together with each individual salesperson. If everyone is happy with what they see, congratulations. If not, consider what you’re going to do to fix it.