A short time ago, in a galaxy we call home, specifically the American Midwest, I was on the road working with a new home sales team. Mind you, we were still very much in the middle of the pandemic and the new home market was still very hot.
During one of our breaks, I had the pleasure of meeting a young sales professional named Jessica (names have been changed to protect the guilty). In the conversation, Jessica revealed that she had just purchased her dream car…which was an $80,000 Mercedes. I also happened to notice she was sporting a handbag that probably ran about $3,000, give or take. For the record, I have no challenge with having a nice car or a nice anything, for that matter. But what caught my attention was that this was Jessica’s first year in new home sales and I had the suspicion she thought her massive success was normal.
If you have been around for a while, these last couple of years has been anything but normal. The biggest challenge for Jessica was she was under the illusion that her sales skills were as good as her sales results.
Does this sound remotely familiar to anyone? The hot market was/is certainly not limited to Jessica’s area. I’ve been in new home sales for 21 years and I sense mass deception going on. Countless new home sales leaders and professionals are being faked out by stellar sales results. Jessica was no exception here and since she hasn’t experienced a down market, what I was about to share with her was a blow to her ego.
I leaned in slightly, congratulated Jessica on her results, and said, “When the market shifts, and it will, you will need very different skills than you are using in today’s market.” She looked at me a bit confused so I explained what I meant by adding, “Today’s market requires you to be good at managing customers. You have a priority list to manage and a backlog to manage. In tomorrow’s market, you will need to learn customer acquisition and customer retention skills.” Jessica still looked a little bewildered so I continued with, “When was the last time you had to overcome an objection? How often are you dealing with selling against a competitor who has a bigger home for a lower price point or a huge incentive? What about dealing with buyers who are wanting to cancel and you don’t have the fear of losing equity due to price increases to keep them on contract?”
Jessica looked at me with a straight face and said, “Ryan I’m sure glad you’re here today! I am not prepared for a market like that so I’m going to put my ego aside and become totally coachable.” Okay, let’s be honest…she didn’t say that last part, but I wish she would have. If you’re a dedicated sales professional reading this right now I’m sure you’d want me to elaborate further. So here are the three effects of not being trained up before a market shift:
You Fall Into The Knowing vs Doing Trap
As sales professionals, we are knowledgeable on topics like discovery, objections, and closing but when we aren’t doing these behaviors on a regular basis, the actual execution falls short and our results suffer.
Let me paint a picture here. When I was a kid, I was a total skater. I still wear Vans shoes pretty much every day. A couple of years back, at a family get-together, there were a few kids outside skateboarding. After chatting with them for a few minutes, I said the dumbest thing I have said in a very long time. You can probably guess the exact words that came out of my mouth. If you said, “You mind if I try out your board?”, you’d be 100 percent right.
Remember, I have many years of skateboarding “knowledge” which did me absolutely no good when I tried doing a slide-out maneuver. Turns out, the only sliding out that was accomplished was the board sliding out from under me and I ended up on the ground with bloody elbows and knuckles.
Needless to say, similar to sales training, if I’d been keeping up with the “doing” or “practicing” aspect of skateboarding I could have avoided pain and embarrassment. I had the knowledge but that alone wasn’t enough.
The Customer Experience Suffers
When we aren’t prepared with how to handle a market shift, we are technically “learning on the job.” The problem with that approach is it is no fun for your customer. It’s kind of like going to see your favorite band in concert and instead of getting the rehearsed, and perfected show, you are getting the rehearsal version. You know…the one where they stop the song in the middle and discuss what isn’t working and then try it again…and again…and again.
Your customer not only deserves a totally prepared, trained, and practiced salesperson, they actually want that. In absence of that trained-up person, the customer experience is affected. The customer feels you aren’t prepared and they feel as though they need to lead the conversation. No offense, but that isn’t their job. It’s yours.
You Lose Sales
When the market shifts and foundational selling skills are again required, how long do you think it will take for you to develop these skills? I’ve seen this take about six months to a year. This means we are not only losing time because we have to awaken, or learn, those skills, but we are also losing sales to the better-trained competition. That means lower commissions. If that doesn’t light a fire under you to practice skills like overcoming objections, asking for the sale, and following up, I don’t know what will!
Today is the Day
The only better time for sales training was yesterday. You’ve probably heard an ancient Chinese proverb about planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now!
Olympic athletes train for years leading up to the actual games. They may take a short break immediately following but then they get right back to their training if they plan on competing again in four years. They are fully aware that, to remain competitive, they must continue the behaviors and habits that made them successful to begin with.
Trust me, in the past year-and-a-half I’ve heard so many variations of we don’t need training right now that it concerns me. My philosophy is it is better to stay prepared than it is to have to get prepared.
When you are prepared in advance, you have a better shot at changing their world.