“Accountability” never made George Carlin’s infamous list of “seven dirty words.” And while now you can hear most of the words that made his list on basic cable TV channels before 11 p.m. on any given night, the word accountability can still send shivers down the spines of sales teams and managers alike.
Salespeople hear “accountability” and immediately assume that their strategies are in question by upper management. Many executives don’t want to be viewed as the villain, and to them, “accountability” means micromanaging their team’s every move down to each individual phone call and e-mail.
The concept of accountability does not need to have that evil, “big brother is watching you” connotation. There are numerous advantages to developing a close relationship about expectations between salespeople and sales managers when launching a new real estate development, and managing those expectations for the life of the cycle to bring that community to completion. Managers benefit by understanding the activity levels in the sales center. Salespeople benefit from the input of experienced professionals, offering guidance on overcoming objections, managing buyer expectations, and closing deals.
Here are a few best practices for implementing ongoing accountability for your sales team.
1. Encourage the fundamentals. Often it seems easier to blame a failure in closing the deal on anything that’s handy – failed marketing, high pricing, home layout, or the rings of Saturn in relation to the overwhelming pull of Mars – in other words, anything but the simple truth. Sales success is based primarily on the fundamentals of good communication, consistent process, realistic pricing, and a quality product. Incorporating accountability into a company’s sales strategy isn’t about waving a magic wand that will enable your team to make more sales with little to no work. It’s about using hard data to examine the fundamentals of new home sales. The following are just a few examples of simple questions that should have basic answers:
- Has a standard follow up process been put in place so that when a new lead enters the system, the assigned salesperson is executing follow-up in a timely fashion?
- Is the sales agent utilizing the system?
- What methods of communication work best for particular lead types? As an example, do phone calls work well for walk in traffic, or do email responses garner better results?
- Quantify the number of leads driven by marketing’s last mail campaign can help determine effectiveness. What conversion rate to appointments or closings was seen by the sales team on those leads?
2. Use a CRM system. By its very nature, accountability for a sales team requires aggressive and active tracking of each sales lead. By tracking contact between the sales team and each lead, it is easier to fine-tune a plan that will result in sales. On busy real estate sales projects, tracking is a must. The defined process to manage leads that a robust CRM like Lasso can provide will save sales agents from frustration and disorganized spreadsheets and other ad-hoc “tracking” systems. Such disorganization can lead to lost prospects in the sales funnel. True accountability will never take place with the incomplete information these imperfect methods provide.
3. Accountability reaches across the organization. Homebuilder CRM software will enable more department-wide accessible information across the organization, not just for the sales team:
- Marketing will be able to analyze the effectiveness of individual campaigns and determine which efforts brought in the most quantity and best quality of leads. They can also re-evaluate which campaigns haven’t had a strong impact, and tweak them for better results.
- Customer service reps can take detailed notes on each contact they have with a buyer, thus building a deeper relationship that extends beyond contract signing through to occupancy and beyond.
- Executives get easier access to meaningful information without tying up the sales team in long-winded meetings and redundant reporting. This frees them up to spend their time where it is most needed – the activities that drive sales.
When you think about the importance of accountability as being fundamental to your CRM strategy, keep in mind that up to 80% of sales leads go stale, are lost, or are simply never followed up on.* That means as many as eight out of ten leads for a new home community, whether delivered via the project’s website or walk in traffic to the sales center, do not receive the attention they need to convert them into home purchasers.
Success today requires the understanding that “accountability” is a good word. The steps above will narrow the gap between fumbled leads to properly executed follow up, and result in more conversions to purchasers.
*Statistics provided by The Yankee Group, a consumer trends research organization