Tuesday, April 12, 2011


We've all met the sales person that far exceeded our expectations and we've also met the ones that failed miserably.  But trying to figure out why one excels and the other doesn't has been a question that has been in search of an answer for centuries.

The sales training business is a multi-billion dollar market that shows no sign of slacking off.  You would think that someone would have figured out how to create the perfect sales training book by now.  Sorry!  We're all still looking for the magic beans that will take us to the gold.

There are some fundamental problems that contribute to sales people working below their potential and it doesn't matter if they are modular home factory reps or sales people working for the modular home builder.  The problems are similar.

First, hiring a new sales person is a crap shoot at best.  If you try to hire from a competitor, the really good ones that make a lot of money for themselves and their employers will be hesitant to make a change, so you are left with the second tier sales person.  Now there is nothing wrong with these sales reps that a little hands on training wouldn't help. But that brings us to the first reason that Johnny or Jane can't sell.

The sales training that these people get from the sales department and sales manager is not adequate to develop the skills necessary for the position.  I've seen "new to sales" people told to just go out into the plant and watch what is being built.  Then they are given a desk, a phone and some leads and told to make some appointments.  The actual sales training part is always OJT.  It is like being thrown in the pool and told to swim or drown.  Most sales people drown.

Another reason they fail is there is no criteria set by the sales manager to judge their performance.  The only thing the sales reps are told is to meet is their sales targets....or else. 

For a new sales rep with no builders or even leads, this learning curve alone could take months.  And when they finally do get to work on finding builders and getting the first quotes, it could be another 3-6 months.  Then add into that process the time the builder needs to actually work with their customer and you might have as long as 3-6 more months.  And the entire time the new sales rep is trying to figure out if this is really what they want.

It's interesting that most sales managers don't sit with their reps and find out what is ailing them about their job.  If a doctor looks into their waiting room and sees all the sick people there, he doesn't say to his nurse "Give them a brochure on healthy eating and I'll see them next month".  So why do sales managers and modular home builders look at their sales staff and say that everyone needs the same shot of medicine to increase sales.  Ridiculous!

Sales Managers that are not allowed to spend time with each individual sales rep on a regular basis and help them improve their sales skills will always be on the lookout for the next sales rep.  

Owners are the key to improving sales reps.  They must encourage their sales manager to use the best tools available to help improve each individual sales rep.  Invest in them and they will stay with the factory or builder longer and be more loyal.  Helping someone become a better sales rep is an ongoing, individual thing that everyone wants.

It isn't the sales rep that fails, it's how management helps them succeed.


Anonymous said...

Excellent Blog on Sales Training, or lack there of....we are in an industry with a very long sales cycle. By the time a deal gets done and the home delivered, market conditions can radically change making the next long cycle even more challenging. Is there anyone out there committed to long term?

Modular Home Place said...

Coach, I find it very interesting how little time and money a modular home factory spends developing salees sustem. Most modular home factories spend most of their time developing the back of the house and little time on the very front of the house or the sales department.

I was thrown in the back of the house for two weeks and then sent to upstate New York to find builders. I was told to convert site builders to modular - The tools the sales person is given are weak at best. I had a limited product guide and my brochures showing the floor plans.

In the end, I found it easier to steal business from other factories than it was to complete the conversion.

The next factory I worked at did not even have a product guide - they had some manufacturer literature, floor plans printed on color paper and incomplete sample kits.

Another issue is sales people in the modular home industry spend a fraction of their time promoting and selling modular homes and more time processing orders.

Again, the factory will spend thousands of dollars on order processing software, but very little on sales materials.

If you compare what the modular sales person has to offer a builder compared to a big box hardware store. Selling out of a big box is a lot easier than selling out of a little sample box with missing samples.

Give modular home sales reps all of the tools they request. Imagine if a factory eliminated power tools in back of the house. Give sales reps training, a system to work and the tools to make the system productive.

Anonymous said...

Modular Home Place....agree with your post. Factory Reps are administrators first and foremost.

Anonymous said...

Coach, I am not so sure I agree with your statement - "Sales Managers that are not allowed to spend time with each individual sales rep on a regular basis...."
I do not think it is a case of the Sales Managers NOT BEING ALLOWED to ride along with their sales reps rather a matter of them NOT WANTING to go it the field. They use all the available excuses of all the work they have to do in the office, etc. A GOOD sales manager fully understands the need to do "ride alongs" with his sales reps - especially new ones or under performing ones. How can they truly judge performance without experiencing what the rep is doing right and wrong. And to make matters worse how many of them have review meetings with new and under performing reps to find our their problems and needs? At best all the SM's do is read sales reports and too many of them simply have a secretary do that for them. They then just look at the calls made vs sales and if the numbers are not acceptable jump down the throat of the sales rep without knowing why they are underperforming.
A good GM will REQUIRE the SM to spend a good percentage of their time in the field with sales reps; or, at least have a sales training officer or asst Sales Manager do these field ride alongs.

Anonymous said...

The problem with managers in the modular industry is they under value the sales position. The industry needs proactive and visionary managers and must stop hiring manager "retreads" from competing companies. If you want sales professionals then offer attractive compensation packages, provide effective sales tools and eliminate the presumption that a salesperson is only worth $30K and 2%. If you pay peanuts you will only hire monkeys. Monkey see and monkey do. No wonder our industry never gains market share.