Tuesday, May 31, 2011


As an observer of the modular home industry for quite some time, I've seen my share of good sales people and not so good ones.  But what I find interesting, especially in the modular housing industry, is that sales people seem to be recycled from factory to factory whether they are good ones or bad.  Once a sales person gets hired and hopefully trained to sell for one factory, they are courted by other factories within a short period of time. 

Why this happens is a combination of things unique to our industry. 

First, and this is one of the biggies, there is usually only one star at every factory.  That special sales person that just continues to sell the companies homes to new home builders no matter what the economy is doing.  This is usually the first person that other factories want to hire away.  If the sales person is smart, and I assume these particular ones are, they won't jump ship but will start to make demands for things that will help them better themselves and their builders.

They will continue to make these demands until that time when the factory owner or management can't or more likely, won't tolerate any more of the reps needs and desires.  Then they pack their bags and within a month or two are selling homes to the same builders they already had but for another factory.  It is simply too easy to take the builder along with them.

Secondly, a modular home factory sales rep is usually a self taught individual in the ways of modular housing.  Looking back at the sales people who's path I've crossed over the years, not one of them had any formal company training.  All were self taught.  They devised their own methods of selling and learned their trade from other reps' mistakes.  Sales Manager "ride alongs" were few and far between and in most cases, they weren't any more prepared to be a sales manager than the sales rep was to be a sales person.

And last but not least, as with most sales reps in every industry, they very rarely talk shop with each other.  Don't get me wrong, they do talk to each other but it's usually just to complain about management and policy.  A sales person that doesn't complain is looked upon as an outcast by fellow reps.  Misery loves company but contented people walk alone.

So what can modular factories do to improve this situation?  Quite a lot actually.

As to the first item about every factory having a star, management must look at what that star's potential is for helping other sales reps.  The sales manager must work with the star to observe what they are doing for their builders, using that information to compile a set of ideas that can be passed on to others.  If the star is smart, and again I know they are, they will work with management to make the factory more successful which in turn usually means happier owners who make managers happy who can make everyone happy.  Share the happiness and the star won't be looking out the window searching for another company to join.

The second item is the easiest to fix.  Sales Managers need to start a training program to keep existing sales staff informed of good sales techniques and ways to improve sales.  If the sales manager is unsure what to do first, they simply need to pick one thing that is causing them some minor problem such as misquoted home options and work out a plan to correct it, them move on to the next small thing that needs addressed.

Once the little problems have been singled out and solutions found and beneficial results observed, it's time to move on to larger problems.  Trying to tackle everything within a short period of time is unproductive.  One step at a time.  Unless the sales person is a complete dolt, they will welcome some standards that help make their job easier and more efficient.

The last comment about sales reps talking to each other will never go away.  Complaining about the boss is inherent to sales.  My advice to sales managers...do your best, take responsibility for your mistakes, give credit where credit is due and soon those sales reps that spread gossip will be working for your competitor.  And isn't that absolutely the best thing that could happen!

If you are a factory sales rep and feel you are doing a good job for your factory and things always seem go wrong for you and your builders, then you have an obligation to search for new opportunities with another company.  The only thing you don't want to become is a retread just jumping from one factory to another looking for opportunities that were already available to you at your present factory.

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