I love to tell a good story. Just look back on my previous blogs and you can see a definite pattern of story telling abound. The fact is, we learn from stories. Maybe this is because stories are more easily digested over statistics or charts. So many times playing Trivial Pursuit I would come across some very interesting tidbit of information that I wanted to retain, only to forget it by the next day. But I can recall vividly the stories my grandfather would tell me on his factory floor and the lessons those stories taught…and I was only seven years old.
My story this week begins like this…
Several years ago, I was managing the sales for a new loft project. It was a better market than we have today, but that did not excuse the fact that the developer was making us work on Thanksgiving. The developer believed people would want to take some time after the traditional Thanksgiving meal, stretch their legs, take a drive…and look at lofts. So with a full sales team in place that day, we reluctantly opened the sales office at the regular time of ten in the morning.
Needless to say, traffic was slow that day. In fact, traffic was pretty much non-existent. We had one person stop and ask us for directions and another asking us if we knew what the bus schedule was for that day. As the day wore on, we cursed the developer. For all we knew, he was sitting in his big house with a roaring fire and a fine scotch in his hand watching football on his big screen while the smell of a turkey dinner permeated his entire house.
We walked the models several times and took notes on what needed to be fixed. We straightened the fake plasma television and rearranged the silk flowers while ensuring the cleaning crew was doing a more than adequate job of cleaning the tops of the cabinets and refrigerator for dust.
Models were assigned to sales people in what we deemed the “adopt-a-model” program, where an individual sales person would be ultimately responsible for the cleanliness of that unit for the remainder of the sales program. If a light bulb was burned out, it was their responsibility to replace it. If there was an item that had gone missing since the previous day, it was their responsibility to report the missing item and ensure a replacement was ordered.
When we were sure we had noted everything that needed to be fixed, polished and cleaned in each model, we then walked our critical path looking for trash, burned out light bulbs, and miscellaneous construction equipment that may have been left behind from the construction crews the previous week. We pulled out the vacuum and cleaned the carpet and used cleansers to ensure the windows were removed of any dust that may have settled from the construction site the previous day.
The path from the parking lot to the sales office was next, and we made sure every bit of trash was removed. We even pulled the small weeds that were growing in between the slabs of sidewalk. Trash bins were emptied, desks and monitors cleaned, displays and topo boards wiped down. We even found caps for pens, and storage for miscellaneous binder clips and notepads.
With housekeeping out of the way, we focused next on role playing. As a manager, I had often found many sales people did not feel the need to practice their profession. I, on the other had, firmly believe in keeping the pencil sharp. Even the best sports teams continually practice on a regular basis.
The role play exercise became a game to us. We started to write down all the objections we could come up with and the answers we could use to overcome those objections. Everything from the pricing being too high, to the proximity of the train tracks and the noise from the train…we covered it all, and by the end had the answers for everything.
We then began to plan our strategy for the remainder of the year. Most new home sales agents will tell you the two worst months to sell are August and December. But with a year end sales bonus in question and a number of units we needed to sell to realize that bonus, we could not let December be a slow month.
Tearing apart remaining inventory and comparing it to what had already been sold, we devised a strategy to get us where we needed to be by the end of the year. We looked at the marketing budgets and wrote down our marketing recommendations to coincide with public holiday activities which would draw more people to the area. A phone outreach campaign was put in place to touch base with every prospect that had registered with us since the sales office opened, and a letter writing campaign was set to follow.
Before we knew it, it was time to close the sales office for the day. We were all extremely satisfied and exhausted from the work we had accomplished. Each of us left the sales office that evening with a renewed sense of commitment for the development and accountable for what needed to be done, both in the short and long term.
I gave thanks that Thanksgiving night to a dedicated and committed team. As the manager, I considered myself lucky to be working with these individuals. After selling one of the penthouse units a week or so later, the developer called me a hero. Oddly, I never considered myself a hero…I simply worked in the company of heroes.
In the end, we missed our bonus goal by one sale, which happened to fall out of escrow the week before the sales goal deadline. Though we did not receive the bonus that time, we were able to convince the developer to carry over the bonus and add it as part of the end of development bonus…which was agreed to by the developer on condition that we would sell out two months sooner. One month before that deadline, the final home closed escrow.