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How to Build a World-Class Sales Team

September, 22, 2023
Finding and retaining top talent is crucial for any new home builder.

With the market becoming more restrictive over the last year, there has been a mini exodus of new-home salespeople around the country. As a sales leader, it’s important that you don’t wait until you have a vacancy to fill—you should always be recruiting and looking for top sales talent.

Start by evaluating your current sales team, and, if you have a salesperson who is continually underperforming, understand the damage in terms of both lost sales and reputation that you could be enduring as a result. We should always be looking to improve the quality of our team.

Finding Candidates

Since we believe that new-home sales follow the same principles as the retail and hospitality sectors, it makes sense to seek salespeople with selling skills and retail experience.

Look for coachable candidates who are excited to begin a career in home sales. You can find candidates who are in retail, car sales, rental communities, restaurant servers, and hospitality. Interestingly, teachers can often do very well in new-home sales.

Years ago, when hosting a recruiting event for a builder in Nashville, Tennessee, one candidate, Carrie, was successfully selling luxury handbags for a store in the mall. She clearly could sell and was looking for a better quality of life and went on to become a new-home sales star very quickly.

Another tip: If you have a top performer you wish you could clone, ask them if they have any friends who are looking for work. Birds of a feather flock together.

Mariah Threet-Cloyd won NAHB Sales Rookie of the Year in 2023.

Build a Bench—Hire for Potential

Many years ago, I was at a recruiting event at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and found myself chatting with the great championship-winning football coach Howard Schnellenberger. I asked him what he looked for when recruiting and he said: “Roland, I want them tall, fast, and coachable.”

I loved how simple his reply was and concur that “in new-home sales, we want great communicators who are passionate, persistent, and coachable.”

We have found countrywide that it is often hard to find the complete salesperson with all the skills you are looking for, but often easier to find someone with great potential who can join your team as an associate and then be trained and groomed to become your next top sales superstar.

I have had the privilege of working with Michele Scott, director of sales and marketing for Empire Communities in Charlotte, North Carolina, for almost 20 years. Scott has been diligent in hiring exceptional candidates to join her team of seasoned sales professionals and then training them in every facet of home sales before they are even considered for a promotion.

Scott role-plays with them, observes them with customers, and uses video shops to evaluate. I have watched many of the shops together, and the associate must have a very high score on their shop before she will even consider promoting them to a community manager.

This can be tough when the associate is good, but Scott demands greatness. As a result, she has built a team of exceptional sales professionals who replicate their success consistently in every single market condition.

When recruiting, follow a simple process, “love yourself enough” to stick to it, and don’t hire people that you have doubts over, who could risk sabotaging your success as well as undermining your team spirit and company culture.

Here is the process we teach around the nation:

  • Identify the needs: Always be “top grading.” Be proactive and not reactive by building a bench before you have a gaping hole with an unstaffed site that is costing you sales;
  • Find the candidates: Post ads on recruiting sites of your choice such as Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, and your website, and ask for referrals from top performers;
  • Review resumes: Look for signs of sales experience and actual provable success, coachability, emotional intelligence, and authenticity. Also, ensure no typos. Grade the resumes. My personal rule was to only interview those with a score of 7 out of 10 or more with my own scoring system;
  • Send questionnaires and review (optional): For those resumes that you approve, create simple questions and email them to the candidate as a first filter. If they are too busy to fill this in, they can’t be too serious about your company’s opportunity;
  • Social media and Google searches: Research and observe how candidates represent themselves publicly. Make sure there is no adverse content, and get a feel for how they will fit your culture;
  • Phone interviews: Create a short interview, with similar questions to the written questionnaire. If the phone interview doesn’t go well, then no need for a face-to-face interview;
  • Personality tests: Identify the ideal personality match for the sales position. DISC is the test that I have become accustomed to using and is often a good choice. However, there are many others that do an excellent job, such as PDP and Caliper;
  • Face-to-face interviews: Meet the candidates and have a template of questions like the phone interview, but more in depth;
  • Check references and background checks: This step is so often overlooked as it is time-consuming, but make sure you check as you don’t want any surprises. I worked with a builder in South Carolina who was shocked when one of their salespeople was arrested in a model home, as it turned out she was wanted in three states. Contacting one business colleague, one ex-boss, and one client if feasible is a good rule, and make sure you probe for strengths and candid weaknesses; and
  • Meet other team members/offer positions: Bring the candidate back to meet other team members, at a different time of day than the original interview. If all goes well, have the agreement ready and offer the position.

With all the builder clients that I work with, I also offer the service of a 30-minute Zoom call with their top sales candidates. We have found that the candidates are excited and typically honored that the company is taking recruiting so seriously, and we have managed to unearth some incredibly talented salespeople who are thriving around the country, consistently selling new homes at the highest level.

I worked with Tilson Homes, a highly successful custom builder in Texas, with a large team of salespeople. One of the managers, Pat Mayo, consistently had the best sales candidates. When I quizzed Mayo on this, he shared that it was the questionnaire that made the difference. He would only accept candidates that filled in the questionnaire and looked promising.

In 2023, Mariah Threet-Cloyd won NAHB Sales Rookie of the Year, which is a huge honor. Prior to joining Mayo’s team at Tilson, she was working in scientific research as a histology technician and tended bar. I had conducted a Zoom interview, and it was obvious to both Mayo and me that she could communicate at a high level; was passionate, internally motivated, and driven to succeed; and would be a great asset to the sales team.

Mayo’s diligence in following every step of the recruiting system, and refusal to take shortcuts, has helped create some of the finest sales talent I have ever had the pleasure of working with and coaching.

By Roland Nairnsey New Home Sales Plus

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