Thinking about outsourcing your sales? It’s becoming more and more popular in the building industry because doing so allows you to maintain a sales force without having to manage a team in-house. An outsourced sales team can provide professional marketing, sales and operational support to builders through all stages of the new home sales process. However, just like you would hire a new employee, it’s important to be comfortable with the decision to hire a sales company. After all, they will be an integral part of your company’s continued success. When outsourcing sales, ask these questions:
1. What is your/your company’s experience in new home sales and marketing?
Make sure that the company has experience with new homes, not just resale. Seek out agents with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) CSP, MSCP and/or CMP and MIRM designations, as they will possess the most knowledge on and strongest skills for new home sales and marketing. The National Association of REALTORS ® (NAR) also offers a host of professional home sales designations for professionals. Agents who hold these professional designations are current on the processes and trends of the industry and will be the ones with the greatest proficiency and expertise in sales.
2. Who are the team members and what is their experience? Who decides who works in our sales center and how will they be trained?
Make sure that you have some input into the hiring process for your communities. You should be a part of the process of deciding who will be sitting in your model homes or sales centers. Meet and interview the entire prospective sales team. You want a solid team, not just one or two strong individuals on your force. You’ll be spending a lot of time with and entrusting your product with these folks, so be sure that you are comfortable communicating with each of them and working with each person one-on-one. Relatedly, find out how they find and train their agents. It’s helpful to know their staffing philosophy: do they like to train new people or do they hire experienced veterans or a combination of the two? It’s important for every sales and marketing company to have ongoing training for its agents. They need to be well-versed in local real estate regulations and home building practices and know your product like the back of their hand.
3. What tools do you utilize in your market research?
Find out what tools the company uses for market research. They may use a combination of local/jurisdictional statistical data, NAHB and NAR research reports, proprietary tools, purchased data from research firms and analytics from other sources. Companies should be confident in the legitimacy of their data and should be comfortable sharing the data with you and most importantly, proficient at interpreting it. They should be able to address factors such as absorption, conversion and sales volume, along with buyer demographics and behaviors.
4. How will my site(s) be staffed? Full-time? Part-time?
Find out whether or not their staffing recommendations adequately align with your goal absorption rate.
5. What are the agents’ responsibilities?
Use this question to define whose responsibility it is to update the website, update your CRM or lead management system, keep inventory current, market and interact with co-op agents and other related sales and marketing tasks.
6. What kind of lead management system do you have?
Whether the company has a lead management system or whether you supply one, make sure the agents are using something more than just registration cards or an Excel workbook.
7. What type of reporting do you offer and how frequently will we receive reports?
It’s crucial to receive customized sales and traffic reports often and review them with the company. You want to find a company that is proactive about your sales and can provide weekly sales and traffic numbers along with a recommended action plan based on those reports.
8. How will the marketing be handled? Do you have a marketing team?
Although sales and marketing are different functions, they have to work together to be most effective. Make sure that you hire sales experts and marketing experts that can work well together. Just because the sales team does marketing on the side doesn’t mean they are the best candidate. If you need to, hire a separate marketing team.
9. Will you provide a marketing budget and plan? Who will be responsible for paying the marketing expenses?
Use this question to determine responsibility of marketing activities and the cost of each service that the company offers. Also outline who pays for what and how – whether you should expect to be billed to reimburse the company for expenses or if you will be responsible for paying them directly.
10. What are your expectations of your builders/developers?
Builders/developers are important in the sales process. Find out if the company will conduct regular meetings between the sales staff and builders just as often as they have meetings with your management team. Additionally, make sure the sales team knows the builder’s responsibilities in regards to sales.
11. What are your commission rates?
Commission rates vary around the country, so make sure what the company charges is fair and realistic in terms of the market environment.
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