Monday, January 12, 2015

A Moment of Silence for the Death of the Modular Home Factory "Sales Rep"

Objective Management Group, a testing and evaluation company located in Westborough, MA, found that three-quarters of people that work in sales simply cannot execute their job.

Those conclusions are based on over 700,000 evaluations of salespeople over the past 24 years.

At first glance it seems shocking that there could be a profession in which three-quarters of practitioners are inept. If the same ratio were applied to medicine, we’d have patients dropping dead all over the place.

But the numbers make sense when you consider that most people who go into sales have no formal training about how to sell. They didn’t major in sales at college, or even take a course in how to sell.

How many professions are there where there’s almost no formal education at all? Marketing people get marketing degrees. Engineers study engineering. CFOs study accounting. But with sales, “people think you can just wing it.”

At first glance the numbers suggest that “winging it” isn’t working but that’s not quite the case in the modular housing industry.

The term “salesperson” is misleading in our industry. Factory salespeople really don’t make sales, builders do. Builders order homes from their factory “salesperson” who then begins the process of converting a raw order into a finished home ready to ship to the builder. No sales effort is needed.

I’ve seen sales reps called Regional Sales Managers, Regional Territory Representatives, Sales Representative, Business Development Manager and Account Executive. The term that is most like the actual job is probably “Account Executive.”

Let’s step back and see if a “Sales Rep” is the right term to use for these factory people.

First, let’s look at the term “selling.” It has many meanings but the main ones are:
  • Make people want to buy something
  • Persuade somebody of something
  • Give up something for money
  • Offer something for sale

If being a factory sales rep were that easy anyone could do it. But the truth is that factory sales reps don’t sell. Yes, they offer things but that is only after the builder has “sold” a home to a customer. Without that initial sale, everything else is meaningless.

What, you may ask, is the function of the factory sales rep if it isn’t selling? That answer is quite complex as every factory wants different things from the rep with actual selling nearly always being at the bottom of the list.

Typically, a sales rep’s job covers these basic areas:
  • Builder retention
  • Consulting
  • Advising
  • Order processing
  • Follow through of orders
  • Tracking production
  • Information Dissemination
  • Problem solver
  • Shipping coordination
  • After delivery problems
These are just the big ones. Nowhere on that list is selling. And to complicate matters even more, the Account Executive (sales rep) has to do this list of things for every single house and every single builder, sometimes juggling dozens of projects every day.

There are only two times that an Account Executive has to put on their sales hat. Once to “sell” a new to modular builder that having a home built in a factory is better than site building and the second time is convincing the builder that their factory is the best one.

Other than those two times, the job of the Account Executive is a high pressure, no prisoners taken job that can make or break people in our industry. Falling behind on any part of the job will soon become apparent to both the Sales Manager and the Builder. If it happens too often you may be asked to leave the company.

Oh, if only sales were the only part of being a sales rep, life would actually be quite good.

Now let’s take a look at your business card. If it says “Sales Representative”, what message does that send to builders? Ask your Sales Manager to change your title to Account Executive. It reflects more accurately what you do.


Anonymous said...

Coach, I read the headline and thought you were out of your mind but afterwards I was surprised by your insight into what I what I done every day for over 20 years. Account Executive. I like the sound of that.

George Morgan said...

I have been a sales rep, factory rep, account executive and whatever other names that would apply for 28 the description you did not mention that we need a working knowledge of EVERY DEPARTMENT IN THE PLACE so we can efficiently work with them. You have to know how pricing works, what they need to price up an item, how accounting works for various transportation works, how productions works , and on and on and on...I sometimes feel like I am an interpreter of a huge pile of information given us by the builder and turning it into a language the factory can understand and build correctly to. If there were a college class in Modular Homes Sales it would have to be labeled " I have to learn all that " 101