Building a good sales engine is both a science and an art. Unfortunately, there are few places where one can get information about this topic. Specifically, in the real estate industry, there is a lack of access to industry best practices. In our experience of working with over 3000 real estate sales and marketing professionals, we have seen some great models. For this article though, let us focus on the different functions in the sales process – what it means in terms of work needed and how to distribute that work.
Before we begin, let us highlight that the “one-person-does-everything-in-sales-process” model is definitely obsolete. The reasons behind its obsolescence are several: from the advent of better time management principles, increase in salary expectations of tenured sales professionals and logistical issues where traveling back and forth between corporate and site offices is no longer feasible, longer sales cycles to increased competition. In recent times, a new framework of team structure has emerged that distributes the sales function across two or three groups. Here’s what the components look like:
1: Pre-Sales (A.K.A Inside Sales/Business Development)
The pre-sales teams are responsible for registering leads, qualifying them, providing the first level of information and scheduling a site visit. You can search for any job posting website to find that the real estate industry is recruiting heavily in this area. Modern marketing practices, when successful, produce leads more efficiently and in larger numbers and at lower costs. These leads are at different stages of their purchase cycles – ranging from not really knowing how to define their own needs to someone price shopping for a limited set of options from as many places to drive a better deal. Since this bears a huge toll on the sales system and requires constant communication, organizations today are building teams just to focus on attending to new leads, qualifying, classifying and sanitizing the sales funnel.
Of course, everyone knows that you need wheels to get going. So this role obviously will never go away – although, the demands from this role are changing dramatically. The sales function today has to deal with a very well informed customer. Of course, some of this online information is incomplete and causes delays and unwarranted friction in the sales process. Nevertheless, the prospect of today is well informed about his/her choices and will compare these till there is an analysis paralysis. To top it all, deals are getting complex by the day due to economic uncertainties, change in industry regulations and a general shift in weight to brand names. In order to stay relevant, the sales team is required to be as tech savvy and informed as the prospect. With an Inside Sales team in place, the sales team gets the bandwidth to focus only on progressing and closing valid leads.
The marketing function, like sales, is well established in the real estate industry. Gone are the days when the best sales reps became marketing managers. Modern marketing is a specialized trade and one that is seeing a digital revolution like never before. At this point, the marketing team’s number one KPI is an online lead generation. Which could seem a bit unfair, but it does seem that this result is expected from the marketing team more than brand building, media planning, and creatives. The marketer’s of today boast not only of old world media credentials but also SEO, SEM, online advertising, advanced analytics and new forms of e-marketing.
4: Channel Partner Management/ Central Teams
This is the new warm and fuzzy division in certain geographic parts. While managing channel partners was always an important function in the organization, today it has become more centralized and more isolated from direct sales. The channel management teams recruit, manage and drive sales only from channel partners. There are several good channel partners today that completely defy the stereotypical “broker” of yesteryear. With the channel partners going digital and tech-savvy there has been a new push to have specialists in the Real Estate community to dedicate staff in growing and nurturing these alliances. If you wish to stay updated on current best practices in Channel Partner management, then you can read our post on effective ways of serving the needs of channel partners.
The management teams of today are also not devoid of action (read fire). They are expected to prepare forecasts, drive channel strategies, plan marketing, and ensure every prospect has been followed up with. There is a report for each and every aspect of the sales and marketing process and the management team is expected to keep a keen eye on what is leading and lagging on a real-time basis. With more and more professionals from other industries joining the real estate industry, the management principles are on par with those industry peers. It is no longer surprising to see top listed, B School management graduates at medium-sized real estate companies, working their way from middle to upper management. And neither is it shocking to see management team members in their 60’s wax eloquent about their knowledge of IT backed systems or globally accepted management methodologies.
Everybody seems to have embraced the new change – the change that does not have shape or form – it is just defined by the constant flux. The future will see more clearly defined roles, deeper expertise will be needed from individuals and a much broader set of functions that would all need to be synchronized to make the machinery work.