Building a successful sales strategy starts with self awareness, according to several experts in the title insurance industry.
Bob Skalstad, executive vice president and principal, Corporate Management Advisors; and Jeff Krider, vice president of operations for United One Resources, shared their views on this topic during the third annual National Settlement Services Summit in Cleveland on June 19-20.
“You have to understand who and what you are, ” Skalstad said during a session on how to take share in a shrinking market.
“Do you have a business plan? Do you have a sales plan? Do you have a marketing plan? Is it marketing or sales? Do you know the difference?” the panelists asked attendees. “They have to coexist but they are two separate things. ”
Skalstad emphasized that in a constricting market, it’s important to take a defensive sales position to protect the book of business you have.
“If you are not calling on every one of your customers right now, there’s a high probability you will lose, ” he said. “And the reason why is that your competitors are out there doing it. ”
He added that it’s important to understand “your customers are in the same position you are. The reason your sales are slow is because their sales are slow. ”
They noted that understanding your customers’ mindsets and needs is key to getting and keeping their business.
For example, they suggested putting together sales packages that address ways your customers can do their business better and grow, such as addressing how your customers can help homebuyers can take advantage of adjustable rate resets, or if a customer wants to go into FHA, help them understand the steps they need to take for FHA certification.
“Have your sales guys out talking to their customers, ” Krider said. “Become an asset to your lenders. ”
“You’re going to look just like everyone else if you go in and start talking widgets, but you will build a good relationship if you go in and start talking about their business, ” Skalstad said.
Krider suggested using customer spec sheets to keep a detailed account of what their expectations are “so there are no surprises on either side. ”
Krider also pointed out that it’s important that sales people have a clear understanding of what they can sell.
“If you have client expectations for products you don’t have, you don’t have a client, ” Krider said. “Or you need to retool your company to offer those products. ”
In terms of internal processes, Skalstad and Krider said it’s important to work on your company’s sales culture.
They asked attendees what kind of culture they had in their companies, and one attendee said his company’s attitude was basically, “sell or die, ” while another said that in their company, “everybody is a salesperson. ”
Regarding this, Skalstad said that often, it’s the processors and secretaries who do more to help a company’s sales culture than the sales guys, because they are the ones handling the customer’s business needs day in and day out.
Krider said it’s important to cultivate a culture of teamwork between sales and operations people, so that they are collaborating on customer service as opposed to competing with each other. And keeping operations people in the loop on what the sales people are doing is key to building that culture.
“Rubber meets the road in the processing department, so you need to keep processing involved, ” Krider said.
Skalstad suggested having sales and operations people make joint calls on large accounts to map out the plan and get everyone involved.
One attendee said he had a problem in his company with sales and operations people constantly haggling over what percentage of the commission on a sale they should get, because each played a role in closing the deal.
“I’m constantly adjudicating, ” he said.
Krider said that an easy way to solve that problem is to institute a “sales scorecard” system, which gives each party “some way to quantify what they’ve done and how they’ve done it. Each gets a percentage based on how much they’ve done. ”
In terms of hiring new account managers, Skalstad said that it’s important to recognize what kind of company you have, what your company needs and the type of person you need to fill that role.
There’s a big difference between account executives, major account executives and national account executives, Skalstad pointed out. He noted that many companies don’t understand what kind of person they need to manage their market footprint, or what kind of person is going to fit the personality of the organization.
Jeremy Yohe is the editor of The Title Report , the title insurance industry’s up-to-date market intelligence publication. The Title Report provides knowledge regarding insider stories, interviews and company performance to assist in making important decisions in a changing workplace. The Title Report is a publication of October Research Corp , the nation’s premier provider of real estate news and analysis.