Archive for December, 2011

Does the latest news about Sears have a message for Manufactured Housing retailing?

December 28th, 2011 1 comment

Sears Holdings, Inc has announced that Sears/Kmart will close between 100 and 120 stores in 2012. Pressure from Walmart, Target and Best Buy, among others, has been cited. As USA Today reported:

"But the big problem, analysts say, is Sears hasn't invested in remodeling, leaving its stores uninviting."
"There's no reason to go to Sears," said New York-based independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi, "It offers a depressing shopping experience and uncompetitive prices."
We all want to be proud of our business and location(s). But how often do we ask the question, how do we in manufactured housing look or appeal to visitors and potential customers?
Do we create curb appeal?
Do we create a message of great quality as well as value?
Once a customer arrives, do our sales and leasing offices as well as our new or pre-owned homes look inviting inside and out?
The fundamentals – the basics – of retailing apply to our industry the same as it does for others. The fundamentals of business and professional success should be part of our planning and execution.
If your location looks dreary, take heart. There are steps you can take and messages you can craft that can make a positive impact.
What you shouldn't do is have 'hope' as your strategy.
'I hope the economy turns around…
'I hope MH lending loosens up…
'I hope business gets better…
As a pair of winning football coaches interviewed on TV said recently, hope is not a play in our play book. You craft a plan based on your resources and market. Then you execute that plan as best you can. That is how every success or turn-around gets done!
For those who need a plan to market and sell more cash and good credit customers, check out this free upcoming seminar:
It is part of this winning line up of free business building seminars at the Louisville Manufactured Housing Show:
One of many lessons from Sears – which some predict will file for bankruptcy before the end of 2012 – is that you have to invest in your business and constantly adapt to changes in the market. Don't get stuck doing the same things the same way and expect a different result. That is the definition of insanity. We believe if you were insane, you wouldn't be on the website reading this blog post! Make a plan for success and work that plan. ##

Lazy vs. Professional Sales People

December 18th, 2011 1 comment

Sales is a profession. When it is done 'professionally,' one can earn the type of income that other professionals earn. Years before I was introduced to the sales of manufactured homes, I was fortunate to have been trained by an insurance sales professional. Though the products are different, every business is the 'people business.' So there were helpful lessons that made the transition to a tangible product sales easier.

One of the great lessons from that trainer was the difference between the disciplined sales professional vs. a lazy one.

Stop and think. Medical doctors routinely study the latest literature. They take annual update classes. They read daily in their field.

Attorney's keep up with the latest decisions in case law. Lawyers also have to take classes and update information. Good teachers must do similarly, auto mechanics have to keep up with the latest cars and their mechanical trends and so on.

So why do some sales pros sometimes behave as if they know it all and have nothing more to learn?

I spoke with a firm once where the conversion ratio of in the door contacts to closed customers was 1 in a 100. Ouch. As I observed the 'process' that was followed, it was quickly apparent why. Excuses to management were the type of selling that location's sales staff seemed to specialize in.

To be a sales pro who truly wants to earn a professional income, one must:

have a planned process – not a canned process – from initial contact to satisfied customer. Just as every professional sports team has there play book, but also practice how to ad lib a play, so too sales pros must drill on a process that routinely results in closed business.

Review every sales encounter. In the insurance business, I was taught that after every sales call, you stopped and did a quick review immediately thereafter. What went well? What went awry? How could it be better next time? Professional players watch film! Why not 'replay' the sales encounter in a studious, professional fashion, so you can learn what works and what doesn't?

Keep accurate records. Many firms have leaned the value of CRM (customer relationship management) software. A sales pro may be able to handle 20-30 prospects maximum manually and do 'well.' With CRM, hundreds can be in your data base and intelligently followed up. As important, don't lie to yourself or your company. Record and log every sales encounter. That means the 30 second one as well as the 3 hour one. You can't be your best until you – and your manager/coach – know exactly how your conversion ratios are going.

Stay up to date! As a young student of manufactured housing, I devoured every trade magazine I could get my hands on cover to cover. I listened and observed all the sales people around me. Yes, that meant the good ones AND the poor ones. What made the poor ones weak? What made the more successful ones good? I watched and took notes. I asked questions from those who would shoot straight with me. I wanted to be a sponge, and soak up all the Info on homes, product or industry news and strategies that I possibly could.

As a result, my personal best month was 15 homes sold at retail. 1-3 homes a week was a routine sales result, once I was 'in the groove.' I earned more after my first year in MH sales than my father who was a well published full professor at a major university and more than my older brother-in-law who was a seasoned pharmacist.

Managers, set an example of dedication to learning. Let your staff see you reading news and tips daily here on Then, you can look your look your staff in the eyes, and say, here is part of your daily drill. You should have them read Everything!


I leaned sales methods ranging from the Schwepfinger approach to many others taught by factories, trainers, books or audios that I invested in or where provided by companies I worked with. Over the years, I created my own system from what I felt was the best of what I learned, which included such gems as SPIN and SIB-KIS in selling. We could take a house wife with no prior outside sales skills and if she had the right attitude and drive, with an easy to learn, low key approach, have her selling 3-4 homes a month. Those who became proficient would do double that monthly or more. One gent who worked with me accomplished an amazing feat: during a one day open house, he wrote seven up, got all seven approved and closed all seven sales, plus those he did the balance of that month.

7 in a day! That's selling!

Sales people have the advantage, but only if they are professional, respectful, listen and are dedicated. Ask the right questions, listen to what people tell you. Listen to what they mean, not just what they say. Have the right intentions, to truly serve them, not just to shoe horn them into a house.

At the PEAK Retailer summit, which we will have recap of at the Louisville Show mid January 2012, one of the attendees made this powerful statement:

People are more interested in whether you care vs. what you know.

So true!

Combine true care for your customers, a true desire to serve them the way you would want to be served. Combine that with a prudent sales process that is user friendly and you will earn a professional income while enjoying the benefits of having happy customers. ##


post by
L. A. "Tony" Kovach, MHM  or 
Innovation – Information – Inspiration for Industry Professionals 

Office – 815-270-0500 or 

What comes before marketing and selling?

December 10th, 2011 No comments
Before marketing, before selling, comes planning and something that is so important that it can't be over-emphasized. It is "The Attitude Check."
I've seen great systems messed up by someone with a lousy attitude. I've seen mediocre systems soar due to good attitudes. I'll bet if you think about it, you have too.

There are good reasons why we have:

And other writers and resources like that on our "Attitudes determine your altitudes."

Get the attitude right, and you see opportunities. Get the vision for the opportunities, and you we will solutions your competitors (who don't have good attitudes) will miss.

Our author Mike Moore (the other Mike Moore! 😉 talks about checking your intentions, to make sure they are good. The right intentions can set the tone for all that follows.

Our writer Greg McClanahan has long shared stories that inspire and touch the heart. They tell us what good intentions look like, or what the consequences of bad or poor intentions can be. Keep in mind, Greg sells factory built homes! Think about it.

Zig Ziglar talks about attitudes too, and giving yourself a "check up from the neck up."

Start with your attitude. I used to have a card on my desk that said, "smile." It was a reminder to smile before I answered the phone. Over the years, it became a habit.

Smile. Check your attitude. Check the attitude of your team.

Feed your team good attitude building information, and everything else in marketing and sales that you do will prosper. ##

post by
L. A. "Tony" Kovach, MHM  or 
Innovation – Information – Inspiration for Industry Professionals 

Office – 815-270-0500 or 

The Art of Persuasion

December 7th, 2011 No comments

Some have called sales the art of persuasion. The truth in this statement finds its echo in marketing and advertising. In fact one may argue that much of human communication has to do with informing or persuading another; marketing again finds its echo in that reality.

Different products and services have their own unique sales and marketing cycles. Some products and services have very limited audiences. In housing, for example, there are those million or multi-million dollar properties. The marketing messages tied to that sort of product may not ring the phone every day.

Other marketing messages are designed to help keep a firm 'top of mind' vs. competitors in the same field. The idea is, when the time comes, you want to get the call from the prospect for that given message.

But when a product or service is designed for the masses and for routine consumption, then one should expect routine leads from your marketing efforts for it. So in such a case an ad that does not get a routine response, is a signal that the ad ought to be changed.

We know when we drive down a street often, the signs on that street become familiar to us. Sign(s) which at first attracted our attention, may over time become part of the background. Some sign makers have addressed this problem with electric signs that can be changed routinely. The latest promotion and a new, updated graphic grabs attention because the message changes. The analogy in advertising is that messages need to be kept fresh. When the response starts to wane, it is time to change it.

Some firms have 'seasonal' messages. Every month, there is a new theme to promote. Why don't more manufactured housing firms do the same? Valentine's Day, St Patrick's, Easter, Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th…all of these and more can be causes for a fresh promotion that keeps your message to your target audience appealing and top of mind.

The bottom lines are these. In your marketing effort, if your ad needs refreshing, if your message has become background to viewers, change it! Update it!

Monitor and track your results. Sometimes, you may learn that a series of messages works better than a single message, and rotating through that series helps keep you in a steady flow of prospects.

These may be 'basic' principles, but they are the basics for a reason! Do the basic well and routinely and watch your results grow. ##

post by
L. A. "Tony" Kovach