Tony, in your LinkedIn Discussion, you asked the question, “Are manufactured housing pros today truly 'trained' to sell new MHs?”
Unfortunately, the answer is (for the most part), “No.”
When the tidal wave of a slowing economy, a major downturn in housing starts, an skyrocketing number of foreclosures and lower site-built mortgage interest rates hit, we saw the biggest sales collapse that I can remember in over 20 years in and around the industry.
It's sad, but when most companies experience lower sales, the FIRST thing that goes are the things they list as "nice to have" items, like training.
Great companies invest in MORE training during economic downturns, to ensure that they have the best chance of selling to every Client that walks through the door. IBM is a great example of this.
The training that DOES occur is typically in-house training, where companies are most likely to become myopic in their view of the industry. And, when this happens they revert to teaching the things that worked in the past, which they find aren't effective in TODAY's market; which also reinforces the idea that “training doesn’t help.”
This is a HUGE problem, because today’s market is dramatically different than the industry of yesteryear.
OVER 90% OF ALL HOME-BUYERS (Including Manufactured Housing Clients) DO THE MAJORITY OF THEIR SHOPPING ON THE WEB!
And virtually 100% of the BEST BUYERS shop via the Web.
Most dealers don't seem to be aware of this – or if they ARE – they don’t know how to use the Internet to attract the attention of the best buyers.
If they don't have a compelling marketing message – if their website and associated social media sites aren't professional and appealing – then potential Clients see that dealership as amateurish, and never "convert" (that is, click through and ask to be contacted by a salesperson), much less visit that sales center.
When a good buyer DOES contact a dealership, the sales professionals have to know how to use multiple modes of communication to engage that Client.
They have to be professional, credible, and competent on the phone; with email; and with social media to create a "three-dimensional" relationship with the customer.
When the Client believes they've found a credible company, sales professional, and the right home, THEN they will come to the sales center to COMPLETE the purchase process. This means that sales and marketing are now a combined effort and that…
THE SALES PROCESS HAS CHANGED IN A MAJOR WAY!
Whether the industry wants to believe it or not, this has become a Web-Driven market, and sales professionals have to be good at using the tools and techniques that work in this new environment.
Training that addresses these and many other changes in our marketplace is virtually non-existent; and most of the training that IS available is dated and out of step with today's market.
In addition, most manufacturers and/or dealers are exceedingly reluctant to invest in training.
The manufacturers that have big backlogs believe that if they build a better, cheaper product, that they will ALWAYS have a big backlog.
Those that DON'T have big backlogs think that PRODUCT is the answer – not training.
They believe the problem is that they haven't found the winning combination of features, benefits, and price point. Therefore their efforts and money are invested in product development, not sales force development.
They don't understand how important it is to invest in Web-based marketing and associated training.
The net result of this is that many existing retailers will suffer and die on the vine, and new ones will come and go. And, when the next big downturn hits the industry, manufacturers and retailers alike will be poorly-prepared to deal with it, because they will not have invested in the single most powerful marketing and sales tools in existence:
A strong digital media marketing presence
And great sales training to build the skills needed to bring great prospects in off the Web; and then to convert the sale, once they have the Client on-site.
I love this industry! It provides housing for a socio-economic group that will always need affordable, good quality, energy-efficient, attractive housing.
But the industry continues doing the same things it's always done – even though the market has changed in a dramatic way.
There was a good book written by Spencer Johnson in 1998, "Who moved my cheese…" The theme of the book (a shifting marketplace) strikes at the heart of the manufactured housing industry today.
My greatest hope is that a few manufacturers & dealerships will recognize the need for major change, and will invest in both Web-based marketing AND in modern, market-relevant sales training; both of which would help the industry increase its share of the housing market. ##
The Carpenter Consulting Group,
previously with Oakcreek Homes