Incorporating an Online Sales Counselor (OSC) as part of your sales team is not a new concept for home builders, but it’s still surprising how many builders don’t use this model. Of course, I’m biased; prior to working at Lasso I was an OSC for 6 years and saw the success of the program. In addition to being an OSC, I also helped hire and train new OSCs who joined our team, and I launched an OSC program at another builder. Based on my experience, clients often ask me for advice on hiring tips and techniques so I thought I’d share some of my experiences.
If you’re considering using the OSC model to sell your homes, but you’re unsure about how to get started, here are a few hiring tips:
First Impressions Count. An OSC is not a secondary role so you need to be sure that he or she is the person you want to represent your company. Remember, prospects may talk to the OSC before they ever talk to your onsite agents or anybody else in your company. The experience that prospect has with the OSC can set the tone and a bad impression may result in that prospect going elsewhere.
Great Communication Skills are Important. It’s always great when you find someone with a great tone of voice, but remember, a big part of being an OSC is listening. You definitely need someone that is able to talk to anyone, but they really need to be a strong listener as well. When customers and prospects feel “heard” they are more likely to trust the OSC and your company. The OSC needs to be easy to talk to (a natural conversationalist) in order to help build rapport and trust at the beginning of the sales process.
During the hiring process it’s easy to uncover whether they are well-spoken and have good written communication skills based on the emails and phone interactions they have with you. If they establish an instant rapport (or a pretty fast rapport) with you and your colleagues during the interview process, I think it is safe to assume that they would be able to do that with your customers and clients.
Great Customer Service. So not only do you want someone who has great demeanor with people, you need to make sure they are also responsive to people who are inquiring about your project. Follow-up is key and fast follow-up translates into more appointments, and ultimately more sales.
During the hiring process you can get an understanding of what kind of follow-up they will provide to prospects by demonstrating how well they follow up with you. How well did they follow up when you first reached out about the position? Did they ask additional questions or send a thank you note following interviews? The interactions they have with you are good indicators of what they’ll be like as an OSC.
Grace Under Pressure. Being an OSC means managing a lot of moving parts and responding to a wide variety of things happening at one time. If you opt to hire someone externally, look for someone who has worked in an industry where they were expected to be immediately responsive to customers. They need to be able to prioritize and handle multiple requests simultaneously without feeling overwhelmed.
Self-Management. You need to ensure they are self-motivated because they won’t have standard hours. The person you’re hiring should be attracted to the flexibility that the role offers…but this can mean unstructured days which requires them to manage their own time efficiently!
One caveat: Most of the OSCs I’ve met fit a very similar profile–Type A, take control kind of people. They tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves and try to do it all. As a builder, I think that it’s important to make sure there is some type of work/life balance for your OSCs because they won’t do it for themselves. Their Type A nature makes them feel like they have to work 24/7.
Finding the right person to fill the OSC role is not easy–the job is not for everyone. Hiring the right OSC is like finding a unicorn, so when you find that person, you want to support them and be sure they are not overworking themselves (help them avoid burn out) so they feel appreciated and will stick around!
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
About the author…
Sara Williams is the Sr. Sales Director at Lasso CRM. Her 10-plus years of new home marketing and sales experience have included roles such as marketing director, marketing coordinator, new home sales manager, and senior new home consultant/online lead specialist. In January 2013, she won the NAHB National Sales and Marketing Council Gold award for Online Sales Counselor of the Year through her work at Heartland Homes.