Being a sales manager requires a variety of skills. Some have a bigger toolbox than others. Meredith Chapman, Area Sales Manager of K. Hovnanian Homes, is one of these people who wields power tools when it comes to sales leadership—one of the reasons she was recognized as a “Forty Under 40” leader by ProBuilder. Meredith recently introduced me to a concept she calls “The Heartbeat Check”, which is worth sharing.
Myers Barnes: After being a new home sales consultant for eight years, you moved up to sales manager in 2020, when the housing market was going crazy. How did you lead your team during that challenging time?
Meredith Chapman: I remember my first 90 days. My approach has always been to coach to the person, not to the position. When I lead someone, and there is performance lacking, I start with the mindset first. I do The Heartbeat Check with each person on my team.
Myers: Are you checking to see if they’re still alive and kicking?
Meredith: I’m looking to see if your heart’s in your work. I’m going to send you an update every week, and if I don’t hear from you, I feel your heart’s not in it. I’m all about behavior patterns and strategy. So I’m going to Heartbeat Check you. More times than not, there’s something else going on in their life that is affecting their focus.
Myers: How do you know when their heart is beating more slowly?
Meredith: If you are self-aware of what’s happening in your life, you’re also aware of the people around you. When there is a change in pattern, I look to the person first. I ask, “How are you doing? How’s your girlfriend, husband, wife?” I watch them on social media. If I know their buckets are being filled, great. If not, I can coach the situation they’re living with. I’m here to be your mentor and leader. I want to know where your heart is. If you’re checked out, I can tell.
I did a Heartbeat Check with someone, because I saw the signs. I found out they were on the verge of divorce. I just knew from the change in behaviors.
When you invest in your people, you show them you truly care. They want to know someone cares about them, not the new home salesperson who works at such-and-such community.
Myers: I’ve heard you talk about work-life balance and the importance of getting it right. Do you also check that pulse?
Meredith: Yes, and it started from my own realization. At one time, I was good at work, but not balancing the other side of my life. You have to take the time to ensure you’re achieving balance. If there’s things in your life going awry, dial it back. Are you managing your time well enough during the day? People can need someone in authority to give them permission to step away from work. When I see that need, I remind them, “It’s ok to leave it till tomorrow.”
Myers: What results have you seen from this approach to sales leadership?
Meredith: When you’re hitting on all cylinders, you’ll enjoy coming to work and you’ll be successful. The Heartbeat Check can help people understand that selling homes is their passion— or, conversely, that it ISN’T and they need someone to give them permission to step away. If you have to make a decision quickly, it can be reactionary but if you keep doing heartbeat check, it’s easy.
Myers: What do you do when they are checked out?
Meredith: It’s ok to make the decision and move on. But you want them to leave of their own accord. I had to do a secret shop on one of my sales associates. His co-workers were very unhappy with him and his negative attitude, and I was fielding a lot of complaints. The information from the secret shop was shocking.
Myers: Did you Heartbeat Check him?
Meredith: Yes. I started the conversation in a positive way: “Let me tell you what you bring to our team.” I follow that positive opening with, “I want to understand where your head and heart are at.”
Then, if I have someone who is not a culture fit, like this one was, I explain, “This is why I don’t see a good fit here.” The intent is not to harp on someone as a bad person. Every time I’ve done this, they have voluntarily left.
Myers: So this system works for giving people a reason to stay or permission to leave on their terms.
Meredith: The top reason that people leave companies is leadership, or, more correctly, the lack of it.
Myers: If I were to do a Heartbeat Check on you right now, what would I learn?
Meredith: I’m living a wonderfully balanced life. I have a great team at work that I enjoy leading. My life is well balanced. Thanks for checking!