Barbara Corcoran on Ways to Build a Super-Charged Sales Force

Barbara Corcoran

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Few entrepreneurs know how to grow a business into a multimillion-dollar powerhouse better than Barbara Corcoran. So it's only fitting that the founder of the successful real-estate firm The Corcoran Group offered up the keynote address at Entrepreneur magazine’s 5th annual Growth Conference in Dallas last week.

The event drew in close to 700 attendees -- mostly eager to hear of Corcoran's business blunders and travails, as well as her dazzling-success story. If you don't already know, Corcoran -- famously, at this point if you watch Shark Tank -- built up her towering New York City real-estate firm from just $1,000. After 30 years in business, she sold the company for $66 million.

But rather than offer the standard advice about passion, execution and innovation to conference attendees -- some of whom hailed from such far-flung places as the Ukraine and Brussels -- Corcoran opened up. Not only did she talk about being that awkward kid growing up in New Jersey, she unlocked the vault by revealing several of her top sales tips.
Here are just three of the stand-outs:

1. Hire the best, but keep testing their mettle. While at The Corcoran Group, Corcoran had a rule: sales staffers in the bottom 20 percentile would get the ax. Seems kind of harsh, but if you consider that her company's lifeblood was the buying and selling of real estate, it's understandable. In her paraphrased words: A company is only as strong as its weakest performers.

2. Be creative. Sometimes, you'll be asked to sell things that no one else would touch. If you're successful, your reputation, along with your bottom line will grow. Corcoran described the time when she was asked by a developer to help him sell more than 60 apartments that were in various stages of disrepair. Huh. She thought: No way! But after learning that her company was facing bankruptcy if she didn't ring in some new sales soon, she got creative. Her strategy? A flash sale, which at that time wasn't exactly the vogue sales strategy it is today. All of the apartments sold in a matter of days.

3. Have fun. To keep hard-working sales staffers -- and employees, in general -- happy, you have to have fun. Also a must -- if you're talking about rather Machiavellian types (a.k.a. sales types) -- is bonding. For this reason, Corcoran would regularly throw wild events and parties that people even outside of the company would angle to attend. In one instance, there was a ball in which all of the attendees were required to cross dress. How's that for bonding? 

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