Talk Story with Stanford Carr

May, 2014

Carr, president of Stanford Carr Development LLC, has been named Hawaii’s Salesperson of the Year for 2014 by the Honolulu Chapter of Sales & Marketing Executives International. Carr says he has always been loyal to one key principle: Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, so you understand his needs. He has applied this mantra whether selling avocados on Maui as a boy or selling luxury condominiums in Honolulu.

You are president of a company that describes itself as an architectural-design and community-planning firm, yet you are being recognized for your skills in sales. How did that happen?

I was shocked and humbled, but I guess I’ve been selling all of my life, whether it be products, services or ideas. One of my favorite things to do is to be at the sales centers of the different real estate projects and meet with potential buyers. A lot of times they don’t even realize that I am the developer.

It is important for me to be engaged at this level because I can speak about more technical issues with clients. This knowledge then rubs off on the salespeople that are around. I like to lead by example, but we also bring in sales trainers. We all need a little polishing every once in a while, particularly in an industry where there are constant changes.

Who is your primary costumer and how does that impact your approach?

Our client base is very diverse. We’ve developed a broad array of properties, from buildings that are for local, low-income senior renters to luxury resort condominiums that are for second-home buyers from the mainland and Canada.

This is why it is always important for us to keep in mind who we are targeting, so that we can tailor our entire strategy. Real estate is highly emotional for people, so we need to understand our consumer and have a clear picture of what we are trying to accomplish.

We always consider the target audience when creating our messaging and logo, but also when we are planning the property features, so we include amenities that the customer will find useful and appealing.

Failures are an inherent part of any business. How do you avoid them?

The nature of our business is that your successes ride with the economic cycles. We have been able to insulate our business by diversifying. We were able to continue building through this recession, at a time when most companies couldn’t get debt financing or construction financing.

Avoiding blunders is all about risk management, but it is not always easy. I’m a big believer in doing your homework and knowing your business inside and out. I’m an index freak because it helps me in analyzing the economic future. We watch the stock market, the Treasury, the value of the dollar, inflation – a whole host of metrics to allow me to project where the economy is going in the next three years. Anything beyond this timeframe is a pure guess.

Which project are you most proud of and why?

The Peninsula in Hawaii Kai, with five different product types on 43 acres. I like to think that Henry Kaiser, who started the master planning of Hawaii Kai, would be pleased with what we ended up building on the last undeveloped marina-front piece that he started.

Because this was the last undeveloped marina front, we built five different types of properties. I felt it was prudent to afford people the opportunity with differing incomes and lifestyles to be able to buy into it.

When you were about 11, your mother bought 8 acres of farmland in Maui. What was your role in that project and how did it shape your professional mindset?

The farmer next door took me under his wing and began sponsoring me. He taught me how to drive the tractor, clean the fields and set up the irrigation. Rather than being a yard boy for two bucks an hour, I now had the opportunity to grow vegetables and earn real money and so I did.

This experience taught me about work ethic. It showed me that, in anything you do, what you put into it is what you are going to get out of it. If you don’t put in the time to work on your garden, you won’t get a good harvest. The same holds true in real estate.

What do all successful sales leaders have in common?

I think the most important aspect is for you to believe in the product, because it will allow for your passion and sincerity to shine through. You need to assure yourself that you would buy the product that you are selling, because people will be making one of the most important decisions of their lives and they will be turning to you for guidance.

How important is relationship building in sales?

It is everything.

(This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.)

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