Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Capitalizing on the Sales Office of the Future Today
In addressing the sales office of the future, the first criteria is to address the sales vehicle of the future.
|TOM RICHEY is the president of Richey Resources Co. (Houston), which specializes in the management and marketing of residential properties. For over 40 years, Richey has been involved in all aspects of the residential construction industry, including construction, land development, community revitalization, sales, marketing and advertising. He has been directly responsible for managing over a half billion dollars in new home sales.
In addressing the sales office of the future, the first criteria is to address the sales vehicle of the future. Just how will we reach future new home buyers? Will the sales office/model complex of today be the most - or least - effective in the days ahead? That we don’t know for sure, but there are some clue we can pick up from today.
Sales offices come in many different sizes, shapes and forms. Traditional offices include the free standing office spectacular, single or double wide modular, the garage or model home office and the shopping center or corporate sales office. Of the more mobile variety are the custom van - and the very portable - briefcase or laptop sales office.
There is one common denominator. The principal selling and educational message will be delivered via computer or CD-ROM technology. Picture, if you will, walking into a cozy, inviting room - much like your living room. The furniture is comfortable... the ambiance non-threatening... and no sales displays are in evidence. Instead, the environment speaks of comfort and rapport enhancement,similar to conversation pits. The ambiance area can be a separate room if traffic numbers are large or simply a great room execution. Or, it can be the media center of a mid to high-priced showcase home.
The sales person escorts the prospects to a sofa where the lights dim and a panel retracts from the wall. There on a big screen monitor is the vehicle for executing a community landfall fly-around... a community orientation flyover... a recreation facilities walk-through... or a plan- by-plan demonstration.
The ambiance builds trust and credibility - but best of all, it affords the salesperson the chance to relax the prospects in the aura of a learning experience. When relaxation coupled with trust and confidence sets in, the mind is opened - and when the mind is opened, the sale can often be closed.
The salesperson commences the presentation with some discovery topics including the price range of the home, the owners’ preference of one or two stories, the number of bedrooms and baths they would like to have and their room relationship and space preferences. He or she can then bring up any floor planning mandates, garage configuration preferences, multi-use room ideas, specific personalizations, storage considerations, desired drama, built-ins and the timing of the whole process.
From this Discovery phase, the salesperson works to an overview of appropriate product. Call it surfing the plan alternatives via 3D graphic technology on the big screen. The plan is related to lifestyle and family requirements and vice versa. A narrowing-down process commences until a one-of-a-kind floor plan is selected.
Next, a CD-ROM format dovetailed with the virtual reality plus the numbers crunching enables the prospect to visualize the various products and brand names for selection in kitchens, baths and glamour rooms. After a graphic review of Whirlpool and KitchenAid lines, KitchenAid is selected. Kohler is chosen over Sterling plumbing. Anderson over Marvin windows, etc. Prices for each inclusion are calculated as the process moves forward. From the base price of the home’s plan, another price is calculated of the home’s finished (selected) state. The tally becomes the sale price. (Note): This brings the additional profit to the builder on many of the architectural personalizations, where larger margins can be generated.
So, the home truly takes shape, augmented by state-of-the-art technology. Note that the product wall that is so important today remains. It is simply showcased in a high-tech format. For example, if the builder is using copper materials, he can prove its quality while showing the 50 year copper warranty seal. Or... if he’s using the Owens Corning System Thinking home, he can tally up which systems the homeowner wants built into his or her home. The technology lends itself well to a tie-in with manufacturers or suppliers.
Finally the buyer may want to visit the location benefits. These are visually depicted while 3D graphics provide insight into the sense of community via land plan and on-site amenities.
Next the buyer wants to meet the builder or the site superintendent called "Your Personal Builder". That’s all done electronically. If a specification list of exclusive building points is demanded by the left brainer, that is called forth with graphic bytes of each major product as necessary.
O.K. That’s fine, but what about the kinesthetic buyer? That’s why we have a showcase home suitably modeled at the mid-price point of the builder’s line. The new home sales counselor makes certain that he or she reinforces the computer presentation with a hands-on demonstration of the actual home. As always, it’s important to reinforce that this is just one floor plan of the other eight in the builder’s line, that we may have already visited in virtual reality.
From the showcase home, we can bridge back to the sales office for a site orientation, or go directly to the neighborhood itself for in-field involvement with homesite selections, and subsequent final closing and commitment.
While the sales office of the future relies on cutting-edge technology to make sales points, there is no substitute for a highly trained and motivated salesperson. Any builder contemplating the sales office and the technology of the future must budget time and dollars to insure that the salesperson is trained with the new selling program.
The bottom line is that the sales office dynamics of the future are the synergy of high-tech virtual graphics and reinforcing numbers, a demonstrated showcase home and professional salesmanship working in concert to deliver a well-defined buying experience, plus the dividend of a highly educated and motivated home buyer - who comes to closure!