A good sales center can motivate potential buyers to become homeowners through a balanced mix of sales tactics and development details. From what a visitor sees when entering the center to the sights, sounds and smells encountered throughout, every detail needs to be carefully arranged to make prospective buyers feel at home.
By Meghan Boyer
No matter the amount of money invested in them, all sales centers are orchestrated to please, but what developers need to know is how to mix the right elements together to strike a chord with potential buyers. Visitors can find scale models, fully- furnished room vignettes and floor plans in most sales centers, which means centers that stand out and motivate purchases have to create something greater: a residential environment that makes buyers feel at home.
It takes a skilled designer, a motivated developer, an eager sales team and a lot of forethought to create a sales center that is able to emotionally affect buyers and make a positive difference in sales. From client demographics to the region’s lifestyle to what a buyer sees when entering the center, every detail must be considered during planning.
The most effective sales centers balance sales and residential aspects without letting one aspect take over the other, says Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, president of Related Cervera Realty Services and broker for Trump Hollywood. “It’s a combination of elegance with good display areas while making people feel at home,” she says “The key is that it feels like a residential environment and not like a doctor’s or dentist’s office.”
If a sales center loses its balance and veers toward an extreme, it becomes less appealing to consumers. Sometimes a sales center can feel “so much like a residence that it isn’t a good sales tool,” says Cervera Lamadrid.
Making, Spending Money
There is no question that a sales center can increase or decrease sales, says Cervera Lamadrid. “We can safely estimate that 95 percent of buyers close in the sales office, so the appearance and atmosphere of that area is crucial,” she says.
Steven G, president and interior designer of Interiors by Steven G and designer of Da Vinci On The Ocean, agrees. “If it’s the only sales tool, it’s not important, it’s critical,” he says.
Though it takes money to make money, developers don’t need to break the budget with an extravagant sales center. A center should relate to a development project in size, scope and price, says Sonia Figueroa, vice president of the condominium division with The Related Group and a project developer for Trump Hollywood. “It all depends on the project, whether it is high end or not,” she says.
G agrees: “The higher the selling price of the unit, the higher quality product. You wouldn’t use the same product for a project that is selling for $250,000 that you would use for a project selling for $1 million a unit,” he says.
Every project is different, and the amount of money spent developing sales centers varies dramatically. Sales center costs range from $100,000 to several million, says Carmen Casadella, sales and marketing director for The Residences at Gansevoort South and Prodigy International.
For instance, Trump Hollywood’s sales center cost $2 million to develop, while Da Vinci’s cost $250,000, according to Figueroa and G, respectively. The center for EPIC Residences & Hotel cost roughly $3 million, says Martin Elortegui, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Lionstone Development, which is a partner on EPIC.
Emphasize Warmth, Comfort
No matter whether a developer spends $200,000 or $2 million on a sales center, there are a few necessities that need to be present, including the all-important homey, residential feel. Buyers need to feel at home and comfortable the moment they enter a sales center, agree industry experts. ‚”Customers want to buy when we have done a good job of conveying the overall feeling of living at the new building,” says Cervera Lamadrid.
Initial impressions are important, and developers should pay special attention to how the sales staff greets potential buyers and what they initially see when entering. “One of the key factors we consider is the vista the buyer sees as he or she enters a space,” says Alison McNeil, team leader with Yabu Pushelberg, the firm behind Trump Hollywood’s interior design and also St. Regis Bal Harbour.
To dispel any clinical, office-like feelings, developers should dispense with the traditional front desk, says Figueroa. At Trump Hollywood’s sales center, clients walk in and see a greeter at a low-level table with a painting hung behind it, she says.
G recommends eliminating all desks in sales centers. “Having desks in sales offices should never be. It’s dated and not comfortable,” he says. “We are not selling cars or writing a mortgage. It should be like sitting in your living room, comfortable and inviting.”
Service ranks among location, architecture and design as one of the most important factors in a sales center, according to Elortegui. From a warm greeting at the beginning to offers of refreshments, potential buyers should be given an exceptional level of service at the center. Since EPIC will be both a residence and a hotel, the developers stress service, Elortegui says. “We have valet parking and a full-time butler serving drinks at the center.”
An important detail that has made a huge difference in clients’ reactions to the sales center for Trump Hollywood is the presence of a welcome ambassador. “These individuals function almost like butlers by performing services such as offering beverages or snacks and offering general assistance and information,” says Cervera Lamadrid. “A warm, attentive receptionist is also critical for initial impressions,” she adds.
Appeal To The Five Senses
Sales center staff members, such as greeters and welcome ambassadors, can help developers appeal to potential buyers at every sensory level.
To provoke their taste buds, visitors to the Trump Hollywood sales center are offered drinks and snacks, such as wine and cheese, from the bar area. Every afternoon, the staff bakes cookies in the center’s functioning kitchen to let the fresh-baked aroma permeate the center. Fresh flowers also can add pleasant aromas and visual interest to a sales center.
Center lighting should never be harsh or garish. At Trump Hollywood, all the lights have dimmers on them, says Figueroa. This enables the sales staff to create different types of ambiance, whether they’re giving a private dinner for potential buyers or walking an interested couple through the center.
Sound, too, plays a role. Silence may be golden in some situations, but not at sales centers. “We normally select music as background to the video presentation that plays on the screens. Lounge-chill music with a beat is our preference,” says Casadella. “The sound, as all the other senses, helps customers on their immersion in the Gansevoort world,” she adds.
The materials used in furnished room vignettes should convey texture and comfort, says McNeil. A sense of comfort, particularly in the furnishings, makes a center more user friendly for buyers, and quality of finish and details is one of the key factors designers consider when planning sales centers, she says.
Show Buyers Every Detail
From the cabinet finishes to the view from the balconies, buyers want to see exactly what they are purchasing, says G. Room vignettes, scale models, virtual tours and images of actual views from the project all serve to dissect the development’s details for buyers.
It is important to start each potential buyer’s tour with photos of the views, says Casadella, stressing the importance of layout in a sales center. The sales team should then explain where the project is located, show a model of the building and finish with interior details, she says.
While G agrees that center layout is important, he does not believe aspects need to be introduced in a specific order. “There is no order as long as the flow and space is functional and you don’t have to backtrack or walk in different directions to see what needs to be seen,” he says.
Furnished room vignettes are important selling tools, agree sales center experts. “It is important to show a real kitchen and bathroom because when you sell an apartment on a floor plan, most customers want to have a better idea of what the apartment is going to look like,” says Casadella. Gansevoort South’s sales center includes decorated model units in addition to room vignettes.
As much as a great sales center showcases the features inside a new development, it also conveys the lifestyle one would experience by living in the area. “You have to bring the lifestyle of the project into the sales center,” says G. Accomplishing this starts with research: “What would make the buyer want to live there other than the beautiful interiors? What does this project have that others don’t?” G asks.
Centers need to feature details about the neighborhood, agrees Cervera Lamadrid. The best-selling features of Trump Hollywood’s sales center are the decks in the front and back, she says, adding that the decks speak to the Florida lifestyle. “Buyers can sit on couches on the deck and watch the water. That very much mimics the feels from an apartment terrace,” says Cervera Lamadrid.
EPIC’s sales center features a rooftop deck where the staff holds buyer events, says Elortegui. “Nothing can compare to relaxing on our rooftop deck. It really gives prospective buyers the sense that they’re home,”Äù he says.
Interactive media, such as virtual tours and touch televisions, are some of the latest trends in showing buyers a development’s details, says Casadella. Figueroa agrees: “Virtual tours are very important,”‚Äù she says. “It places your buyers inside the unit so they can experience the views and the spaciousness.”
Scale models of the building and surrounding areas also allow potential buyers to see the beach views from the development and the amenities outside the building, says Figueroa. At Trump Hollywood, sales center visitors also can see exact views of the beach from two back-let panels in the model room, she says.
Many of the trends seen in sales centers today will continue in the future, say some industry experts. In fact, they are likely to intensify. “I think at this point not only is the sales center becoming more sophisticated with interactive and virtual tours that can place you in a unit, but I think a trend will be more and more toward showing buyers what they’re buying,” says Figueroa.
Centers will continue to see top-of-the-line technology, luxurious materials, modern furniture and attentive service, adds Casadella.
G sees sales centers continuing to include forward-thinking designs that make potential buyers feel at home, but disagrees with the idea of trends at sales centers: “There are no trends in sales centers,” he says, noting that each designer, developer and sales team works to create the best, functional center for potential buyers.
Alicia Cervera Lamadrid
Related Cervera Realty Services
President and Interior Designer
Interiors by Steven G
Sales and Marketing Director
Residences at Gansevoort South and Prodigy International
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Vice President of the Condominium Division
The Related Group