How to Create a New Comfort Zone for Your Customers
What a difference a year makes!
It’s hard to believe a bit more than year ago we were in Las Vegas at The International Builders Show and Kitchen and Bath Show with over 100,000 of our peers from all across the globe. So many things that we did and enjoyed such a short time ago we wouldn’t dream of doing now.
This year the show was virtual, and despite some technical difficulties, it was a very beneficial and dramatically safer experience than it could have been otherwise.
As much as we all want “back to normal” it won’t be happening as soon as we’d like.
The good news is that this has been the year for more reasons than ever in which consumers understand that factory-built homes can be an excellent option for their new home. Being constructed in a controlled environment has a different, even more, positive message than it did even six months ago. I jokingly tell my clients that I have almost put myself out of business — they have been selling the homes that I have merchandised right off of the lot, furniture and all.
As a result, they have fewer homes to show. More homes are sold before they even arrive at the retail centers than ever before. As early as February, it became clear that the manufacturers have backlogs of orders that will keep them busy for the rest of 2021.
How do we use the tools that we have and keep the sales coming?
Your sales office is where you begin your in-person customer experience, perhaps the only physical tool you have for now to sell your homes. Here is a checklist of five things to evaluate within your home center or sales location when you are thinking about selling more homes in 2021.
1. Welcome Home
When a customer drives past your location, why are they driving past and not coming in? What incentive do they have to spend time with you instead of just doing a Google search and seeing your homes online? A well landscaped and welcoming sales center is a critical investment. Ensure that the paint or siding is fresh and that the office is easily accessible and ADA compliant. Do you have a porch area and furniture where you can sit outside and learn more about the customer and their needs while you look out over the new models? Is there room for more than one family member to wait for a sales team member without feeling uncomfortable?
Creating multiple greeting spaces is a priority right now.
2. First Impressions
When a customer walks up to your front door, are they greeted by an inviting, well-designed reception area, or is it furnished with sofas and furniture that came out of storage or from a model you sold long ago? The sales center should be one of the first things you think about, not an afterthought. An easy, inexpensive way to greet guests is to have a signboard at the door that you can use to welcome people who have appointments with you— greet your customer on the sign by name, like Welcome Smith Family! This makes your customer know you put time and effort into their visit and it encourages drop-ins to make an appointment next time, as well.
3. Moving on Up
Breeding discontent with a buyers’ current living situation is a subtle way to help them decide that it is time for a new home of their own. You want the finishes, furniture, and decor in your sales center to be just a step up from what your buyers have, not intimidating, but something they can aspire to. A sales office is a great place to partner with a local furniture store. I am a huge believer in marketing partnerships and giving a complementary company a place to showcase what they offer. This is a win for everyone, including your customer. In return, ask them to promote your business at their location just like you are happy to promote them.
4. Decision Makers
Treat your sales center like a sales center, not just a place that your sales team spends time between leads. Do you have inspiration or storyboards on the walls? Do you tell your story and why they should be comfortable and buy from you instead of the competition? When I was active in merchandising site-built homes, we often didn’t have an actual home to show prospective clients. We would use actual materials from our homes to build refreshment spaces or tables, the flooring that was available in our homes would be used on the floors in the sales center, and the wall colors would be ones that we currently offer in our homes. I would love to see manufactured home builders do something like this for our retailers.
Your closure room should be a celebration room; it is where the customers’ dreams come true! Is this a pleasantly designed space, or is it just a corner with old files stored around it? Please don’t let it be the place your team uses to eat lunch. You ask a customer to spend up $100,000 or more with you, please go as far as you are able to let them know they are special and that you appreciate them and their business. Stock a fridge with a non-alcoholic refreshment, like sparkling cider, and have disposable champagne glasses on hand. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate them making one of the most significant milestones in their lives. You and the entire family can participate!
The Palm Harbor Village Model Center in Plant City, Fla., is an excellent example of a well-designed sales center. It has tremendous visibility right on the frontage road of Interstate 4 and is the largest model center in Florida. It is in front of the builder’s manufacturing facility, and the 33 acres and 22 furnished model homes make quite an impression. I have visited a few times and it is always beautifully landscaped with a large lake in the front that some of the houses are sited around. They also do a great job on the website for the center. A factory tour video is highlighted so you can see how your new home will be constructed. There is a lot of information, and they have actual photos of the models at the center – all professionally decorated and displayed. I also love the scrolling “News This Week” on the site where they share and congratulate new Palm Harbor homeowners. It’s a creative, personal touch.
Now is a great time to rethink your sales office strategy for the spring selling season. Don’t be afraid to ask your team and customers for their input as well — a different perspective can make all of the difference in how your view the selling process.