Archives for category: Sales Office

I’ve been designing, project managing and delivering sales offices for my clients for near on 20 years and while I know what goes into the best of sales offices, I also have some pretty strong ideas on what should be jettisoned. Here we go:

1. Two cheap laminated desks staffed by bored guys with bad comb overs and stained ties

I grew up in Newcastle. This piece of information is vital to understanding how I found my way into design career. About every 4 months from the age of 8 to my early teens, my parents used to load my sister and I up in the Commodore and drive slowly through new land subdivisions, gawping at the new homes (Oh look, split level! This one has cathedral ceilings!) while chowing down on Kentucky Fried Chicken. Occasionally the hand brake would be ripped on and we’d all bundle into a display home. But before we got through to the shagpile dream home, we had to run the gauntlet of the two brown laminate nasty-cheap desks. Staffed by bored sales people who barely looked up from the copy of The Newcastle Herald to acknowledge you or barked “Are interested in buying? OR NOT?” With a mosaic of A3 black and white Xerox printed house and land packages taped up on a single wall. These so- bad-they-should-be-spanked sales offices were burnt on my retina and to this day, every sales office I work on is to avenge the ugliness I encountered on those formative Saturdays of my tween years. Hey, I know there are nobler causes out there but I reckon I think championing of beautiful spaces is right up there with upholding synchronised swimming as a legitimate Olympic sport.

Is this a folding card table being used to welcome visitors into a sales office...why yes, it is!

Is this a folding card table being used to welcome visitors into a sales office…why yes, it is!

 2. Cheap and oh-so-nasty visitor chairs

I love a good, solid yet comfy chair. I think making a visitor to your home or place of business sit on an uncomfortable, hard, plastic chair is giving a subtle “please, can you just buggar off” vibe. So I am mad keen to make sure all my sales offices have generously portioned visitor chairs that are upholstered and encourage the visitor to linger, able to ask the questions they need of the sales consultant and spend the time to deep dive into the home or land buying process. There are always budget considerations, but for the love of all things shiny, don’t skimp on comfortable chairs for your visitors.

3. Criminal lack of storage

We’ve all been in those sales offices where manila folders threaten to block out the sun, they are stacked so high on desks, or where lever arch folders have formed en-mass and are now forming barriers that would deter the hardiest of save-the-wilderness protester. Then there’s the patchwork of sticky notes tacked up on any and all available surfaces, photos of cats / kids or motivational quotes sticky taped EVERYWHERE!  And don’t even get me started on the back corner cave of cup-a-soup and Cruskit packets, burn out kettle and funky smelling sandwich press.  I hate clutter.  Haaaaate it, I tell you. It is one of my mandatories in sales office design: practical and plentiful storage.  It really can transform the looks of a sales office from something that looks like a tip to a space that is welcoming and pleasant to be in.  It does not need to cost a bomb and you can do clever things like secret cupboards hidden behind walls with graphics over, like I have done for Metricon.  It just needs a thorough audit of the items that need to be stored and then clever solutions designed into the sales office layout to cope with banishing the clutter.

Where's the clutter...there is no clutter!

Where’s the clutter…there is no clutter!

 4. Touch screens or even standard monitors that aren’t working 

Is there anything sadder in a sales office than the blank monitor with a blue-tacked sign over the face reading “out-of-order’?  Or worse: no note letting you know it is on the fritz so you stand there like a complete muppet pushing the screen until a sales consultant looks up and yells “OI, IT’S NOT WORKING!!!!”  Look, once the investment has been made in the screen and software to give you the mind bending 37,486 combinations of floorplan layouts you can conceivably pick, the onus is on you to maintain those screen like it is your firstborn. So much time and cold hard cash goes into setting up the programs that run on those screens, so your investment needs to pay for itself by actually working and enhancing the customer experience.

5. Not considering the customer experience. THE WORST!

Yeah, I love taking a brief from some clients where they rattle off what they need in a sales office like consultant desk, a place for the consultants to stash their Cruskits, a bar fridge, an all in-one-business machine, a stack of acrylic hangers in the window to display home and land packages….and I quietly interrupt mid-brief and ask “What about your customers…what are they wanting to see and understand when they come to your sales office?”  You see times, have changed where it is no longer about what you want to show your customers – hell, most of them have been on-line anyway to see your offering.  It is now about giving people a compelling reason to shake off the track suits and uggs – or not – and come and visit your sales office. The smart sales office will have this customer journey totally mapped up as well as creating an environment that is representative of the development offer and intended quality or the project.  Because at this stage, people are not buying a block of land or a house, they are buying a dream.  So the sales office better match that expectation from the customer point of view point of view!

Ok, on the tunes list this week, I want to do a throwback to a song that I was really digging back in my tween years that I listed to on my walkman (ask your parents) while in the back of the Commodore hitting up display villages.

See you next week!

To kick things off, let me just say I had no real opinion of the Kardashian Klan until one of them strayed into my much-loved music pantheon with this very ill-judged cameo is Kanye’s latest video.  I mean, COME ON!  The music is bad enough but the soft focus, cheese overload of bike straddling, hair flicking and photoshop trickery is just 37 flavours of fucked up. Yeah, I said it.  If you want to see the car crash go here but for the love of all things sparkly, wash your brain out immediately afterwards with a full viewing of Hole’s “Miss World” immediately afterwards.

Now back to the subject of comparison-itis.  My clients can sometimes ask me in the early stages of a new project “Did you see the XXX trade show stand / sales office fit out?”.  And usually, no, I haven’t.  This might indicate a certain level of laziness of my behalf (partially true) but it is based on a recent realisation that me seeking out “inspiration” and “checking out the competition” was a major time suckhole and dulled my awesome.

The realisation that I was wasting precious time worrying about the competition and what other displays looked like (Were they better? Are they done by better designers than me? Did their clients love them more than mine did of my work?) was delivered through my demonic personal trainer Nathan.  Prepping me for the NSW Masters rowing event earlier this year, Nathan totally changed how I competed by giving me a warm up program that focussed on waking up by body and spiking the heart rate but delivered a side benefit of keeping me so focussed on my warm up, I had no space to indulge my normal schtick of scanning the program, furiously analysing the draw to decide who I had a chance against and who I thought would beat me for sure.

This year was a game changer.

I got up early and started my warm up program for 45 minutes before I even left home and then once at the venue, I spent another 30 minutes on the warm up focussing on heart rates spikes and stretching out the areas that felt tight in the initial phase.  Timing it just right, the end of the warm up coincided with jumping in the boat and rowing to the start.  Because I had kept my brain busy with the warm up there was no self defeating thoughts of “I can’t do this / I have no chance / Who am I thinking that I can row…I’m not even meant to be GOOD at sport!”  To this day, I can’t tell you what crews I lined up against on the start. As soon as I hopped in that boat, I was all business and my only job was to row like I stole it.  Three minutes and 46 seconds later that state silver medal was mine and a whole new world of non compare-itis spread out before me.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

The comparison-it is can also show up through “I am just going to go research what other stand designers are doing” and “I going to spend a quick 5 mins looking for new design inspiration on the web”.  Look, you can sell it to yourself anyway you want but the cold, hard, loveless truth is that you are stepping into a time and creative vortex.  It is just another excuse for avoiding creating something new and innovative of your own making.  The fear shows up when you stretch yourself, when you try or create something new that has never been done before.  I’m being honest with you here, there are no guarantees that the new stuff will work or will be embraced or even understood by your audience so the fear of backlash and failure is totally justified.  However, the rewards are on offer though for those that seek a new way, a different path and for those that ask ”I wonder if I just did this differently…” And while I love my car, my steel capped heels and my surge protected curling iron to provide me with a sense of safety and predictability, I would never want my art to slip into that same mode.

While I steer clear of looking at competitor stands and displays to tap “inspiration”, I totally drink at the well of other sources.  My standard go-to’s include listening to my much loved music collection, seeing live music (can’t wait for 2014, I have a killer line up with Pearl Jam, Brooce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Artic Monkeys) walking about outdoors and letting my mind wander, going to a new place in the city and just meandering, hanging out with friends and family that have no ties to my industry and reading a damn good book.  I also get flashes of awesome through baking, yoga, early morning rowing sessions and painting. Happily, these forms of inspiration don’t devolve into crippling bouts of comparison-itis and the download of new ideas and fresh inspiration for creative projects just happens without all the angst and time suckage.

So for anyone that is comparing their trade show stand or display with others, cure yourself for good of comparison-it is.  Create your own category. Strike out with something bold. Intrigue your customer or intended audience with the unexpected. And just do – or commission – awesome work.

Mirvac's Array Sales Office

Mirvac did not get to be first choice for apartments and homes by playing safe and following other competitors

I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration for creative projects from in the comments section below or you can email me at

Speaking of awesome, I will circle back to the opening Kardashian slap down with the link through to the humorous homage to “Bound 2” by Seth Rogen and James Franco. If there is more attractive couple on this planet than this pair, I am yet to see it!

See you next week!

Apart for working in trade shows and exhibitions, I also design and project manage sales offices for land developers and builders. Fitting out garages attached to display homes, portable sales offices both large and small and even the turning of a two storey home into a complete sales experience…yep, I’ve done them all. Despite the difference in scale and budget, there are some commonalities across sales centres and here are the 5 key items I believe every sales office should have to ensure an outstanding customer experience:

 1. An anchor point

I find people fascinating. I’ve watched people step into a sales office for the first time and you can see their eyes furiously dart about looking for something to fixate on and provide safe harbour before sales staff make contact with them. I think you need an outstanding feature as an anchor for visitors to grab onto when they first arrive. It might be a model of the development or a representation of the kitchen, but whatever it is, it needs to provide the visitor a point to gather and to then explore the sales office further when they feel comfortable knowing they won’t be strong armed into signing contracts. I’ve experimented with both concealing the anchor point – and thereby establishing a customer journey through the sales office – and also having the anchor front and centre. Both modes have their benefits and drawbacks but I had a recent success with the Aspect sales office for Places Victoria. The anchor in this sales office was the model lightbox that was incorporated into a larger discussion table. The high cost of a 3D model was replaced by a lightbox showing the overall development plan. This lightbox model was set into an organic shaped discussion table so once the visitor was interested, they could migrate to the table area to discuss their requirements with a sales consultant without being moved on to another location separate to the model. This approach really refreshed the sales process and was based on enhancing the visitor experience rather than being sales driven where the traditional way was to bung them in an office and start talking turkey!

Aspect Sales Office for Places Victoria

Aspect Sales Office for Places Victoria

 2. A variety of ways to provide information

I think we can all agree that buyers of new land and home developments are much better informed an ever. Throw in a crowded market, where the buyer is spoilt for choice across numerous price points and you have a very clued up customer. The majority of visitors would have done some research on-line before visiting a sales office so now the challenge becomes what sort of information do you display? It really comes own to bringing the development brand to life. The majority of sales offices just display static graphics applied direct to walls with random brochure holders scattered about. Smart developers such as Mirvac are using multimedia to provide even richer content for the visitor. Touch screens in the Array sales office are able to provide renders of apartments with the option to dial in preferred colour scheme and pick their own stand point from the range of views on offer in their selected apartment. Other sales offices are trialling iPads to provide access to development micro sites and downloadable PDF information. These iPads can also be used obliterate the written lead form as data can be logged electronically and integrated into the CRM database.

Array Sales Office for Mirvac

Array Sales Office for Mirvac

 3. Credentials

The housing industry has claimed the scalps of many a builder and buyers are right to be nervous of laying down a stack of cash for their dream home or block of land when tales of dodgy builders and collapsed developers abound. So I really think it is vital to champion your credentials of being a long-term and secure player in the market. AV Jennings do this really well and have recently amped this up even further with their 80th year celebrations. Both their online and offline marketing are featuring this huge 80 year achievement and we also installed a panel celebrating this in the Arlington Sales Office. While your credentials might not deliver house and land sales outright it does provide that all important confidence and peace of mind that the builder or developer that is being dealt with is legit.

Arlington Sales Office for AV Jennings

Arlington Sales Office for AV Jennings

 4. Kiddies area

I have to confess I am challenged by the kiddie are.  Having no kids of my own and two 39-flavours-of-wonderful nieces that seem most interested in the contents of my handbag (as am I “Oh Look, Aunty Noni has a drill in here!”), I really struggle with what kiddies like these day.  Fortunately I have my wonderful VA, Fiona with two kiddies of her own that I can tap to provide insight on what the little people of today are getting down with.  On the recent update of the Aurora Sales Office, Fiona selected toys and games based around the jungle theme that would appeal to a spread of ages.  Even the Wii game was selected with the jungle theme in mind.  The benefit of having a kiddies area is that the little ones are kept occupied while the all important sales process is taking place.  Kids that have something to do are not harassing their parents to “Can we go now, pleeeeeaaaassssseeee?” and allows the sales staff to have a longer and deeper conversation about the property or home that the buyer is interested.  One added tip here, make sure the kiddies area is in view of where the sales discussion will take place. Nothing kills the sales process faster that having a little person out of sight, hearing an almighty THUMP and then a squeal of pain!

Aurora Sales Office for Places Victoria

Aurora Sales Office for Places Victoria

5. Great, I mean GREAT staff

I was out at the Banbury Sales Office this week looking to do an update for the new apartment release and got chatting to Reece, the on site sales consultant.  I have to say that Reece was the BOMB!  The sales office that is coming up to 2.5 years old and still looked a clean and clutter free as the first day the sales office opened.  He was super knowledgeable about the product and his customers and gave great feedback on ideas for the next stage of the sales office. You know, I can make a sales office as tricked out and amazing as you like but having enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff to run the sales office is key.

If you have any questions about sales office, please leave them in the comments section below and I would be happy to answer.  Otherwise, you can get in touch with me here.

So earlier this week I competed in the State Masters of Rowing and came away with a silver medal.  I am still riding high on this but a pretty vital part of my silver was playing this song by Tool 9 times back to back on my way out the regatta venue.  Look, the video is pretty mind bending but the lyric of “pain is an illusion” was ridiculously helpful in the latter part of the race where I wanted to call for medical assistance.  But when that medal went on, by crikey, I was definitely pain-free!

See you next week!