Creating Excitement with Interior Design

I hate buying a car. My discomfort stems from what I don’t know about cars. But I need a car. I get nervous the minute I step onto the showroom floor and steel myself to face sales people whose job is to compel me to buy. I want to like it – I just don’t want to be sold. This distress makes me keep the salesperson at arm’s length. “I’m just looking.” Well, no I’m not. But then something pretty catches my eye and the knowledgeable rep senses my interest, puts me at ease and gives me confidence in his or her ability to educate me on the product, to create an easy path to owning the product and finally, to make me excited about ownership. They found a way to relate to me and to tap into my motivating factors. Now I’m loving my ride!

Have you ever had a buyer who walks in the door and immediately starts to sprint away from you? This is because they’ve all been through the “feature dump.” They’ve had to listen to sales pitches that point out standard and upgraded features and all the other usual, ordinary, boring and time consuming model demonstrations. Good sales people are trained to create value by demonstrating features, room sizes and orientation. They can discuss financing and soften the pressure that buyers face when deciding what they can afford. A friend of mine who is the state sales trainer for a Texas builder trains their sales counselors to walk through the model with the prospects and find out more about them and what is most important to them. She says “We are all into immediate gratification these days. Am I interested in looking at your study off the front door if I don’t need one? Do I care that you have a dining room that I will never use?” She also encourages her sales team to “get the prospect to leave the foyer and follow them to the kitchen where everyone feels comfortable. Better yet, take them into the family room where they can get off their feet and stay awhile!”

In order to address needs and deliver solutions, the sales counselor must get the visitor talking. Buying a home is a huge decision, an intimidating process and ultimately the largest purchase they will ever make, so winning their confidence is paramount but challenging. Discussing room orientation, space, convenience and value… all necessary topics for the possible buyer to absorb, but that information alone can be a challenge to get past the “I’m just looking” shield. Most potential buyers see interacting with a salesperson as a negative, hence the “I’m just looking” response to an approach. Or “I’m killing time, I’m looking at decorating…Great, let me get you started!” If your representative has taken advantage of your merchandiser’s knowledge, they will be able to engage and become the prospects ally by educating them.

An often untapped reservoir of possibilities is interior design. It’s the dreamy part. We need rooms, we need features…we want pretty. Add design to your sales person’s arsenal and they have the ability to take a break from closing and appeal to the creative side. The arduous purchase process is counterbalanced by the fun of design.

A great model home will help to create excitement. It should demonstrate new trends and introduce options in color and texture. I’m often asked by savvy builders to share the model’s story with the sales people who are responsible for passing on the beauty and value of their product. There is a buyer profile we are targeting and there are reasons for furniture placement, color and interior finish choices etc… all this information adds to your salesperson’s credibility. Suddenly the buyer is learning how to create beauty in a new home. The face lights up, a conversation begins and the sales process moved forward in anunintimidating manner. On site agents are often presented with a model home, furnished and lovely, with no training on why this furniture placement makes the room feel bigger, or why this traffic pattern is vital visually and physically. I am often asked to visit with onsite agents, walk them through the home and give them terminology and design strategy so it becomes second nature to discuss things such as color, texture and scale. They can discuss reflective surfaces vs. matte finishes, the importance of color contrast – giving the potential buyer more self-assurance in choices they will soon make at their design appointment. I urge salespeople to have information on prices, colors and design ready. How many times will you hear “I want it just like the model?” So have all of that information at your fingertips when they ask.

“That blue color? It’s Sherwin Williams Rainwashed, and our designer uses it because…”

“It’s a spacious room…our designer used this opportunity to showcase this large piece of art and it expands the room…”

“We extended that tile. For $1000 it might be the biggest bang for the buck in the home.”

“Look at the effect you get for X dollars. Great place to put money for maximum impact.”

Know your model. Know its charms and its nuances. Buyers may not be able to duplicate the furnishings, but they find hope in learning that scale and proportion can make their items work. There is a reason for everything being where it is. The merchandiser compiled this for a particular buyer profile and can be a resource for information that, when passed on to a potential buyer, can bring the creative fun into the purchase

The model home is designed to be the most effective weapon in your arsenal. A lot of money was invested in the home, the furnishings and advertising to draw that potential sale into your showroom, so design information can add another tool to engage the customer and get them to put their needs out on the table so you can begin to fulfill them. Bringing the merchandiser in for a training session allows the onsite agent to demonstrate more than rooms…he or she can demonstrate the art of decorating those rooms. Get your buyer into the possibilities…we have two sofas, but if you have a sectional…we put the TV over the fireplace but there is a nice spot here for your entertainment unit….

When telling a buyer about lines of sight, traffic patterns, color, texture, reflective surfaces and scale, you are employing the fact/benefit approach to how they will be using the home once they move in. The purchase process is intimidating, stressful and unglamorous, but the creative part is in the décor. Teach them something. “For a thousand dollars, this has great impact!”

Mary Dewalt is President at Mary Dewalt Design Group. She can be reached at

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