Theresa Catharina de Gˇes Campos



Despite all the technical progress easily verified in the construction business, sometimes one area seems to remain somehow stationary. Sales still happen, of course, even if you just place a few salespeople in one office surrounded by model apartments, make arrangements with a real estate agency, etc.

But the truth is: profits will increase dramatically when the sales department establishes a communication followed by practices that are bound to bring a greater number of buyers.

Chiefly in these inflationary times, with high unemployment and rates of borrowing, it does not make sense to put so much effort and money in all the other phases of the multi-residential industry-design, construction, management and financing - while taking for granted that the sales will just happen along. To ignore the need for a communications policy towards the public, with the objective of drawing interested customers, will certainly result in losses, if not outright, at least in potential and productivity. Propaganda and public relations will have to go side by side with the other departments.

The first step is to establish contact with the people you intend to sell the units. They are the ones who can afford your products. From this knowledge, the next procedure will consist in finding out how to get them interested and well motivated to come to the sales office. Facing competition, the basic consideration must be the answer to a very essential question: which features are the most important and represent some originality or up-to-date improvement?
If no new technique was used or no special building or management feature shows some potential to attract the prospective buyers or tenants, then the emphasis will have to be placed on something else: the neighborhood facilities or landscape, local taxes, transportation links, future development plans. Again, if this area does not look much promising, there is still a lot that can be done. ln the finances sector, for instance. Rents or mortgages might be presented, as well as advertised, in a practical, attractive way, so they will motivate the initial contacts - a phone call or a personal visit, alone or with a relative or friend; and then, after a salesperson is in touch with the client, the persuasion will aim to increase the amount of interest so it will result in a commitment. Another point to offer as an attractive feature may lie in the administration of the multi-residentials in question. The spelling out of a management policy that will reassure people with reference to their living quarters can get customers to make a decision of buying or renting because they feel the rules are the best, or according to their own individual preferences.

Also, the new advertising code of ethics has recognized that clients appreciate most the sincere, honest, low- key and down-to-earth promotion claims. No real advantages will result from a campaign based in directly down-grading a competitor or, even worse, presenting as a fact what is not true, or by using misleading information. A contract should always represent an agreement of mutual interest, trust and good faith for both parties.

Many experts in the field also advise against the policy of more or less withholding information from people on the phone, in an attempt to force them to visit the office in person. These are gimmicks and such an approach is losing ground fast, due to increased consumers' awareness. Sales personnel should not miss a chance of offering all the features and advantages of what they want to sell just because they feel they need to talk face to face to the client. If the important data is given to the persons who are interested enough to establish an initial contact, they will certainly welcome the chance to show up and see if the reality corresponds. Valuable time will be saved, though, in those cases when the caller gets to know something that is so fundamental to his/her decision... and, without the waste of further contacts, the customer realizes he really wants a different kind of residence or conditions.

Advertising booklets must also contain accurate and appropriate information, in order to substantiate the claims made by the rental/sales staff, with update statistics, main characteristics and features, plus answers to the most common questions. With a few copies near the office telephone, it may be referred to whenever a caller needs more data before visiting the location. Otherwise, an hesitant, confused or clearly unprepared salesperson will produce an almost instant negative reaction on the part of a prospective buyer.

The decoration of models, and the office too, deserve professional attention, since it will be communicating impressions, ideas and feelings in a subtle but not less important manner. Combined with a personnel able to work at ease with the public, in a friendly and courteous way, the attention to details will contribute to a maximum, optimum productivity. Following a few common sense rules, instead of constraining the sales routine, it will definitely make it more effective, impressing well upon the clients. Depending on the characteristics of each community and its market, some promotions specifically directed to groups, aiming to create interest in multi-residential units, may be of a great help. These are, for example: informal talks to senior citizens considering a move; or to community or professional associations; let's not forget the social and religious functions where the organizers look for speakers and sponsors to fit, even briefly, in the program of activities. Group visits will result from these propaganda efforts, requiring some good planning for the tour of models and building facilities. ln some cases, too, the sales strategy will include invitations for refreshments or cocktails to well known personalities, real estate agents and specialized press representatives on a particular date.

Other consideration seldom practiced: a seasonal publicity, geared to the time of the year just like the card stores and commercial outlets in general, restaurants and offices are constantly engaged. The ads may vary, then, with themes like "a new home for Christmas," "a very special Valentine gift," etc.

A decision may also be reached, before the sales offensive starts, or afterwards, on whether to offer a free, complimentary babysitting service, in order to get the full attention from the customers in mind, provided families with children constitute a good number among the prospective clients.

The suggestions I made in this article, often overlooked in the apartment and building business, should demonstrate there is an economic reason and urgency for improvements on sales methods, in order to fully succeed in renting or selling residential units.

Why so many vacant apartments? Dull, poor sales techniques; staff with little or no training at all. A real challenge for the construction business.

Theresa Catharina de Gˇes Campos
Ottawa - Ontario, Canada, 1981.

Jornalismo com Útica e solidariedade.