Motivating Self-Storage Managers Through Sales Training and Practice
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Kenny Pratt
Posted on: 10/10/2010



 

Most self-storage markets are more competitive than they were even a few years ago. According to the Self Storage Association’s third-quarter 2010 Facts and Trends Report, the supply of self-storage in the United States has doubled over the past decade. In an environment where every rental counts, converting your hard-won leads into customers has taken on new urgency. Sales and persuasion skills are the ingredients necessary to increase your conversion rates, but they’re not built by manager incentives alone.

The problem with relying heavily (or solely) on an incentive program is you’re trying to solve a skill problem with an enticement. It’s like trying to tape feathers to your arms so you can fly. At first glance, it looks promising; but in the end, it doesn’t work.

To illustrate my point, let’s take the concept of incentive to the extreme to see how quickly it falls short. Let’s assume you’re as rich as Bill Gates and can afford to give incentives that are beyond most people’s dreams. Unfortunately, you’re diagnosed with a brain tumor, and you’ll die without an operation. Would you grab your co-worker and say, “I’ll give you $50 million dollars to operate on my brain. I really want to make sure you do the best job possible”? Of course not. No amount of motivation can endow your co-worker with the skills to operate on you. Motivation may increase his effort, but without the prerequisite skills, he can’t take the correct steps.  

Rather than fretting over motivation, accept that the vast majority of people you hire already want to do a good job. They want to be successful. They want to please you and the customer. As an alternative to focusing on motivation, help your property managers build or enhance their skills through training and practice.

Training Becomes its Own Motivator

When you invest in training, you send managers a strong message that you care about them as people as well as their success. When they see you care about them, the natural reaction is to reciprocate and care more about you and your business. Another reason you get motivation mileage when you train employees to sell more effectively is that winning is inherently motivating, and by investing in training, you’re helping staff win more frequently.

After Michael Phelps won his seventh gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games, can you imagine him saying, “Gosh, that’s enough for me. I think I’m going to sit the next one out”? Doesn’t that sound laughable? His world-record performance while obtaining his eighth medal makes it clear he was highly motivated to race again.

You’ve heard the adage that winners never quit. One reason it’s true is because winners don’t feel like quitting. Winners want to keep going. They want to keep getting better. They crave the next success.  

Look at Who You’re Hiring

The skill level and past experience of your employees is another reason why you need to move beyond raw incentives and adopt a training program. You may not be hiring trained sales professionals to work at your property. If this is the case, you have a gap between what you want your employees to do and what they can deliver. If they weren’t trained by someone else—and not trained by you—how do you expect them to be effective at sales?

Although you may get lucky and find someone with a very high aptitude for selling and persuading, you’ll have more consistent success when you have a system in place to build your manager’s skills. A training system will ensure your average employees get better and your gifted employees become phenomenal.

Training Gives You the Advantage

You have an opportunity to create a differential advantage when you invest in areas your competition isn’t. Even if you already do some sort of sales training in your organization, take a close look at how much time, energy and money you’re investing in your managers. Is it significantly more than your competitors?

Many self-storage operators aren’t investing heavily in sales training, and they’re not taking their employees sales effectiveness seriously. This is a weakness ripe for exploitation.   

Make Room for Practice

Building sales effectiveness is not easy. A training program usually helps a person to understand conceptually what he should be doing and why he should be doing it. Although having a conceptual understanding is a good first step, it’s not sufficient. Too often, property managers are like armchair quarterbacks with a conceptual knowledge of the game, but no real physical skill. They know what’s supposed to happen, but find their unpracticed bodies are unable to do what’s successful.

Practice is the key to closing the gap between knowing and doing. You can help your managers scheduling practice time into their daily routine. If your location is busy and interruptions are frequent, consider authorizing your managers to come in 30 minutes early or stay 30 minutes after closing so they can have some continuous practice time.

A training program and practice regimen helps property managers develop the skills they need to sell and persuade. Investing in them sends a message that you care about them and their success. Mastering skills is motivating because it leads to more frequent success in renting storage spaces. Finally, providing a professional sales-training program and making room for your managers to practice sets you up to have a competitive advantage and win in your market.  

Kenny Pratt is president of Crescendo Properties Inc., which acquires and operates self-storage properties in the western United States. He blogs about self-storage sales and persuasion at www.sellingstorage.com . To reach him, call 916.849.1199; e-mail kenny@cpinc.us .