Phone-Sales Skills for Self-Storage: Tips for Facility Operators and 4 Questions to Ask Every Caller
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
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Posted on: 09/21/2011



 

By M. Anne Ballard and Stacie Maxwell

When it comes to self-storage phone sales, getting the phone to ring at your facility is only half the battle. Knowing how to sell your services once you answer each call is the other and most important half. Most self-storage operators are finding their phone volume declining as online activity and walk-ins increase, so they must make the most of each valuable call. Following are tips to improve your phone-sales skills as well as four key questions to ask every caller.

Be Focused, Active and Attentive

Before you answer the phone, remove your gum, chew your food, and swallow that drink. And smile! Callers can hear it in your voice. You need to take a split second, get focused on the call you’re about to receive, and let everything else go. Trust me—those other things will still be there when the call is over.

Engage and listen to your callers. When the phone rings, it’s easy to just regurgitate facts and information about your facility, such as pricing and features or services. However, by asking your customers the right questions, you get them to tell you about their situation; you learn their needs and can determine how your products or services can best help them. Never ask, “What size do you need?” as they often have no idea.

Asking the following pointed questions will help you determine how to sell your various sizes and amenities. Have a one-sheet phone or walk-in script at the ready. Take extensive notes from the questions and comments customers provide, and then use them to outline your benefits in a way that relates to each remark. Here are the four questions you should ask every prospective tenant:

1. Have you ever rented self-storage before? In some markets, up to 50 percent of residents may have never rented before so they don’t know all the ins and outs of month-to-month leasing programs.

2. What do you plan to store? You need to make sure the use is qualified, not old tires or batteries, fish or other livestock. If it’s a commercial tenant who’d like to rent a unit to store inventory, records or other stock, your sales approach will be different.

3. When do you need to move in? This will help you create urgency no matter if he says one day or one month from now. Here, you can be the hero to someone moving his entire household, for example. You might respond with something like, “Since your movers won’t be coming until the first of next month, you have a unique opportunity to make this the most stress-free move of your lifetime. Just begin by bringing over a few treasured items each weekend, things you don’t want the movers dealing with, like your antique china. By the time the movers arrive, all your most treasured possessions are dealt with, and they can pack and move you more quickly as well. You’ll be so glad you had this extra time. Let’s take a look at which size will suit your needs.” From here, you make recommendations about size and move forward.

4. How long do you think you’ll need storage? Make note of the answer and consider it when recommending the perfect unit location. For example, someone who’s going to be out of the country for a year or more doesn’t care much about unit location compared to a local retailer who’ll be in and out every day and receiving shipments.

This last question also allows you to limit the term of any discount used to close the sale—but only if necessary. For example, if you’re asked to match a competitor’s special or lower rate, you could ask, “If I match that rate for the two months you think you will need storage, and then adjust to the regular price thereafter, will you move in with me today?” This is much preferred to an ongoing, open-ended discount, which robs the property of value.  

Meet Customers’ Needs

One key to closing every sale—commercial and residential—is meeting customers’ unique needs. The more questions you ask, the better you’re able to determine exactly what’s needed, which unit will work best, and which special programs or discounts you should offer. This could include truck rental or even free use of your facility’s moving truck, key release for package delivery, remote control to an RV space, 24-hour access, business-center services, etc.

Once you’ve learned customers’ needs, you can emphasize the benefits of your products or services and how you can exceed their expectations. Show how you can help commercial customers cut costs, increase profit or beat the competition. Demonstrate how you can solve your residential customers’ storage and space issues, including caring for sensitive items such as antiques or cars, or providing moving solutions or referrals for other services they’ll need.

Take lots of notes during each call so you can touch on key points throughout the conversation and provide a customized service experience. Get names and contact information, including e-mail. Making your customer feel welcomed and being the local friendly expert on all things storage-related will make callers more comfortable and build a sense of trust in your professional expertise.

Close With a Bang

Once you’ve determined your caller’s needs and discussed all the ways in which your facility is the right choice for him, ask if he’d like to reserve a unit or make an appointment to tour the facility. The goal is to get the customer to the facility or get a reservation, not just give your prices and hang up. If you’re just giving pricing, you’re missing a big opportunity and only giving the caller a tiny percentage of the information he needs to make an informed decision.

When it comes to phone sales, be prepared with a script, uncover your customer’s needs, then show him how your facility will fill them. You’ll find improving your phone-sales skills will also improve your closing ratio and increase your facility’s occupancy and revenue.

M. Anne Ballard is owner and founder of Atlanta-based Universal Management Co., a full-service management and consulting company serving self-storage businesses worldwide. Ballard is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, and author of The Hat Lady Speaks, which focuses on self-storage marketing and management. Stacie Maxwell is Universal’s director of marketing and communications. With more than eight years of industry experience, she is responsible for the company’s branding, design and marketing. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalmanagementcompany.com.