The Importance of Phone Skills
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Rebecca McMahan
Posted on: 12/01/2002



 

A self-storage manager can be courteous, meticulous about paper work, one of the nicest people in town and maintain a spotless facility, but if he doesn't understand how to use the most important tool in the office--the telephone--you end up with an empty facility that houses a really friendly maintenance person. While all the mentioned traits are important in a manager, strong sales skills are the most crucial. And yes, sales skills can be learned. Just as someone is not born a doctor or attorney, you are not born a salesperson, necessarily. With training and repetition, even the most timid manager can be great at sales.

With storage facilities built next to each other, it is even more important for managers to have strong phone and sales skills. Almost 90 percent of prospective customers will call a facility before visiting the site; they will typcially make two to seven calls before making a decision. When the phone rings, the manager has one chance to convince the caller his facility is special and the best choice for the customer.

A tremendous amount of money is spent getting the phone to ring. An exceptional manager will be excited about the phone ringing, assuming it is a new customer. The main purpose of the phone call is to get the customer to visit the facility. A great phone presentation will determine a sense of urgency--get the caller to visit the site immediately or as soon as possible, no matter when they need it. Remember, they are calling because they need storage. People don't call around to get prices because they are curious about storage rates. Managers prepared for the phone call have the best ratio of calls to visits.

The customer may initially think he is shopping for the best price, but the manager needs to redirect the conversation toward educating him about the facility and how it will best serve his needs. You are the storage professional, and while the customer may think he needs a particular size or type of unit, you have special knowledge that will assist him in getting what he really needs and will probably save him money, making that customer very happy.

If the person answering the phone at the facility is new to the industry, a phone script may provide some assistance. Just be sure to keep the script flexible enough to allow employees to reinforce the strong points of the facility without simply rattling off the features. The customer needs to feel the manager really knows the facility, is proud of it and can relate the product and services to the customer's needs. Be careful choosing the words and language used. Try to communicate on the customer's level, understanding that technical terms storage employees use on a daily basis don't mean a thing to the caller.

Good business practices require you document each phone call and mentally review it to determine if all issues were covered. This will create a good habit and ensure the next phone call received addresses every key point.

With training, time and repetition, everyone answering the phone at the facility can become a great salesperson. It's not enough to just quote prices and be nice on the phone--you must know your product, be proud of it and truly want the caller to rent his unit from your facility. When you convince the customer you are the best person to handle his storage needs, not only will you get the sale, but you will have started a great relationship with the prospect that leads to referrals, better collection and an overall better business.

WHEN PREPARING FOR THE PHONE CALL, HAVE A NOTE PAD, SCRIPT OR LIST THAT PROMPTS YOU TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING ISSUES IN THE PHONE PRESENTATION:

1) Ask the caller's name and give him your name. Use his name several times during the call to build rapport.

2) Ask how the prospect heard about the facility. This is very important for future marketing.

3) Give detailed directions to the facility, including important landmarks.

4) Ask questions to determine the prospect's needs.

5) Add value to the property by explaining facility features and how they will benefit the customer.

6) Quote more than one unit size.

7) Ask for the sale. Create a sense of urgency by inviting the customer to visit the facility today to view the unit, then either assign the unit at that time or prelease it.

8) Offer ancillary products--boxes, locks, truck rental, etc.

9) Finally, bring up any other unique features or benefits of the facility that will help you convince the caller to close the phone book and drive directly over.

Rebecca McMahan is president of Management On Site Training Inc., which specializes in training, consulting and property management in the self-storage industry. For more information, call 713.838.2339 or e-mail mostco@swell.net.