The above quote is taken from a book titled What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School. It very much applies to the concept of creating and sustaining an additional profit center through the sale of boxes and moving supplies at your self-storage facility. Taking advantage of complementary businesses to your own is simply a way to increase your value and expand your products and services to your existing market without losing sight of your primary objective: self-storage.
Get Them in the Door
The phone rings at your facility, and it is someone inquiring about renting storage space. One of the following scenarios may be true:
- The caller is remodeling his home and needs some additional room to store things for awhile.
- The caller sold his home and needs space to store his goods while waiting to move into his new home.
- The caller is selling his larger home and downsizing to a townhouse. He needs storage space.
In all of these instances, your potential customer will need boxes and moving supplies. As a storage manager, you have a captive market. Your client needs more than a storage unit--he needs boxes, tape, styrofoam peanuts, packing tips, etc. He needs a total moving and storage solution. It's in your best interest to provide it.
For this reason, you should always mention on the phone: "By the way, we sell a full line of moving boxes, tape, bubble wrap and packing paper right here." Mention specific products. It will help remind your customer of specific items he needs in order to pack. You may even want to say, "We will give you five small boxes for free just to come in and tour our facility." Once your prospect is in the door, the closing ratio reaches about 90 percent, plus he'll probably buy more boxes and supplies. This is a perfect example of using ancillary products as a promotional tool for your core business.
A simple banner that plainly states "We Sell Boxes," hung in front of your property and facing the road, can have a dramatic effect on sales. A manager once commented to me, "Even my mailman came back and bought boxes from me one day after he noticed my new banner."
The Retail Showroom
Most successful retailers will agree: The more products people see, the more they tend to buy. Customers don't like to see an empty shelf, and some are hesitant to take the last of an item. At the same time, you don't want to overpurchase stock.
The best approach is to purchase higher quantities of the most popular products. For example, small, medium and large boxes and tape are the most important items to offer. You will sell more of these products than any other. On the other hand, watch out for items like brown postal paper wrap--this generally doesn't move regardless how much of it people see. Stocking more of the most popular products will mean faster inventory turnover.
If you have room, display a sample of each size box you carry. People love to pick them up, examine the dimensions and see how it feels to carry as they visualize what they need to pack. Every step of this process helps facilitate the sale. You're not just selling customers a couple of boxes with tape and a roll of bubblewrap. You're offering them a solution to one of life's most stressful events--moving. Listen to your customers; guide them toward the right products to get the job done easily and correctly. Following is an example of a productive sales conversation:
Customer: "Just give me 20 of those large boxes."
Manager: "How large is your home? How much stuff do you have to pack?"
Customer: "It's a three-bedroom home and I have to pack everything: books, CDs, tools, dishes, kitchen appliances, etc."
Manager: "Then you'll probably need more than 20 boxes. Not only that, but you won't want to pack your books, CDs and tools in large boxes because they can get heavy real quick. I highly recommend small boxes for these items. As for your dishes, we offer the dish-pack box, which is double-walled, or the ProPackerR, which allows you to easily pack dishes and glasses."
It's a particulary good idea to implement a buy-back policy, which can raise the average sale 20 percent to 30 percent. You simply tell customers, "Buy all the boxes you need, and we will buy back any unused boxes at full price." You'll instantly see a look of relief in your prospect's face on hearing that assurance; and nine out of 10 times, he will never bring anything back. One can always find a use for boxes, even if it's just to slide them under a bed for future use. If your prospect does return something, offer another size or ask if he needs any more tape or packing paper. At this point, you have completely gained the customer's trust and made him confident in listening to your advice.
Recommend a Moving Company
I am sure many of you have fliers or business cards from local moving companies sitting on your counter or posted on a bulletin board. That's a good start, but do you really know these companies or feel comfortable recommending their services?
Build a rapport with a local moving company in your neighborhood. Mention to your customers that you can recommend a moving company if they need one. Most people are apprehensive about selecting a moving company and like to have references. The benefits for you are threefold:
- You are again solving a problem for your customer.
- If you continue recommending the same moving company, it will be motivated to take special care of your customers.
- You can ask the moving company to refer storage customers to you.
What Problems Have You Solved?
If you take the above recommendations, you will potentially solve three different problems for your customers. First, you will present them with information on leasing a storage unit (your core business) and solve their storage dilemmas. You will then make it clear you offer a full line of moving boxes and storage supplies, so there is no need for them to go anywhere else for these items. By asking what your customers need to pack, making recommendations for supplies and offering a buyback policy, you make their move easier--as well as their decision to store with you. Finally, recommending a local moving company takes the guesswork out of shopping for these services. Creating the total moving and storage solution is the key to differentiating your facility from the competition and increasing your value to your customer.
Ken Van Slyke is president of NationWide Box Inc., which provides one-stop shopping for moving and storage boxes, security products and packing supplies. For more information, call 800.460.3252; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.nationwidebox.com.