Selling on the telephone (telesales) is an important part of any personal selling program at your self-storage operation. There are many vital ingredients to a successful telesales program and just as many reasons a company would put time and effort into creating, implementing and reinforcing one. Like most good businesses, the typical self-storage operation will spend a significant amount of money on paid advertising and promotions designed to stimulate customer contact with the organization.
Take a moment to think how many opportunities, per day, your self-storage operation has to serve customers as a result of advertising. Is it two? Five? Maybe a little more? Whatever the number is, it is certainly not as many opportunities as the favorite fast-food restaurant in your neighborhood has during a lunch shift. Understanding this makes the importance of maximizing every opportunity crystal clear.
Key ingredients in the success of any telesales program are the tools that will be used by the professional storage manager at the point of customer contact. The four basic tools are:
1. Customer-service technique and/or form. This is an information-gathering device designed to assist on-site managers in covering critical areas of the telesales presentation. The outlined technique or form prequalifies the customer's needs and documents them. It should serve a means to ensure accurate quotes, set appointments, take reservations and ensure effective follow-up.
2. Appointment log. An appointment log is used to make appointments for prospects to visit the facility, move-in or confirm reservations. Appointment logs should also be used to schedule time-flexible prospects into periods when on-site personnel are least busy, allowing for quality time.
3. Free information packet. This usually consists of a brochure or other information about the facility, including things discussed with the prospect on the telephone, tips for using self-storage, rates, sizes, how to pack the space, etc. Information packets can also include coupons for specials, discounts or other offers and promotions. The packet should have a perceived value. It should save the prospect money, providing an incentive for him to do business with you. The manager can say, for example, "Our 'free' information packet is packed full of storage tips as well as information we discussed today. There are even coupons you can use when you come in to rent your space that can save you up to $25."
4. Follow-up file. This is where information about prospects is placed when they have provided follow-up information but have yet to become a customer. All leads in the follow-up file should have notes included so every team member knows what their status is and can pick up where others have left off; for example, "Susie called prospect on 2/10/02 @ 2:05 PM to discuss scheduling an appointment. Call back on Monday to schedule this appointment." Follow-up files should be reviewed daily to ensure prospects are not overlooked, as they are solid leads to be converted to customers.
When it comes to tools, some get used more than others. This is true with the tools of the telesales trade. A good tool may also have many parts, and some will require adjustments or tweaking, but all are necessary to do the job. To get the most out of a tool, a manager must hone his skills. The best way to do this is to practice. The following are some tips on keeping your telesales tools sharp and at peak operating condition:
1. Reinforce branding whenever you have customer contact. You may not be the first or last location the prospect will contact. Use your company's name in your telesales greeting and throughout the conversation where appropriate, e.g., "It's a great day at (facility name)!" or "Here at (facility name), we pride ourselves on service, quality and commitment to our customers."
2. Structure questions to the prospect so you can gather as much information as possible. This will allow you to recommend exactly what that prospect will need to serve his purposes. Questions should convey a sense of confidence and friendliness. It is important to form a rapport with the prospect and come across as the self-storage expert.
3. Sell the facility's features and benefits. Know them, and know what the competitors offer. Communicate these to the prospect in terms they will understand, not in self-storage speak. For example, saying something like "You get your own code when you rent here" assumes the prospect knows what this code is and for what it is used. Instead, say something like "Access to our facility is controlled by a computerized gate. A keypad, similar to a telephone's, is located at the front entrance of the property. When you rent at our location, you will be given a personal-identification number you enter into the keypad to enter and exit the facility."
4. Have a plan to secure follow-up information. In a perfect world, it is best to secure follow-up information before a rate is quoted to the prospect. How many times have you heard, "I have all the information I need. Thank you and good bye"? If the prospect ends the call before follow-up information is secured, you have no way of contacting him to close the transaction. He becomes a lost prospect.
5. Use your free information packet as a tool to secure follow-up information. For example, say to the prospect, "I will mail you one of our free information packets full of tips on how to store your goods. Inside, you will find discount coupons for boxes, information about our specials and other promotions that will save you money. May I please have your name, telephone number and address so I can get this in the mail for you today?"
The words "free" and "save" are key words that should be used whenever a special or other incentive is being offered. Do not forget to send information to a prospect if you say that you will. Your prospect may have called every competitor in town after he contacted your business. This could mean you have been well forgotten by the time his last inquiry was made. The information you send him can put your operation back in the forefront of his mind.
The information packet is also an excellent excuse to follow-up with the prospect. You can call the prospect and say, "Hello, this is John with (facility name), and I spoke to you about placing your goods in storage. I mailed you an information packet and was wondering if you received it all right ... Good, I am glad you received it. Are there any questions I can answer for you at this time? Would you like to make an appointment to tour the facility?"
Considerable time, effort and money is spent to get the telephone to ring. Maximizing those opportunities can only be accomplished by developing and implementing tools within the framework of an organized, systematic approach. The results of such a program should constantly be monitored to ensure the highest degree of success. If you are not satisfied with the results of your telesales program, take a closer look at the tools in place to accomplish the job and how they are being used. You may be surprised at what you find.
David Jones is an area supervisor for Mesa, Ariz.-based Telemeasure®, which provides affordable, customized mystery shops for self-storage, including telephone shops, Internet shops and exit interviews. The company provides meaningful graphs, forms and surveys to customer specifications, with a no-hassle satisfaction guarantee. For more information, call 888.539.1244 or visit www.telemeasure.biz.