Knowledge Is Profit

Brad North Comments
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As the self-storage industry becomes increasingly competitive, we must realize the importance of staff training at our facilities. The lifeline of any group is its people. To grow any organization, you must grow the people who comprise it.

The average self-storage customer calls four to five stores before deciding where to store his belongings. He has more choices and is making a more informed assessment. On the other hand, the average self-storage operation converts less than 35 percent of its callers to renters. This trend will become a greater concern in the future, especially in those selfstorage markets that have reached points of over-saturation.

One of the most successful ways of overcoming the effects of competition is to educate, evaluate and improve the performance of your staff. This can be done through developing and implementing an effective training program. Once you achieve this, it is imperative systems be in place to properly measure what it is you want to improve. For example, one of the best ways to improve the phone performance of your staff is to hire a mystery-shopping service.

A mystery-shopping service calls a self-storage location posing as a prospective customer. The conversation is recorded and an evaluation provided on how the employee handled the call. This is a great way to assess and provide feedback on your staff’s sales presentation.

Once the evaluation and audio tape are received, it is critical to use them as positive training tools to improve the effectiveness of your staff. The feedback should be provided by the person responsible for training the “shopped” employee. The positive points of the sales presentation should be provided first, with areas for improvement presented last. The audio tape will allow the employee to listen to how he articulates the sales presentation and make necessary adjustments. It will also make him better at overcoming customer objections.

If the employee achieves a high score on his shop evaluation, reward him for a job well done. This will reinforce the expectation of a good performance and give him an incentive to perform better on his phone performance. Consequently, this is also a great opportunity to increase the amount of callers your employees convert to renters.

When choosing a mystery-shopping service, it is important to use a service that specializes in the self-storage industry and can make the appropriate recommendations. Be sure it offers a recommended sales presentation and quality charts and graphs for measuring ongoing performance.

It is also imperative to offer ongoing training to keep your people as proactive as possible. This will break up the boredom during slow times and keep staff focused on the bottom line. For example, train your managers to conduct a thorough competition study. Once they are up to speed, have them shop the competition on an ongoing basis to find out as much as they can about their market areas.

This information will become invaluable, as managers will learn the advantages they have over their competitors. It is critical to empower each manager to teach this information to other staff members, as this will make him part of the team and accountable for the performance of his store.

Knowledge of the marketplace will also assist tremendously with the sales presentation by equipping each employee with the opportunity to educate and build value with customers, pointing out the facility’s unique advantages. The results of this training and development can be shared in staff meetings to help reinforce their effectiveness and bring out ideas to improve future performance.

To sell in an aggressive marketplace, you must know your competition. Effective training and measuring can help you accomplish this and set yourself apart. There are many ways to train staff and to keep you on the cutting edge of your market. The key to success is to offer training programs that target and improve the bottom-line performance of your store. Once these programs are implemented, it is critical to have tools that measure results, as the only way you can improve on your performance is to know where we you and where you want to go.

The average self-storage customer likes to deal with people who know their job and their market. They are looking for someone who can educate them on use of the product. This reinforces the importance of properly training your staff—to invest the time, money and energy necessary to make your people the best they can. Always remember, the people in your organization are your greatest asset.

Brad North is founder of Advantage Business Consulting, which specializes in on-site sales, marketing, feasibility and operational training for the self-storage industry. He has produced two live videos and a workbook titled “Maximizing Your Sales and Marketing Program,” which can help managers improve their sales and marketing efforts. He most recently launched A TelePro, a mysteryshopping service that assists in educating, evaluating and improving the phone-sales performance of self-storage professionals. For more information, call 513.229.0400 or visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.

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