To have an effective sales program, you must actively prospect for new business. This can be done in a number of ways. It might be through creating a list of potential customers, building relationships with key influencers, or maybe pursuing referrals through your current customer base. These are just a few examples of ways you can prospect and make your selfstorage operation more profitable.
Our industry is in a time of transition, and we must become more sales-oriented in our approach to doing business. Many self-storage operators are faced with stiff competition, and the customer has many choices when selecting a location. One way of overcoming this is through prospecting.
Keep an active log of customers who call or visit your facility with interest in renting a unit. It is imperative every customer interaction be documented on this log with a name, phone number, appointment time and comments of what was discussed. This is an excellent opportunity to not only track appointments, but have a system for following- up and prospecting for new business.
For example, if “Sally” calls but is not ready to commit to an appointment and wants to discuss the information with her husband, offer to send her a brochure about your store. This will give her ample information about your features and benefits, but will also allow you to follow up in a couple of days to answer any questions she may have.
Even though you have already discussed your unique features with her over the phone, the mailing will reinforce the key points. You can also personalize the brochure with a hand-written note thanking Sally for her call and saying you look forward to speaking with her again. She is now expecting your call, which will provide an opportunity to set an appointment. It is critical all of this information be documented in a customer log to ensure the consistent followup necessary to be effective.
Another way of prospecting for new business is through your key influencers—in other words, those key businesses or individuals that will refer the most customers to your facility. Again, it is important to have a system in place to actively call on these people. This will help develop a long-term relationship that is needed to create a steady stream of referrals to the store.
For instance, a self-storage manager or company representative might develop a marketing plan to make sales calls every month. This will strengthen the relationship with these key contacts. If done properly and with consistency, it will create a strong demand for your self-storage space.
It is imperative to document in the marketing plan every key influencer contacted, the date, referrals planned and actual referrals made. This will give vital information on how the plan is working and the results of your efforts. It will help tremendously in knowing where to focus your time and money, based on the results being tracked and measured over a period of time. If you devote the resources to develop an effective prospecting approach, you will become more successful and profitable in your business.
Another effective means of prospecting is through your existing customer base, particularly through an effective referral program. Once a “catchy” program is designed, it is critical to reinforce the program at the most optimal times—for example, when a customer moves in. If the referral program is made part of the move-in process, it will develop the consistency needed so every customer is introduced to the program and know of its benefits.
Customers like incentives, such as money or gift certificates, as a reward for newcustomer referrals. The referral might be for a friend, co-worker, family member or someone else in need of storage. It will make the program even more effective if the person being referred is also given some sort of an incentive. This will give him more motivation to come to your store.
Another time to reinforce the referral program is when you do something nice for an existing customer. It might be letting him use a moving dolly for a few hours or taking him a soft drink in the middle of his move. The customer will appreciate the kindness, which allows the opportunity to ask for a referral. When a customer experiences this type of service and knows you really care, he will be more open to providing referral information.
The average self-storage operator converts approximately one-third of his callers to renters. If a prospect physically visits the store, more than 90 percent of the time, he will rent a unit. To be successful, we must have a method for prospecting and setting appointments. To develop a prospecting program, you must begin by researching the training resources available and spend the time and money necessary.
If you can create more customer visits to your store through prospecting, you will rent more units. This will improve the demand for self-storage space, helping to gain more rentals and raise rates on a continual basis. Prospecting will ultimately lead to stronger occupancies and higher profits.
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; visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.