By Brad North
Have you ever picked up the phone and shopped around for a storage unit? This is a great way to discover which sales presentations you like and dislike. If you call enough places, however, you will also find most sales “consultants” in the storage industry do not earn the right to make an appointment with the customer. Even if they ask for a reservation or site visit, they often do not educate, build value and earn the prospect’s trust.
It is critical for self-storage operators to properly train and equip managers to be sales professionals who understand the importance of maximizing their potential through more appointments. In this industry, we convert less than one-third of our callers into renters. Industry statistics also tell us that if we can create an appointment with the customer, we will rent a storage unit more than 90 percent of the time.
If we become better in our telephone-sales presentation, can we increase our site visits and rent more storage units? Absolutely! Doesn’t this tell us we need to be more focused on becoming telephone-sales professionals, developing better skills to create more visits? Not only will this allow us to be more successful, it will prepare us to overcome increased competition, now and in the future.
Tracking Sales Performance
Once you understand the wonderful concept of being a sales professional, you must start with measuring your sales performance. How can you improve if you do not know where you stand? Determine the most effective system for tracking your performance, and implement it in your everyday business. You will be amazed at what you discover. Areas of a sales program worth measuring might include:
- Number of callers converted to renters (telephone-conversion ratio)
- Number of prospect calls by week and/or month
- Number of walk-in customers by week and/or month
- Number of appointments set by week and/or month
- Number of no-show appointments by week and/or month
- Actual rentals by week and/or month
These are just a few examples of items worth measuring. If tracked properly, they can provide powerful information for pinpointing areas of future improvement. Effective tracking systems can turn good managers into great ones. But what kind of system should you use? One possibility is a mystery-shopping program.
Mystery shopping allows a facility manager— and anyone else involved in the selling effort of a self-storage operation—the opportunity to be evaluated on his telephone-sales performance. This is a great way to discover strengths and weaknesses in your sales program. If you choose this kind of service, incorporate it into your efforts on at least a monthly basis to develop overall consistency.
Once you have identified areas for improvement, there are a number of avenues to increase performance. For example, consider available training resources. Is there someone in your organization equipped and qualified to perform sales training? If not, you might consider a consultant who specializes in this area. The money and time you spend can be valuable to the future operation of your business.
Once you upgrade your staff’s sales performance, put into practice the systems necessary to reinforce training. This will help tremendously in making changes and breaking bad habits. It will also provide an ongoing means to measure and determine how sales performance is impacting your bottom line. If you use a consultant, be sure he is effective in his sales training and can make good recommendations on systems and programs that can make the transition successful.
Your sales training and resources must be centered on educating, building value and developing trust with the self-storage customer. The second most important reason a customer chooses a specific facility (after location) is perceived trust. If your sales professionals focus on building the value of the product and earning prospects’ confidence, they will be experts in setting appointments and creating site visits, which will translate into more rentals and higher profits.
In an article published in the March 2004 issue of the “SSA Globe” newsletter, industry consultant Ray Wilson pointed out that, in some markets, physical occupancy in stabilized facilities has dropped to less than 80 percent; and economic occupancy has dropped to less than 70 percent. He says, “Given the amount of new competition, it is not likely to return to previous levels.” This further supports the importance of hiring people who can be sales professionals.
Once you understand the importance of the sales program, invest in your team. One of the most productive ways to grow any organization is to grow the people within it. Self-storage operators who are willing to adapt and continually improve their operations are the ones who will rise to the top of their markets. Set your operation apart from the rest by educating, building value, earning trust and creating appointments with customers.
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 mystery-shopping 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.