By Tron Jordheim
I like to play a game whenever I travel to a seminar or conference. I open the local Yellow Pages and call every storage facility with a display ad, from the biggest to the smallest. When someone answers, I try one of my two “acid tests” to see what response I get.
The first test is “The Information Question,” where I ask, “How late are you open today?” You would not believe how many people only tell me the store hours and let me off the phone without even asking why I need to know. If I were a current tenant, they should want to know if I need assistance when I get to the office. If I were someone on the collections list, they should want to confirm I know the correct amount to pay my bill. And if I were a rental inquiry, they should want to give me more information than the office hours! As a “prospect,” I want to talk to someone who will actually help me determine my storage needs and sell me a unit.
There are other questions that work well for this experiment, such as: Do you sell boxes? Do you rent trucks? Do I need a lock to store with you? You may think I am joking about this, but so far, about seven out 10 people fail the test. You can increase the number of rentals at your store by simply making sure everyone who calls you either already rents from you or knows why he should.
It Is Useless to Resist Us
The other acid test is “The Weak Resistance Test.” In this version, when the person answers the phone, I simply inquire about storage. I am not looking for good sales technique, only waiting for the person to provide the price of a unit. When he finally does, I tentatively say, “Oh, that’s a little more than I’m looking to spend.” Surprisingly, few people have a suitable response to this statement. They usually give up, saying something along the lines of, “OK, thanks for calling. Come and visit us if you’d like. Good-bye.”
Again, seven out of 10 of my test subjects fail to ask for more information. They don’t even know if the price is $1 or $100 more than I can afford. In my experience, a $10 difference in price between two storage facilities is not a deal-breaker if the more expensive property provides real value or is more conveniently located. The trick is the opportunity to build that value.
A simple, effective response to this test would be something like, “Oh, I can understand that. What had you hoped to spend on your storage unit?” You may be surprised by the answers. Some people used storage years ago and have no idea where prices are today. Some get quoted a price for a smaller unit at another store and do not realize the difference. Or perhaps you quoted a price for a climate-controlled unit, and the store they called five minutes ago quoted them on a standard. You will not know if you do not ask, and you will lose the opportunity to justify your price and potentially make the sale.
Don’t Make an Acid Test of Yourself
Don’t fool yourself into thinking a caller isn’t serious just because he doesn’t make a decision right away or immediately visit your store. Not everyone in the market for a storage unit begins the conversation by saying, “I need storage” or asking, “How much is a storage unit?” Assume everyone who calls you is a buyer until you have asked a few good questions. The caller could be a mystery-shopper or a Yellow Pages representative confirming information. But odds are 99 percent of your callers are current tenants or prospects.
Finally, don’t think your callers are “too cheap” to rent from you. Very few people actually know what storage costs and any price you quote could cause sticker shock. Keep in mind that even $10 a month is more than it costs a person to store his goods in his own basement, hold a garage sale, or put his stuff in the trash pile. When a prospect questions your price or compares you to a less expensive facility, it presents a great opportunity to sell your site and unleash your knowledge and sales potential.
Remember that people don’t store with a storage facility; they store with the people who work there. You can rent to more prospects if you prepare yourself and take a lesson from these acid tests. You never know—the next time your phone rings, it might be me! Good luck and good selling.
Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, which serves the self-storage industry as an off-site sales force that turns missed calls into rentals. This rollover-call service serves as a backup to store managers. Mr. Jordheim has started several successful businesses from scratch, and assisted with acquisitions as general manager of the Mid-Missouri Culligan Bottled Water franchise. For more information call 866.639.1715; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.