Sales Training Saves Money From the Drain

Bob Copper and RK Kliebenstein Comments
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Imagineone of your managers or fellow employees pouring buckets of your facility’s money into a sewer drain. It’s not a pretty sight, is it? Yet every day, well-meaning but poorly trained self-storage salespeople (or “consultants,” as we like to call them) do just that because they do not use an effective sales presentation to turn more prospects into tenants.

Most of us spend a great deal of money on Yellow Pages advertising and other marketing with the intention of getting the phone to ring and luring prospects through the door. But how much do we spend to make sure employees “consult” and not just “take orders” when those phones ring or customers visit? Are your employees selling your site’s services and products or merely quoting prices?

Unless your facility is the only one in town and you have to turn customers away, you owe it to yourself and the value of your property to invest in an effective sales program. Why?

  1. It’s cost-effective. A self-storage business is grown one rental at a time. What is one rental worth to your site—$400, $600, $800, more? If your average rent is $100 per month and the average tenant stay is six months, each rental is worth $600. Does your current sales training ensure the best attempt is made to make every prospect count? Can you afford to lose rentals because you don’t have an effective program? What if sales training netted your site just one extra rental per week for a year? Using our example, it would equate to an additional $31,200 in annual revenue and $300,000 in value.
  2. The competitive marketplace demands it. Chances are your site has competition. Prospective tenants call four to six sites before making a decision on where to rent. Do your consultants give prospects the reasons they need to visit your site? Does your company use a memorable call script to set your store apart from competition? Most prospects will call before they visit you. After all, their time is too valuable to drive around checking out self-storage. But 90 percent of them will eventually rent somewhere. Why not rent from you?

Building an Effective Presentation

Be prepared. Many storage operators think their sales program starts with their initial greeting—wrong! You can’t afford to have prospects be guinea pigs. You have to know what you are doing before the phone rings or a customer walks in your door. Preparation means developing effective sales skills, knowing the benefits and features of your site, and knowing what the competition is up to. You and your employees should be experts in the market. Don’t let customers tell you what the competitors are doing—beat them to the punch.

Establish a greeting. It’s cliché but it’s true: You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. How you greet a prospective customer sets the tone for the new relationship. There are eight simple steps to a perfect greeting:

  1. Smile! Whether in person or over the phone, prospects know whether you are smiling.
  2. Thank the customer for choosing to call or visit your site. Remember he has far too many choices for you to take him for granted.
  3. Stand up when a customer comes into your office. To remain seated is disrespectful and immediately lets him know you don’t care.
  4. Be warm and friendly. Attempt to catch a smile by saying something like, “So you must really need storage to come out on such a beautiful (or rainy) day.” All of us respond more favorably to those who are welcoming.
  5. Solve the customer’s problem. Saying “I can help you with that” is a great way to start a mutually beneficial relationship.
  6. Empathize with the customer’s concerns. Show genuine interest and listen to what he says. Keep in mind that self-storage prospects come to you for solutions.
  7. Attempt to establish rapport. This is a relationship business, and making a connection is where it all starts.
  8. Start the conversation with an open-ended question. Ask something like, “When will you need storage?” Listen to what the customer has to say and become the expert.

Discover their needs. You can’t know what a prospect needs without asking pertinent, professional questions. For example, never just ask what size unit he needs. You are the expert—help him determine the correct size by asking questions. Personalize the experience by being customer-specific. When possible, use open-ended questions. Listen to how the customer responds, and build agreement on the features he wants using “soft” closes: “So you feel the climate-controlled space would be best for your needs?”

Add value. Most prospective tenants believe all self-storage is the same. This is your chance to convince them otherwise. You add value to your product by citing six to 10 of the most important features of your facility and including a benefit for each. Features refer to the site’s attributes and amenities. They are particularly valuable if they are things the competition does not offer.

The why behind the feature is the benefit. When you explain why a prospect should care about or want particular features, it answers his question, “What’s in it for me?” You must add a benefit to the features you mention, or you end up using technical jargon your new customer will not understand. He may not feel comfortable asking you to clarify.

Overcome objections. The most important thing to know about objections is you must be prepared and expect them. They are a natural part of the sales process. An objection can indicate you have not given your prospect enough information or clearly understood his needs. When faced with a prospect’s doubt:

  • Restate his objection: “You feel the upstairs unit would be inconvenient for you to use?”
  • Empathize: “I know how you feel; using the elevator can sometimes be a hassle.”
  • Restate his needs: “You’ve told me you plan to store for six months or so and that you won’t be accessing the unit once your goods have been moved in. Is this correct?”
  • Solve his problem: “I know we have a unit that would meet your needs. It’s just across from the elevator, and it’s $10 less per month than the downstairs unit. Our large freight elevator and the free use of a box dolly should make moving into the unit very convenient.”
  • Re-close: “Since we only have a few of these units at this great price, why don’t we go ahead and reserve unit 450 just for you?”

Close the sale. If you have done everything else correctly, closing the sale will be easy. Remember, the prospect has come to you to solve his problem. But if you don’t ask for the rental, everything else you have done was a waste of time. Following are some closing options. The closing technique you use is not critical; what is important is to close the sale.

  • The Alternate-Choice Close—Give your prospect the choice between two positive options: “Do you believe the 10-by-10 or the 10-by-15 will best suit your needs?”
  • The Last-Chance Close—Build a sense of urgency: “I have one unit left in that price range. Should I go ahead and reserve that unit for you today?”
  • The Suggestion Close—Make a friendly suggestion: “Let me suggest that we rent the space today so you will be free to concentrate on moving in on Saturday.”

There is no better investment you can make in your self-storage facility than an effective sales-training program. A great presentation relieves the pressure on rates and gives you the advantage you need to increase occupancy, revenues and site value.

Bob Copper is the founder of Self-Storage 101, a provider of do-it-yourself management tools. The company empowers managers and owners to take control of their assets and compete with institutional players at a fraction of the cost. For more information, call 866.269.1311; e-mail management@selfstorage101.com; visit www.selfstorage101.com.

RK Kliebenstein is the president of Coast-To-Coast Storage. He can be reached at 561.638.1851 or via e-mail at rk@askrk.com.

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