An effective rule of selling is: Sell your worst feature first. If there is something about your facility you feel could negatively affect a rental, bring it the forefront early in the sales process. And don’t just reveal it to the customer—sell it to him. A mere mention might kill the deal, but a creative salesperson can always turn a negative into a positive.
For example, if you were selling a Hummer, you wouldn’t simply tell the customer he might have trouble fitting the vehicle in his garage. You would say something to communicate the same information, but include a positive spin: “You might have trouble fitting this baby in your garage but, man, are you going to look good riding around town! And since the heat and A/C produce comfortable temperatures within 2.6 seconds, you’ll never even miss your garage.”
Similarly, if you were selling health insurance that had high copays, you would want to find a benefit to offset the disadvantage. Your presentation might go something like this: “Now our co-pays are generally higher than you may be used to, but our company has one of the fastest turnaround times for payments in the industry. You won’t be waiting for months, wondering if your provider has been paid. Also, our phone-support reps have one of the best speed-to-answer rates in the business, which means you won’t be on hold half the day. We’re very responsive to our customers.”
Applying the Art to Storage
How can this technique be applied in our industry? What are some of the most unfavorable features of storage facilities? Let’s take a look at how you can sell some of your site’s least attractive characteristics.
Your facility is older. First explain how your facility meets the basic storage requirements of dryness and security. Then back it up by pointing out that because your facility is older, you have fewer operational expenses and can keep rates down. Turn any discussion about your place being “old” into praise for economic pricing and longevity. It also helps if you can emphasize the cleanliness and care of the site.
Your facility is hard to find. You can sell your off-the-beaten track location by emphasizing that it’s easier to keep your place secure. Also point out that you experience less traffic and it costs less to have a location off the main street, which translates to better rates.
Your facility has walk-up units. It’s easy to sell those interior, second- or third-floor units. Simply say, “One of the nice things about our store is you can save a bunch of money by choosing an upstairs unit. And because these units have no exterior access, there is no chance for passersby to tamper with your lock. You also won’t ever be exposed to the elements while accessing your unit.”
Your facility lacks 24-hour access. In this instance, explain that no one is allowed on the property after the gates are locked, so tenants’ belongings are completely secure overnight.
You require tenant insurance. You may think this is a negative feature, but customers are usually glad to know they can buy insurance for a few dollars a month to add an extra level of protection. Say something like, “We do require you to insure your belongings when you store with us. You can buy the insurance through our facility for as little as $8 or $12 per month. Not that we’ve ever had a problem here, but if anything should occur, we would want you to be protected.”
Your facility lacks climate control. In this case, explain that the absence of this feature allows you to maintain low rental rates. You can always say your decision not to offer it was a result of tenant feedback: “We find most of our customers don’t care to pay for the additional cost of climate control,” or “Most of our tenants have not found climate control to be necessary in this area.”
Even if your store doesn’t have what you would consider to be negative features, you may lack a few things your competitors offer. You want to remove your competitors’ advantage by telling prospects first. Again, you can downplay one feature by commending another: “We don’t offer feature X, which most of our renters don’t miss, because we offer feature Y, which our customers love because…”
Of course, you want to be careful. Be realistic and sensitive to customers’ requirements. Generally, if you try to tell people what they should want or need, they will have a negative reaction. The safest strategy is to share with prospects what other customers have said about certain features. People are best persuaded by others in their same predicament, i.e., other storage customers, than they are by a sales representative. Pay attention to customers’ wishes and offer options whenever possible. When you can’t offer an alternative, do your best to shed positive light on the features your facility does possess.
Learn to think differently about the less-than-desirable features of your facility. Find creative ways to sell them. You may discover they aren’t so bad after all.
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 as well as 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.