How often have you had a prospective renter say to you, “I have to check with my spouse before making a commitment”? How many times have you yourself said this to a salesperson? Isn’t it the greatest stall tactic ever invented?
Maybe you and your spouse share the decision-making and check with each other before committing to expenses or something like a lease on a storage unit. Perhaps as a salesperson, you don’t like to interfere with customers’ marital politics by encouraging someone to spend money without consent from his spouse. But I’m going to suggest prospects assume you will have neither the skill nor the courage to challenge them in this game.
Selling is a lot like poker. When a customer lays down the spouse tactic, he’s betting you will fold. If you were to see his hand, however, you’d find your chances are better than you think. Let’s take a look at the spouse card and see what we learn.
Calling That Bluff
Women tend to be the ultimate decision-makers where household purchases are concerned, so when a female customer tells you she needs to check with her husband, she is almost certainly bluffing. Most men would rather hit themselves on the thumb with a hammer than spend time shopping for storage or moving things into a storage unit, so they’re generally happy to leave such things for their spouse to handle.
Similarly, if a man tells you he needs to check with his wife before committing to storage, he is probably bluffing. If he’s in your office, either his need is immediate, or his wife has determined his need is immediate. In all likelihood, she’s the reason he’s there in the first place.
Most storage customers begin to look for a unit after they’ve already decided they need one. A majority of couples you come across will have already discussed their plans and how storage fits into the picture before they start talking to you about price, size and availability. They may have even already decided what and when they are going to store. The only decision left is which facility to give their business.
What you have to consider as the storage owner or manager is whether there is risk involved for the person making the decision. Where there is risk for the spouse, there is risk for you in pressing the sale, so tread lightly where family politics are concerned. However, if you feel confident the couple has already settled most of its storage plans, help the spouse in your office stay out of trouble by making the reservation then and there. If he goes home empty-handed, the conversation will probably go something like this:
Spouse A says, “Honey, I talked to the storage place and got its rates. It sounds like they have the size we need, and I think we can afford it.” Spouse B says, “Did you get us a unit?” Spouse A says, “Not yet.” Spouse B says, “Well, why not? What are you waiting for?” It doesn’t matter which gender Spouse A or B is, the exchange will be the same. So it’s your job to keep the peace in the prospects’ household by helping Spouse A complete the rental process.
Risk Trumps Rewards
If the spouses have not discussed or decided on their storage needs, Spouse A takes a chance that Spouse B will be unhappy with his choice. When a customer says he is not ready to rent from you, your job is to ask three important questions. No matter which card he plays, the following will help you determine if he is bluffing or genuinely uncertain:
- Have you and your spouse already talked about your storage needs?
- Have you decided when you will need storage?
- Have you decided what you will be storing?
If you get positive responses, your customer may be playing you. But you can raise his hand by saying, “Great. I can save you a lot of trouble by setting a unit aside for you. Wouldn’t it be nice to tell your spouse you’ve got everything handled? And since availability is somewhat limited right now, the best way I can help you is to put a hold on that unit.” Then begin filling out the lease. If you don’t use this strategy, you may lose the rental. But if you do, the spouse will look like a hero when he goes home and presents your facility and its great value.
On the other hand, if you get negative responses to the questions above, you should arrange a time for Spouse A to bring Spouse B for a site tour. Your play could go something like this: “Great. I think your spouse will really like storing here. The best thing to do is bring him in for a quick tour. I can show him (whatever feature Spouse A particularly liked). When can you both come in?” If you don’t go for the joint appointment, again, you may lose the rental.
Don’t get snookered by the spouse tactic. It’s a great opportunity for you to rent a unit, so don’t fold. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by calling your prospect’s bluff. Now that you know how to use it, practice the technique until you get great at it. Good luck and good selling.
Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, an off-site sales force that turns missed calls into rentals. This rollover call service serves as a backup for self-storage managers. Mr. Jordheim has started several successful businesses in addition to assisting with acquisitions as general manager of the Missouri-based Culligan Bottled Water franchise. For more information, call 866.639.1715; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.