Many of you think you’re in the RV and boat-storage business. In fact, you’re in the sales business. What you sell is space, support and service.
Some businesses are lucky or smart enough to establish themselves in a great location where customers will come to them. And some owners and managers are just naturally good at dealing with people. Those of you who fall into these categories have been successful regardless of your sales approach. You also have the most to gain from teaching sales skills to your staff because you’re in an excellent starting position. Those who don’t have a prime locale or innate people skills must learn to sell—or risk being squeezed out of business by competitors.
Feel the Love
To many people, “sales” is a dirty word. We’ve all encountered salespeople or approaches we didn’t like. The following is also true: People love to be “sold.” When we make a purchase, if the salesperson isn’t enthused or doesn’t help us leave with everything we want or need, we feel unfulfilled.
Don’t let your customers go away dissatisfied. Learn to sell. Selling is no different than any other skill; you just need to know some basics. Following is a sales outline geared toward the boat- and RV-storage sector. It includes just five steps:
- Introduce yourself.
- Ask discovery questions.
- Build agreement on issues.
- Create urgency.
- Close the deal.
You have to introduce yourself to customers and potential clients. They need to perceive you as friendly and inviting. If you share a smile, whether in person or on the phone, you get to do business. Let them see you as knowledgeable and helpful. Answer their questions with authority and caring. If they say, “I think I bent my prop shaft because I’m feeling a weird vibration,” answer, “Sure, I can help you with that.” Actually, that’s a good answer for just about any question, don’t you think?
Ask Discovery Questions
Questions are a great way to learn and listen. The answers tell you about customers’ needs and wants and something of their personalities, which is important. Most people ask you a question to start a conversation, not because they know what they need. If someone asks how much your RV parking spaces cost, he’s really saying, “I need help storing and maintaining my RV.” So let him understand how you can assist.
Good questions help you raise important issues customers may not have considered. There are a lot of details involved in caring for boats and RVs. To be of maximum assistance, you need to be informative. You keep up with best practices, don’t you? Share these with your customers so they can benefit.
Finally, questions help qualify customers based on when they need help, how much they have budgeted, how they think they will be best served, what they already know about boats and RVs, and how they feel about your offerings. Develop some great discovery questions and use them often. Share them with your staff members and have them make the pitch. You’ll see increases in revenues, referrals and return business.
Build Agreement on Issues
In a way, you can’t actually sell anyone anything. They have to talk themselves into doing business with you. And they will do that— if you break down the transaction into issues on which you can agree. Many relate to the who, what, where, when and how questions discussed earlier. The most important items to establish are: How soon will they need to store? What size space will be best? How much are they looking to spend?
It’s always better for the customer to make a decision while he is talking to you. If he doesn’t make a decision then, he may get distracted, take on another project, spend his money on something else or become interested in one of your competitors.
Create urgency by letting him know space is limited and availability is fleeting. Tell him that once you have a space open, it goes fast, so it’s best to reserve now. If his vehicle requires service, it should be scheduled at this moment, because your staff gets busy and convenient appointments are not guaranteed. The last thing you want is someone becoming disappointed because a space rented before he would commit or services were booked.
Close the Deal
To “close” means to get a “yes” and a time frame for fulfillment. Closing is not saying, “Thanks for calling. We hope to see you soon.” You ask a confirming question, and write the action on the calendar. You ask, “Will Monday be good, or will Tuesday be better?” The customer says, “Tuesday is good.” You both write it in for Tuesday.
Art of the Close
Nailing the close is the most important and, for some people, difficult part of making a sale. Don’t be intimidated—sealing a deal isn’t that hard. Here are some examples of classic closes with a few scripted phrases. Try them out and see which work best for you:
The Alternate-Choice Close. This close asks the customer a question and provides two options. A yes to either choice means he will buy from you.
Close on the Minor Issues. In this close, you get the customer to make small decisions. Saying yes to a small decision means he will make the big purchase.
The Puppy-Dog Close. I love this one because I used to sell puppies. This is where you let the customer “take the puppy home” for a week before paying. He only brings it back if he doesn’t want to keep it. How many puppies come back? None.
The Order-Blank Close. If you start filling out the order and the prospect doesn’t stop you, you have a sale. Take out whatever form you use to write up sales or service, and start writing. Get a name, address, phone number, make and model of the vehicle, date you are scheduling service, etc. When you have everything filled out, pass the form to the customer and show him where to sign. Presto! The deal is sealed.
The Straight Question. This is a great way to move a customer to a decision after you have talked enough about the subject and agreed on some minor issues. You’re pretty sure what you have to offer is the person’s best option, and the prospect doesn’t seem to have any objections. You need to move along and close the deal, so you ask something like:
The Tag Close. This technique allows you to tell the customer you are ready to do business, and then ask for the sale by tagging on an affirmative.
Sharp listening skills will help you succeed in every step of becoming a sales wizard. Paying attention may be a challenge when you’re busy, or when it’s your 15th time answering the same question about fuel filters or seasonal hours in a day. Bite your lip, hold your tongue. Allow people to finish their sentences. They will see you as a rude know-it-all if you don’t listen before you answer.
Here’s a valuable tip to hone your listening skills: Paraphrase what your customer says. Repeat it for clarification. If he says it once, it might have been just a thought. If you repeat it and he confirms it, then it’s fact. This leads to a solid sale. Say something like, “If I understand you correctly, then ...” or “So, if I hear you right ....”
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics of a smiling introduction, some great discovery questions, and the ability to create urgency and close the sale, there are lots of ways to fine tune these skills and add more. It’s a little like learning to hit in baseball camp. When you can hit the fastball and the curveball, you can start working on the slider and the change-up. Good luck, and good selling.
Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, an off-site sales force that helps storage owners rent to more people through its call center, secret-shopping service, sales-training programs and Want2Store.com facility locator. You can read what he is up to at www.selfstorageblog.com. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.