Sometimes sales strategies are deliberate, other times they are the organic product of a specific situation, sales culture or staff member. If you examine particulars, you can usually come up with sales techniques that work especially well for your business. This column is about a simple detail many operators don’t think about. Do you see anything special about this phone-sales approach?
A customer calls your facility during a high-traffic time or after hours and is transferred to your call center. An agent answers his questions and, at the end of the conversation, says, “My name is Earl. Give me a call back if you have any other questions.” Or maybe he says something like “Ask for Earl when you call back.”
Is it normal call-center practice to keep continuity with each customer by having him work with a specific sales agent every time he calls? The answer illustrates ways in which phone-sales tactics set you apart from competition and increase your call-to-renter conversion rate.
It’s Only Natural
So what’s in a name, anyway? The practice of extending sales agents’ first names and an invitation to call back didn’t necessarily begin as a deliberate policy procedure. I think it evolved naturally from a desire to create more rentals and provide customers the best possible experience. It grew organically during the sales process, but it now serves several purposes.
First, sales reps feel they stand the best chance of renting a unit when they can create some connection in the caller’s mind between the facility and the call center itself. Creating a personal association between the two entities makes the transaction seem more personal. It also reinforces the perception in the customer’s mind that the rep is working for him specifically.
In addition, there’s always a better chance the caller will rent a unit if he can call back and ask for someone in particular. There’s an established relationship, a rapport. A not-so-hot lead or potentially lost reservation can be recovered if the customer calls back with a question. He’s more likely to call back if he can remember a name and has a personal invitation.
Call-center reps also want the facility staff to know their names and that they are working to help them in their goals. While managers often appreciate the call center’s efforts, they usually make contact only if there’s a problem with a customer or other issue. When a prospect reaches the facility and asks for one of the sales reps by name, it reminds site staff that the call center is part of the team. It’s particularly great when the customer mentions how friendly and helpful the rep was.
Leaving a name with callers is also a financial issue. Sales agents often work on commission, and they write a lot of their reservations from call-backs. If customers ask for a rep by name, it helps ensure the right person gets to close the deal.
Just a Memory
Sometimes, the person calling back for Earl gets him on the phone immediately and says, “Hi Earl, it’s me. Remember, I called the other day?” Assuming Earl keeps good notes or has a decent memory, he should have some recollection of the call and the rapport he built with the customer. In this case, the odds of making a rental are close to 100 percent.
If Earl happens to be out when the person calls, the answering rep simply says, “Earl isn’t in, but I can help you put that unit on hold.” This usually works just as well. Most salespeople have to field calls for others on any given day.
The practice of having callers ask for reps by name adds an element of quality control. If the customer didn’t like the way Earl handled his call, or if Earl left him confused on some issue, management will find out about it. Customers are quick to let staff know when a call is handled improperly or insufficiently, which keeps everyone on their best performance. Mistakes will be made now and then, but they can almost always be rectified once discovered.
How do you and your fellow employees use a personal touch to create rapport with customers? When people call back or visit your site, do they ask for you by name? Consider this a strategic issue that could impact your conversion rates.
Allow the practice to develop naturally and flourish. If you like it, you’ll find it increases customer satisfaction and rentals alike. 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.