Inside Self-Storage: The Value of Business Customers

Cary F. McGovern Comments
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The most attractive customer you can have in self-storage is the business tenant, who tends to buy more, stay longer and pay on time. Commercial clients are also more open to ancillary services like records storage—if you have the right pitch and well-defined services.

These days, small business represents a flourishing segment of commerce. Its owners are usually hard-working, savvy and diligent, and they wear many hats: salesperson, manager, personnel director, payroll clerk, chief cook and bottle-washer, and many others. Often, the last thing on their minds is records storage.

But we live in a time when business records have become essential. They’ve moved up the food chain because of the government trying to protect us from ourselves and others, whether we like it or not. Indeed, records are import to small businesses—just ask some of those who lost all their files during Hurricane Katrina. Studies show that when a company loses all its documentation, it typically goes out of business within six to nine months.

Taking Away Their Pain

Records go from the basement to the boardroom overnight. They’re generally unimportant until they become extremely important due to an audit, lawsuit, employee fraud or client need. All businesses, large and small, must keep records of their transactions for three primary reasons:

1. Regulatory compliance:

Federal, state and local governments require that records be kept for review by auditors and compliance officials.

2. Litigation avoidance:

Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society. We all fear the possibility of a lawsuit, which can cause disruption to a business even if it has no just cause.

3. Sound business practice:

Accountants, consultants and lawyers recommend the saving of business records to guard against fraud, theft and sabotage by disgruntled employees, all of which are more common than you may think.

But which records should business owners save and for how long? It’s often difficult to determine how long files should be preserved and how to organize and care for them properly. It’s a job that causes “pain.” Fortunately, in an era when we are all forced to do more with less, outsourcing is a prime remedy, especially for records storage. It costs less and provides great value beyond simple storage. Rather than a hassle, it becomes an automatic solution.

Here’s Where You Come In

Self-storage is often the small-business owner’s first choice for storage because its facilities are convenient, economical and flexible. The advantage to the self-storage operator is this target market represents a great sales opportunity. Every customer who walks through your door is a potential records-storage client. If he doesn’t own a business, he likely has friends or business associates who do. At the very least, he probably works for a company that could use the service.

The question is how to engage him in a discussion about something that’s not at the top of his agenda. The avoidance of pain is at the forefront of everyone’s mind; and the notion of “pain resolution” has been used by top salespeople for decades. There are just three simple steps to selling records storage at your self-storage facility: the question, the pitch and the close.

The Question

The question should do two things: roll off your tongue with ease while hitting the prospect right between the eyes. In formal terms, the question is called the “initial benefit statement.” It inquires about the customer’s pain and hits home. Your approach must be crafted in the local vernacular, and you must practice it until you embody the words. It can’t be canned, as it must elicit a passionate response from the prospect.

The Pitch

The pitch has to be backed by a solution that heals the pain uncovered by the question. I suggest you develop packages that are focused, inexpensive and valuable to the prospect. For example, consider offering economy, small-business and professional packages of services. Each should feature different options, offering cost and time savings to the client and high storage yield to the hosting facility.

The Close

Sales is about closing the deal. The ability to close typically depends on three aspects of a customer’s psyche: understanding, proof and buyer’s remorse. First, he needs to understand what you are selling, so you must be able to define it quickly and clearly. Next, he must recognize the offering’s value (the proof). Finally, you must negate any potential buyer’s remorse before and immediately after the sale by reinforcing the product’s worth and making it clear that the decision is in the customer’s best interest.

Businesses represent an excellent opportunity for self-storage and records storage alike. Understand customers’ pain and master your sales approach, and you’ll pave the way to longer rentals, dependable income and a stronger bottom line.

Cary F. McGovern is the principal of FileMan Records Management, which offers full-service assistance for commercial records-storage startups and sales training in commercial records-management operations. For help with feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, call 877.FILEMAN; e-mail fileman@fileman.com; visit www.fileman.com.

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