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Overcoming Ancillary Angst: Adding Services to Self-Storage

Mel Holsinger Comments

Most managers first come to self-storage thinking, How hard is it to rent an empty space to people? But all who land the job discover rapidly that renting storage units is only one of many responsibilities they will face daily.

Surprise, Surprise!

How many of you quickly learned that your owner/management company expects you to rent space and be a retail store clerk, a rental-truck and trailer dealer, post office and packaging expert, an RV-storage attendant, document shredder, junk remover, carwash operator, etc.? It seems that where there’s a will to make money, self-storage entrepreneurs are always struggling to find a way. Ancillaries are the answer.

At first glance, all the jobs listed above seem to correlate to self-storage. The argument by many managers, though, is they can’t be topping the charts for unit sales at the same time they’re weighing and shipping boxes. Let’s explore this further and figure out how to make it all possible.

The Retail Front

Many offices have limited space, and any attempt to display a variety of products in this area often ends up as a clustered mishmash that looks more like a par course than an organized work station. Maybe your site is the exception with ample space and a retail center like a small Staples. Regardless, the idea is to get the customer to purchase products along with signing a rental agreement—beefing up the bottom line. Your goal: persuading them to buy from you rather than go to another retailer. How do you do it?

Believe it or not, this process should be relatively easy if you follow a script. “Mr. Jones, we have a variety of products readily available to help you in your move. We are competitively priced with (name the closest retailer that sells moving and storage supplies), but we can save you the time of having to hunt for them elsewhere and stand in line to pay for them. Can I show you our package deal for your (5–by-10, 10-by-10, etc.) unit and other products you may need? By the way, our high-security lock is an asset to help you maintain control of your possessions, and it is important that only you and your designated representatives have the key/combination. Would you like to purchase a lock for your unit?”

Many people refer to this process as up-selling. It’s a service we can provide to the benefit of the renter; moreover, it pads a facility’s profit and helps maintain operational standards.

The only problem is most managers lack the training and confidence to follow through with this process. Ancillary and up-selling can seem more like the nemesis than an opportunity. Why is it so many managers can quote the proper space size for the customer, point out the convenience and security features of a facility, yet fail to sell packing and storing supplies to someone who will likely need them? Is it because these items are considered “ancillary” instead of necessary? Could it be managers are so driven to obtain signed rental agreements that they forget products can be a highly profitable part of the business? Or is it the employer’s lack of emphasis on this part of the business?

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