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Goals for 2009: Competitive Sales, Facility Remodeling and More

Jim Chiswell Comments

There’s no escaping the growing recession across the United States. Many self-storage markets are experiencing a drop in occupancy and an inability to raise rental rates. These forces are creating a market environment in which we all need to capitalize on any competitive advantage available.

Many are turning increasingly to various discounting ideas. Ray Wilson, president of Self Storage Data Services (SSDS), indicated during his keynote presentation at the Inside Self-Storage Expo in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 7-10, that SSDS is tracking more than 40 different discounting programs. He also maintained that discounting doesn’t necessarily negatively impact overall operational income, so take heart.

Thinking about discounts made me wonder if we are maximizing competitive advantages that cost us nothing by simply discussing them in positive terms to prospective customers. Two of these advantages are not charging security deposits and offering rent guarantees.

I know security deposits are a thing of the past, but simply saying, “We will not be charging you a security deposit today,” to a prospect can become a positive advantage. Remember that the 2007 national Self Storage Association’s Self Storage Demand research indicates 51 percent of Americans have never used storage. Instead of just ignoring the fact that you don’t collect a security deposit, use it as a positive statement in your rental dialogue.

What is your company’s policy on increasing rents on new customers? Most owners will not raise rents on new tenants for six months or a year. However, if you don’t explain this to potential customers as a part of your sales closing process, you are missing out on a significant competitive advantage.

Some companies, as you know, will attempt to attract new customers with “low-ball” pricing only to turn around and increase rental rates within a month or two. At a time of such financial uncertainty, assuring your new renters the facility’s rates will not increase for a significant number of months encourages them to sign your rental agreement. This can also be a great statement to make on the phone as you are trying to get the caller to come into the facility.

Owners and managers should adopt an aggressive closing mindset wrapped around the following: “No one leaves without renting a unit.” Managers should have the authority to make whatever deal necessary to finalize the sale with potential renters in the office.

The same is true about every incoming phone call. Every inquiry must be converted to an appointment and every appointment turned into a rental if we are to maintain current occupancy levels throughout 2009.

The job is not to sell units; it’s to sell storage solutions. Salesmanship and taking advantage of all of our competitive advantages must be priorities for 2009.

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