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A Better Sales Philosophy for Self-Storage Businesses: Service and Compassion

Benjamin K. Burkhart Comments

We’ve all heard the preaching about how to best improve your sales process: neat and clean facility, good phone skills, ability to “think on your feet,” role-playing, clearly articulating features and benefits, nice office setup ... This checklist could go on and on.

If implemented or followed, each item should help streamline our sales process. But what I believe to be one of the most critical aspects of customer relations and, in turn, effective sales is understanding of the customer.

I’ve generated a few laughs over the years by comparing our sales trenches to the funeral industry; the parallels simply cannot be ignored. Our managers, though not regularly clad in dark suits, deal with a variety of negative emotions in their customers―from messy divorces, to financial struggles and job loss, kids moving back home, elderly parents moving in with their families, and even death. The ability of the manager to relate with that array of emotions is crucial in your self-storage operation.
Understanding Your Customer

Owners, you have the opportunity to implement a culture in your business that helps people. It begins with how you relate with your employees, how you treat others, and the personal principles you live out in your daily life. It’s said that character is not defined by how you treat those you look up to, but how you treat those looking up to you. As the CEO of your company, strive to implement a culture of serving others, relating well to people, leading with character, and helping those around you.

Will it translate to profit? Absolutely. Keeping your employees happy, honoring you and modeling your business philosophy should translate to happier customers, more referrals and a more viable business. Most owners are behind the curve on implementing a strong, stable customer-service philosophy. Your stock will rise, so to speak, if you set the tone for your business.

Store managers need to know that when the next person walks through the door, it’s likely not the happiest day of his life. The demand for storage is often born out of a particularly stressful or emotional life event. There are many managers who clearly do not like their jobs. They’re unhappy, bored or underpaid, so they don’t do their best when it comes to customer service.

Some refer to themselves as “property managers,” but the guy talking to the customer should be a salesperson most of the time. His job is 80 percent customer service.

Regardless of the title you use, the facility manager should focus on providing a high level of service to the customer. He is in the unique position of having all the tools required to meet the customer’s needs. Remember, people don’t lose sleep at night with excitement about going to rent a storage space. They may lose sleep because of money, time, health or anxiety, but going to rent a storage unit, no matter how flashy your sales presentation, is a demand born out of some stressful life event.

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