Fighting the 'Cancer' of Poor Management Philosophy in Self-Storage

By Benjamin Burkhart Comments
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Teach your managers to develop rapport while asking quality questions, such as "What will you be storing?", "How long will you need storage?" and "Have you used storage before?" If managers ask the right questions, they’ll have a good feel for what’s creating demand in your market.

They should also ask the tenant if he’s moved before, or moved or lost a business. For most people, moving is a tough, sometimes traumatic experience. Our tenants are often not having the best day of their lives when they get to our store. They're stressed out, exhausted, angry with someone or emotionally spent.

I teach managers that their phone will not always ring, and the door will not be in constant motion; but when a call comes in or the door opens, they must be on top of their game—pleasant, friendly, helpful and eager to provide the best solution to the customer’s demand. What our employees can enjoy about their duties is providing a much-needed relief to customers on bad days. Because that’s what moving day is: stress, sweat, anxiety, arguments and pain. With the right direction, storage managers can provide a pleasant experience during an otherwise bitter time.

It’s Sales, Not Property Management

The self-storage manager position is a sales job. We shouldn’t even call it “manager,” we should call it sales or customer service. We can hire out all the maintenance or site issues we have with contracts or on an as-needed basis. I cringe when owners say, “Yeah, we have a great manager. He can pretty much do anything we need him to do—fix doors, drill locks, paint, cut the grass. He can fix anything. He’s a real gem.” But is he a salesperson?

Often, managers are so overloaded with maintenance or reporting duties that they don’t even see themselves as salespeople. They see themselves as “property managers.” And because of that, the sales side—the part that makes you money—suffers.

Managers must be required to stand up when a customer comes in the door. They must smile. They need to look professional and speak intelligently. They need to be friendly, warm and personable. The storage salesperson must master the art of asking the right questions every time and providing thoughtful answers. If your manager can’t do that, you have a problem.

Don’t just call them salespeople, compensate them like salespeople. Treat them like salespeople. Certain activities will yield results, like making calls to local businesses and visiting medical, dental, legal and other professional offices. Joint venturing with local businesses with a coupon drive. Calling existing tenants and asking for referrals. Making an extra call for late rents. Give your manager a reason to think of himself as the salesperson and compensate him accordingly.

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