By Joel Little
What’s in a phone call? It depends on its purpose and goal. Every day people make phone calls for different reasons including to pay bills, inquire about products or services, or just connect with someone they love. In the self-storage industry, a phone call could mean the difference between being profitable or hanging a for-sale sign in the grass out front of your facility. What’s in a phone call? Your future as a self-storage company.
There are billions of square feet invested in the self-storage industry, with many people wanting to acquire more land and build even more facilities. Some customers would say there isn’t a difference between one facility and another. We all know that’s not really the case. Yes, some facilities have similar amenities and pricing, but there are differences.
Millions of dollars are spent in advertising to attract customers and entice them to pick up the phone and inquire about renting a self-storage unit. But all that money can potentially be wasted when a customer is turned away with a sub-par phone conversation.
It only takes one call for a customer to determine if he’ll visit your facility and rent a unit. Likewise, he could be completely turned off at the idea of renting from your facility and choose your competitor instead. Here are some factors to consider when the phone rings:
- Will the phone be answered promptly?
- Will the manager or phone-center representative do his best at creating value in your facility?
- Do you have what the customer needs?
- Can your sales rep or manager overcome any potential objections, including pricing?
- What kind of attitude will the customer have, and what kind of attitude will your manager/sales rep have?
The list can go on an on. If you think you can just pick up the ringing phone, speak to the customer and it’s guaranteed he’ll come down to your facility and rent a unit, you’re sadly mistaken.
The Best Sales Presentation
Here are some steps you can take to ensure you get the best quality presentation every time the phone is answered:
- Answer it! Make sure you have adequate staffing and your manager can receive calls when out of the office; or hire a call center to handle rollover calls when the manager is otherwise engaged.
- Think about your amenities. Understand your clients and what kinds of amenities they might like in your facility. Have a short script at the ready so your manager can hit all the high points. Be sure to include information about access hours, security features, climate control if you offer it, retail items for sale, moving trucks, etc. The manager should rehearse the script so it doesn’t sound like he’s reading it word for word.
- Hire and train a great manager. Some are born to be in sales, some are not. Take the time to train your manager on how to engage the customer over the phone. This includes listening to the customer’s needs, and then offering the services or products that fit those needs, not just quoting prices and unit sizes. If you’re employing a call center, choose one that has a superior training program and quality closing statistics.
- Make an appointment. The manager should always invite the customer to visit the facility for a tour. Give your manager an appointment calendar so he can mark it down, and add the person’s name and phone number for a follow-up call.
- Ask for the customer’s business. Many times a customer will get the price or his questions answered, then hang up. A good manager or call-center rep will ask for the sale. This might include making an appointment for an onsite tour, scheduling a follow-up phone call, or simply asking the customer, “Would you like to use Visa or MasterCard to reserve your unit?”
- Keep a training schedule. Don’t go months without following up with your manager or call-center company to ensure they’re providing the highest level of quality. Phone-sales training should be ongoing.
Spend time developing good phone etiquette and make sure that whomever you entrust with answering your facility’s phone will always put the company’s best foot forward. Your self-storage future depends on it.
Joel Little is the head sales coach at PhoneSmart, a self-storage call center and marketing firm. He's been in the self-storage industry for more than five years, and has been in retail management for more than a decade. He strives daily to help improve the self-storage industry one call at a time, gaining insight from each customer. For more information, visit www.phone-smart.net .