By Amy Campbell
I wish I could take credit for the title to this blog, but I’m actually paraphrasing something a member of Self-Storage Talk wrote when I asked community members for their top three sales tips. Steve_Hajewski, who’s not only a new self-storage owner but also the marketing manager for Trachte Building Systems, wrote, “Listen more than you talk. Listen to what your client's problem is, and then offer a solution.” Good advice.
While some people are natural at sales, others have to work at it. Being a good salesperson is an art, and there’s a subtle line between a smarmy used-car salesman and someone who believes in a product or service and wants to offer it to his customers.
In the self-storage industry, sales are a huge part of the job. Before you can take a payment, you have to get the customer to sign on the dotted line. Yes, they’ve called your facility or walked through your door for a reason—they need storage. But unless yours is the only storage property in a 20-mile radius, you’re competing for their business, which means you better have some mad sales skills. Here’s a look at how “listen, learn, offer” plays into the sales transaction.
People like to talk. We have TV talk shows, talk radio and social groups all centered on the need to gab. When a potential customer calls your property or walks into your office, your sales drive kicks in. It’s your time to convince this person that your facility is the best place to store their stuff.
Hold up. Yes, you should put on your sales hat, but your real job here is to listen to your customer. Too often, operators will jump ahead in the sales process. You’re reaching for the lease before your customer has even communicated his needs.
The biggest mistake operators make is offering a rental rate before engaging the prospect. If you’re simply quoting a price over the phone or in person, you’re shortchanging the entire process. What if your customer is packing up a three-bedroom house, but ask for pricing on 5-by-10 unit? Unless he’s rented a unit before, he likely has no idea how much space he’ll need. You’re the expert, so you need to guide him.
Instead of having your sales spiel at the ready, try a short Q&A so you can get a feel for your customer’s needs. Here are few questions you should ask every prospect:
- Have you rented a self-storage unit before? This will tell you just how familiar your prospect is with the service. You’ll find many are first-time renters.
- What do you plan to store? This is much more effective than, “What size unit do you need?” Remember, the majority of customers have no idea how much space they require.
- How soon will you need a unit? This gives you leverage on price sensitivity and can help you create a sense of urgency. If your prospect needs storage immediately, he’s looking to buy today. If you’re down to your last 10-by-10 unit, you can use that info to persuade him to commit.
- How long will you need storage? This can also help you gauge your customer’s price sensitivity. Those looking for longer-term storage are typically seeking a better deal than someone who needs storage for a month during a move.
- What’s most important to you in choosing a storage facility? This is where you’ll uncover what they care about—price, security, location, operating hours, etc.
This is just a sampling of the questions you might ask. You can adapt your inquires to each situation. As you ask these questions, really listen to the responses, so when it’s your turn to talk, you give thoughtful information. Your customer will know if you were actually listening or thinking about your to-do list!
What you learn by asking the questions above will tell you a lot about your customer. You’ll be able to determine how price sensitive he may be, how long you can expect him to be a tenant, and what his needs are. This can also help shape your sales presentation.
As you speak with your prospective tenant, you’ll likely learn more about him. Did he mention packing up dishes and you just so happen sell a dish-packing kit? Is your new tenant an entrepreneur who will access the unit frequently? If so, a unit near the front—priced a bit higher—will be attractive. This is your chance to offer more than just a storage unit.
Be sure to zero in on what you learn from your prospect to cultivate your sales approach. For example, women are more concerned about facility safety, so pointing out your property’s video cameras and lighting will help seal the deal. A college student with limited funds will appreciate free use of your facility’s rental truck. You’re basing your sales presentation on your property’s value, not the price of a 10-by-10 unit.
Many call this phase, “asking for the sale.” However, Bob Copper, owner of Self Storage 101, says you should instead “assume the sale.” This person is calling or standing in your office for a reason—he needs storage. So sell it to him!
Avoid asking questions that can be answered with as simple yes or no. For example, after a property tour, you might say, “So, which unit will best fit your needs?” Or you might tell a phone customer, “Can I schedule a property tour for you at 6 p.m. today?”
Similarly, rather than asking, “Do you need boxes,” say “How many boxes do you need today for packing?” If you have an auto-debit program, don’t ask if your customer if he’d like to sign up. Instead say, “Our customers prefer the convenience of our auto-pay plan. Would you prefer to use MasterCard or Visa?
Remember, you’re selling more than just rental space. You’re marketing your brand and everything that goes with it. So if you offer packing supplies, be sure to mention it. If you have amazing security, it should be noted. If you offer the convenience of online billpay, tell your prospects.
Again, you have to walk that fine line between being pushy yet firm. No wants to be pressured, but if you’ve done your job right, your customer will be ready to sign a lease. For most people, selling isn’t easy. Sometime it takes trial and error as you cultivate your own selling style. Once you do, however, you’ll find every sales interaction will go a bit smoother.
Are you a master at self-storage sales? Share your advice by providing a comment below or in this Self-Storage Talk thread.