By Jason McHone
Self-storage operation requires a focus on customer service, but you can never forget it’s a sales job. Not all customers shop the same way, and some need more than one encounter with a salesperson to make a final decision.
Self-storage sales can happen in a variety of ways: phone calls, walk-ins, online, etc. Your highest closing rate will always be with walk-in traffic. A customer who physically visits the facility will tend to be an easier sale because once he’s on site, he’s much more likely to rent, even if he has an objection.
Some customers take a little more convincing, and there are plenty of resources available on how to approach sales and be persuasive. But how do you get better results if you’re already closing at an average or above-average rate? How do you get more customers to visit your site?
You could spend an exorbitant amount of money on new marketing and advertising campaigns and hope they work, or you could invest more time in following up with the prospects you already have. This is a free and easy way to increase your rentals.
A System That Works
Creating a reliable system for performing follow-up calls is an excellent way to increase foot traffic and subsequently bump up your move-in rates. But many people tasked with follow-ups fail to complete them or allow too much time to pass before making contact.
It’s no secret that these calls aren’t always enjoyable, and this can sometimes cause employees to invest little or no time in making them. The manager’s attitude can greatly affect the direction of each call. If he hates making follow-up calls, it will often show. Managers need to be taught the correct way to do follow-ups and have a bright, helpful attitude.
Allowing too much time to pass between calls is another common mistake. Managers get busy with other things. When they finally get around to making the call, the customer has already rented somewhere else. A follow-up should be completed within 24 hours of the initial customer contact. A second follow-up call should be made within two days of the first one; although, if you don’t reach the prospect, it’s best to call on two consecutive days. Getting the timing right is important because customers go through cycles and it can happen quickly.
While it’s imperative to be persistent, it’s also important not to be overbearing or annoying. If managers aren’t having any success with calling a prospect, they should try using another form of contact such as e-mail to mix up their approach. If they’re getting good results when they speak to potential customers, you should provide more than one way to contact them.
The buying process can be just as much about timing as it is about pricing, and they’re often related. When a customer decides not to rent or make a reservation, there’s always an underlying issue or objection, regardless of what he tells you. There are circumstances in which a customer’s issue or problem changes, and it’s essential to follow up to get new information.
A good example would be a customer who initially looks to rent a 10-by-10 space and does all of his price comparisons on that size only. What if that customer ultimately decides a 10-by-10 is unnecessary or unaffordable? What if he has new needs or concerns? Maybe he now needs a moving truck and your facility has a promotion the manager didn’t mention. What if your prospect really needs a mailbox and he’s not aware you accept shipping? How much could that be worth to a customer?
There are also people who want to feel like someone cares about their situation and buys based on the sales representative’s personality or willingness to help. These emotional buyers relish the thought of a manager who’ll be available and make an effort at his job.
Assemble Your Tools
When it comes to making a second contact, it’s vital that you have a reliable method to track results. A customer-relationship management (CRM) system or facility-management software that has a built in CRM tool can be a great way to track and even record follow-ups. If you’re an owner looking for a way to follow employees’ progress or a manager trying to organize and make sense of everything, great software can really help.
Getting in contact with customers at different phases of their buying cycle will increase your chances of making successful follow-up contact. Creating a follow-up system is a great way to increase revenue and occupancy without adding additional cost. If you have procedures in place, you can be sure managers are making follow-up calls at the right times. If you have the right software, you can even listen to make sure they’re saying the right things.
Jason McHone is the client developer for PhoneSmart, a provider of call-center services to self-storage operators in Canada, Latin America and the United States. He’s been in sales for nearly 10 years and in the self-storage industry for four years. His experience includes sales training, coaching, mentoring and the coordination of mystery shopping. To reach him, call 866.639.1715; visit www.phonesmart.net.