In any self-storage sales program, the ability to build value and trust with the customer is essential to success. It’s critical that you speak with enthusiasm about your store, actively listen to customers’ needs, and provide a dynamic features-and-benefits presentation based on each individual to whom you speak. To do this, you must know your customers, your product and your competition.
Know Your Customers
The more you know about your customers, the better you will be in your sales effort. You want to understand the reasons why a customer is interested in storage, as this will give you insight to what’s important to him.
It’s imperative to have a strategy for evaluating customers: where they come from, how they find you, why they choose your location, etc. This information is powerful. Capture it during lease-up via a customer survey. The results will help you understand which of your sales efforts are working, allowing you to change and improve your sales program over time.
For example, you might find customers are choosing your store 44 percent of the time because of a nice and helpful manager. This indicates your manager is doing a good job of building value and trust through an impactful sales presentation.
A survey can also help you track the best forms of advertising and marketing by asking each customer how he found out about your store. Track this over time, as it will help you make future decisions about these expenditures. You can save thousands of dollars a year by having a sound program for measuring your marketing.
Know Your Product
In building value and trust with customers, you must also have comprehensive knowledge of your store’s operation, features and benefits―especially in relation to your competitors. Product knowledge is customer service!
If you’re doing nothing more than being friendly and answering questions with a prospect, you’ll have a hard time surviving in a competitive market. The average customer is much more knowledgeable about the storage experience and has more choices than in years past. He’s looking for someone who knows what he’s talking about, who can educate him on a facility’s features and how they will benefit him.
Know Your Competitors
To sell against competitors, you must know them better than they know themselves. This way you can easily overcome pricing objections and turn any self-storage prospect into a customer.
It’s also extremely important to build relationships with your competition. Make at least quarterly visits to competing stores. While at each location, observe how the staff handles phone and walk-in customers. Ask yourself:
- Do they provide a features-and-benefits presentation?
- Do they provide any helpful hints about using self-storage?
- Do they ask for the appointment with phone customers?
- Do they take walk-in customers through the sales process in a positive way?
Observe each facility’s features so you understand the unique advantages you provide to customers relative to this competitor. Make a lot of mental notes during your visit and write them down as soon as you can. The longer you delay in documenting your observations, the more likely it is that you’ll forget this valuable information.
Note: Don’t ever “bash” your competition when talking with customers. Instead find ways of selling your differential advantages. Remember, you must know your competitors to sell against them. Having this information will give you a great deal of confidence.
Use the Knowledge
Now that you have information about your customers and competitors, make sure you have a strong program for following up with leads. Always ask the prospect for a name and phone number during the phone-sales presentation. If the caller isn’t ready to make an appointment, send him a brochure or coupon, and set a time to follow up with him.
This proactive approach tells the customer you care about him and want his business, and creates an appointment for a visit. Industry statistics show that when a prospect visits a facility, he rents a unit more than 85 percent of the time. If you become proficient in generating visits to your site, you’ll become successful in your self-storage operation.
Brad North is the founder of Advantage Consulting & Management, which specializes in facility management, feasibility, onsite sales, marketing and operational training to the self-storage industry. He’s a frequent contributor to various industry publications and a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. For more information, call 678.491.7984; visit www.advantageconsultingmanagement.com.