4 steps to success

Selling Self-Storage: 4 Steps to Success

To help his facility succeed, a self-storage manager not only needs to sell the unit, he needs to sell himself and the property as a whole. The way customers perceive you can be the difference between getting or losing a rental. Here are four steps to closing the deal.

The goal of every self-storage business is to be profitable. As the manager, you play a key role in this objective. To help your facility succeed, you not only need to sell your product, you need to sell the property and yourself! The way you present to customers and how they perceive you can be the difference between getting or losing a rental. Here are four steps to closing the deal.

1. Educate Yourself, and Practice

Sales and customer-service skills come naturally to some people, but others struggle. While practice may not make you “perfect,” it can make you better at what you’re trying to achieve.

First, get to know your self-storage site:

  • Educate yourself on unit sizes and the types of belongings that fit best in each. Use a unit-size guide and box calculator for guidance. This will enable you to advise prospects on the best space for their needs.
  • Learn the ins and outs of your retail merchandise so you can make recommendations in that area.
  • Be informed on company policies and observe them.
  • Be familiar with the rental agreement so you can present it in a professional manner.
  • Understand how your company handles various situations, such as late payments.

Finally, learn how to greet customers in a professional, friendly manner. After your initial greeting, hold out your hand and ask, “How are you on this beautiful day?” Offer a firm handshake and ask how you can help. An enjoyable encounter will put the prospect at ease, and you’ll have taken the first step in developing a positive relationship. All that remains is to listen to his needs so you can offer the right storage solution.

2. Make a Good First Impression

First impressions are critical when it comes to prospective tenants, and they’re made before a person even enters your office. Is your site easy to find? Does it have an appealing entrance? How’s the landscaping? Is there trash in the parking lot? Is the front door free of dirt and fingerprints? Curb appeal sets the tone for the visit.

Staff is also a big factor. Imagine walking into a storage office and seeing the manager, with tomato sauce on his shirt, playing on his cell phone and failing to acknowledge your presence. As you look around, you notice the desk is cluttered with papers, and the room has an unusual odor you’d rather not identify. There’s no merchandise, just a handwritten sign with prices. There’s also a dog lying on the floor, which not only makes you uncomfortable, you’re allergic! These things may leave an impression, but it won’t be a good one.

Now, picture this: The manager, dressed in uniform, is talking on the phone; yet he stands up, smiles, makes eye contact, and gives you a queue that he’ll be with you shortly. As you look around, you see the desk and counter are clean and organized, and there’s a full candy dish. There’s a pleasant, but not overpowering, cinnamon scent in the air. The merchandise is well-stocked, with prices visible on each product. And there are no live animals. Now that’s a great first impression! You decide this is a place you’re comfortable in and would like to do business here.

3. Sell Your Product

Your next job is to sell the product. To do that effectively, it’s important to have educated yourself in all aspects of the business (see step one). Realistically, unless they’ve rented self-storage before, most people know nothing about it. Isn’t it great that you can be the one to enlighten them?

Just as it’s important to properly present yourself, how you showcase a unit can make or break the sale. It’s crucial to display the actual space the prospect will be renting. Choose the best unit for his needs, and have options at the ready for both a smaller and larger unit within the same area, if possible.

Your golf cart should be neat and free of debris. Put your seatbelt on and remind the customer to buckle up. Take a disc lock with you, presuming he’ll need to purchase one. That way, you can remove the company lock and put the new tenant’s lock right on the unit, and you can simply give him the keys after the rental paperwork is complete. There’s no extra trip to take, and the whole process is simplified.

As you drive through the property, point out the security cameras, exterior lighting, gates, directional signage, and unit numbers. Point out where and how to turn on any lights. Give specifics; for example, you might say, “As you enter in the door to the building, turn right. Unit A137 will be the third on the left.” This gives a clear picture of the unit location.

Repeat the unit number and size as you demonstrate how to open the hasp. Walk into the unit so the customer will feel comfortable following you in to get a better perspective.

Ask if he’ll need room in the unit to move around or go through boxes. If so, explain how he can create one or two aisles. Give directives on where items can be placed, or how to stack boxes and place shelving.

When you leave, demonstrate how to close the hasp, reminding him to ensure the holes line up before inserting the lock. Tell him you have a new disc lock with you, which will save him a trip when he moves in, and you can give him the keys upon contract signing.

4. Make the Close

Always have confidence that you’ll make the sale. You have the best site, the best customer service and the best value for the dollar. After showing your prospect the unit, say, “This unit will work great for you. Let’s go back to the office and take care of the paperwork.”

If you’ve done your job thoroughly, you’ll have observed something unique about the customer or noted a personal detail about him during your visit. As you ride back to the office, make sure there’s some friendly conversation, not awkward silence. Just keep it light.

Next, invite him to have a seat at the desk and offer coffee or water. Take a deep breath and start your rental presentation. Let him know you’re happy he’s decided to rent from you. You’ve already made the sale … You’ve got this!

Debbi "Frankie" Frank has 14 years of experience in all aspects of self-storage management and training. She’s owner of Working Smarter in Guffey, Colo., a consulting firm that helps industry owners, managers and staff in setting up, getting organized and being inspired to love what they do. For more information, call 760.458.9802; e-mail [email protected]

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