Speaking of Sales: Breaking the Rules

I knew it was going to happen. It was Christmas Eve, and I went into the office to get caught up.

Something also told me wed be getting a call (or several) from a client facility, where thered be an anxious renter facing a lockout situation. It happens frequently: Someone forgets to pay rent, the manager eventually locks the delinquent unit, and then the tenant is desperate to retrieve Christmas presents out of storage.

People ask me, Why do you work on Christmas Eve? The answer is easy: Thats what the staff of a call center does. We answer the phones when our client stores are off on their holidays.

Holiday Rush

Holiday time is particularly troublesome. Theres always someone calling after the store is closed who cant get to the kids presents and is freaking out. Id freak out too if I couldnt get my holiday gifts out of hiding.

Unless were specifically directed to do otherwise, the policy at our call center is not to contact store managers after hours on holidays about past-due renters or non-emergency issues. Christmas Eve is when we break the rules.

On Christmas Eve 2006, one regional manger spent three hours traveling to and from his facility so a frantic tenant could get his kids presents. This past Christmas, my instincts were right on. I received a call from a lady in Michigan who couldnt access her unit. She had forgotten to pay rent and was locked out. We tracked down the manager on her cell phone to see if she could help.

We usually handle three or four similar calls on such holidays. And well track down the manager or regional manager if we can. Some will be peeved that were bothering them. Some will try their hardest to make sure the kids get their gifts.

Rule-Breakers

When do you break the rules in your sales efforts? We all have parameters in which to work. We all have policies and procedures. These are intended to keep business practices sensible and rational. But there may be times when it makes more sense to bend the rules and deal with the consequences later.

When you break a rule and the end result is good for your business and customers, then you become the hero. When the outcome is not so victorious, you could get written up and even disciplined. Hopefully, your employer is willing to cut you some slack when you break a rule for a good reason. Unfortunately, the odds are you wont win every time.

Do you give out the discount, even when youre told not to, because someone wants to pre-pay a rental for two years? Not much chance of getting in trouble over this one, right? But what about the cases that are less obvious? What about a situation in which youll gain customer confidence and not immediate revenue?

I suggest you look for opportunities to break some rules when the payoff makes sense. Of course, you need a good reason and more than just a fleeting hope that the long-term effect will benefit you, the customer and your business. Be careful about when and how you proceed, and evaluate rules as you go. You may discover some are unproductive; consider taking action to change or abandon them.

This practice will help you sell more, too. If customers see youre a rule-breaker for the right reasons, theyll want to do business with you. Theyll see that in a situation of choosing between following a policy or pleasing a customer, youll try to help the customer. If prospects and customers feel this way about you, youll rent more units and keep tenants longer.

In sum, never break rules that will break the bank. Find the ones that guarantee customer satisfaction and cultivate long-term relations. In the end, happy tenants stay longer, spend more and spread the word that serving customers is more that just a rule of thumb. 

Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, an offsite sales force that helps storage owners rent to more people through its call center, secret-shopping service, sales-training and Internet-lead-generation services. Mr. Jordheim is also a member of the National Speakers Association. You can read what he is up to at www.selfstorageblog.com. For more information, e-mail [email protected]

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