The current self-storage market is incredibly challenging, and the difference between a storage business that thrives or merely survives is manager training and professionalism. Today’s facility manager must possess effective sales skills, know-how to collect and increase revenue, and a professional look and demeanor to clearly differentiate himself from his many competitors.
Most self-storage inquiries start with the telephone, but there are still facility managers who do not know how to successfully turn each call into a site visit or a rental. In this new day and age, managers need to get back to basics and keep it simple. To be operationally successful in this industry, you need to know how to do three things really well: how to sell, how to collect, and how to get it all done in a reasonable amount of time.
Not everyone has skills necessary to be excellent at managing a self-storage facility. Let’s review those skills and see if you’re an “OK” manager or a great one.
I came to the self-storage business from a sales background, and it didn’t take me long to realize that what most self-storage managers really need is some basic sales skills. They sell customers on renting space, making payments, sending referrals, etc.
Most prospective tenants will rent storage from someone. If you’re only renting to two or three out of every 10 prospects, the rest are renting from your competitors. Why?
Here are some basic sales tips:
- Answer the phone with a smile. Potential customers know when you’re smiling and can sense when you enjoy what you do. If you don’t, find something else to do.
- Get the prospect’s name and phone number. To not get a name is a sign of disrespect. The customer started the relationship, so why be reluctant to get his name?
- Use price stalls. Once you give a price, your presentation is essentially over.
- Ask questions. You can’t establish yourself as a storage expert unless you ask questions and attempt to solve the customer’s problem. “What size do you need?” is not the right question.
- Solve the problem. Offer features and benefits to increase the value of storing with you.
- Overcome objections. Know what to do when someone says, “I’ll have to think about it.” What he really means is he’ll have to think about renting from you because he might rent from someone else.
- Close the deal. The best sales presentation in the world won’t count if the prospect doesn’t rent a unit.
When I interviewed for my first self-storage job, my employer said he had “a huge collections problem,” and needed someone to solve it. My response was, “We have their stuff, how hard can that be?”
You see, I came out of an industry where the customers had my stuff, and I had to either get them to pay for it or get my stuff back. To be successful, I needed an effective collections system, something self-storage managers also need.
Here are some basic collections tips:
- Effective collections begin with a great sales presentation.
- Fill out the tenant-information sheet with as much information as possible.
- Make sure the tenant clearly understands the lease agreement.
- Reiterate the due date and late fees and the tenant’s obligation to make on-time payments.
- Have a clearly defined system. When do you call? Who do you call?
- Document customer contacts and follow up on broken commitments.
Far too many managers struggle with getting all their work done in eight hours. This is primarily due to poor work habits and a lack of discipline. Self-storage is one of those businesses that should not be an all-consuming, living-and-breathing way of life. With good time-management skills, a facility manager should get it all done in eight hours and have a life.
Here is a simple exercise to help you better understand where your time goes. Managers who use it always seem to find two to three hours per day for which they cannot account. On a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line to denote your day’s start time and then draw lines at 30-minute intervals. Document your activities every 30 minutes. Try this every day for 30 days. Here are some basic time-management strategies you can try:
- Make better use of downtime. Plan ahead for the busy times.
- Schedule tasks. Things seem to get done if they’re scheduled to be done.
- Write things down. Don’t rely on your memory to take care of customer service and other issues.
- Do things right the first time. A great customer-service attitude doesn’t mean a willingness to fix problems; it’s avoiding customer-service issues in the first place.
- Share responsibilities. Everyone should do their thing on their day. Never leave tasks for the next day.
- Have clear communication. Make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing.
Self-storage used to be so easy that even a caveman could do it. No more. The economic realities of today indicate that mom-and-pop, seat-of-your-pants management is out and well-trained professionalism is in. But keep it simple: sales, collections and time management. That’s it.
Bob Copper is the owner of Self-Storage 101, a full-service consulting firm specializing in training, market and feasibility studies, and helping owners and managers reach higher and more profitable levels of operational effectiveness. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorage101.com.