There’s something wrong here. Self-storage operators keep spending buckets of money on marketing. They invest in efforts to generate phone calls, walk-in visits and Internet leads. But for far too many of them, it’s a huge waste of money and time.
Why? Because they invest absolutely nothing in creating a system to manage and follow up on those leads. The phone rings, the manager answers and nothing productive happens. Web leads come in and no one responds. A prospective customer walks in and leaves, and nothing ever comes of it. No one is prepared to handle those leads, and no one follows up. It’s like going fishing and not having a net to bring in the big one.
Developing and implementing an effective lead follow-up system is critically important in the goal to maximize marketing, increase closing percentages and make more money. Turning more leads into rentals is one of a facility manager's most important job responsibilities.
The most successful and professional self-storage operators have developed lead-management systems for their business, some more sophisticated than others. But whether the system is low-tech 3-by-5 cards or a high-tech automated one, the important thing is to ensure all prospective leads are documented and followed. To fail to maximize every potential lead is irresponsible on the part of the manager and inexplicable on the part of an owner.
There are four specific steps to developing and implementing an effective lead-management system. You should follow this process whether you operate one facility or several. Every potential lead is important to success, no matter the size of the self-storage company.
Step 1: Training
Spending even one thin dime on any marketing makes no sense if you fail to ensure the person responsible for reacting to the leads is well-trained. Why wouldn’t you make sure your manager knows how to answer the phone? Or how to respond quickly to Web leads? Or how to effectively make a sales presentation when someone walks in the door? Don’t take for granted that your manager knows how to do any of this, especially if you haven’t invested in his training. That’s unfair. Your manager should be trained in professional phone and in-store sales presentations, closing techniques, and effective lead follow-up.
What’s the No. 1 thing your managers must learn how to do with prospective leads? Get the person’s name and phone number. Without that information, there’s likely no sales presentation, no follow-up and no rental. And do not rely on caller ID to get the caller's number. That's tacky, unprofessional and potentially inaccurate.
Step 2: Set ExpectationsDoes the person responsible for maximizing lead-generation efforts clearly understand what’s expected of him? How many leads out of 10 are your managers expected to close? Do they know? Do you?
The most successful operators have clear expectations regarding lead-closing percentages and continually monitor those numbers for greater performance. If managers have no clear expectations or goals, how do you or they know if they’re doing a good job? For any lead-management system to work, you have to set and monitor these numbers:
- Response time to Web leads
- Percentage of phone leads converted into rentals
- Percentage of walk-ins converted into rentals
Step 3: Documentation
An effective lead-management system is not yellow sticky notes or black ink on the manager’s palm. Professional managers have a system for documenting every phone call, Web lead and walk-in. While some operators use their management software to keep up with their leads, one of the most effective systems, and the one I prefer, is one that uses good old 3-by-5 cards. Sometimes low-tech beats high-tech. Here’s how you do it:
- Add a stack of 3-by-5 cards next to the phone.
- When the phone rings or someone walks in, the manager should grab a card and start making notes, including the person’s name, number, circumstance, timing, what, when, where, etc. (You cannot take too many notes.)
- The manager then uses this information during the sales presentation. (People love to hear their name used two or three times.)
- If the customer doesn’t rent at that time, the card is placed in a 3-by-5 card plastic holder with date dividers. It should be filed under the date when a follow up call should be made. For example, if the customer says he needs storage on Saturday, the card should be under Friday’s date. That way the manager can call the prospect on Friday to reconfirm the appointment.
- In addition, all calls, walk-ins and Web leads are documented on a lead-tracking form and updated as events occur.
Here’s a tip on getting every name and phone number, which should not be optional: Do a $100 gift-card giveaway every month for customers. When a customer calls or walks in, the first thing the manager should say is, “Before I forget, we give away $100 each month. If I can get your name and number, I’ll go ahead and enter you in the drawing.” You’ll get every name and number. Simple. Easy. Effective.
Step 4: Inspection
Anyone who expects his facility managers to keep tracking logs or lead notes but never takes time to review said logs or notes is establishing a horrible precedent—and not because the managers fail to use the system. They simply assign importance to those things that are important to their supervisor or owner.
For example, if the owner or supervisor never looks at the collections worksheet, the manager believes collections to be unimportant. If you want lead management and follow-up to be viewed as important by your managers, you must regularly inspect the process. You should:
- Review the 3-by-5 cards or management system for timely follow-up
- Check the tracking log for marketing channels
- Ask why customers don’t rent the space
Creating and implementing an effective lead-management system is one of the easiest yet most important tasks you can undertake to increase your rentals and income. If most prospective customers rent space from someone, why not you? Using a system where prospect names and phone numbers won’t fall through the cracks will ensure you’re maximizing your marketing efforts. After all, if you’re going to fish, make sure you’ve got a net.
Bob Copper is the partner in charge at Self Storage 101, an industry consulting firm that assists facility owner/operators and managers in developing more effective and profitable operational systems. The company also aids in conducting performance reviews and providing the necessary tools to perform at higher levels in a competitive industry. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorage101.com.