Most self-storage markets are more competitive than they were even a few years ago. According to the Self Storage Associations third-quarter 2010 Facts and Trends Report, the supply of self-storage in the United States has doubled over the past decade. In an environment where every rental counts, converting your hard-won leads into customers has taken on new urgency. Sales and persuasion skills are the ingredients necessary to increase your conversion rates, but theyre not built by manager incentives alone.
The problem with relying heavily (or solely) on an incentive program is youre trying to solve a skill problem with an enticement. Its like trying to tape feathers to your arms so you can fly. At first glance, it looks promising; but in the end, it doesnt work.
To illustrate my point, lets take the concept of incentive to the extreme to see how quickly it falls short. Lets assume youre as rich as Bill Gates and can afford to give incentives that are beyond most peoples dreams. Unfortunately, youre diagnosed with a brain tumor, and youll die without an operation. Would you grab your co-worker and say, Ill give you $50 million dollars to operate on my brain. I really want to make sure you do the best job possible? Of course not. No amount of motivation can endow your co-worker with the skills to operate on you. Motivation may increase his effort, but without the prerequisite skills, he cant take the correct steps.
Rather than fretting over motivation, accept that the vast majority of people you hire already want to do a good job. They want to be successful. They want to please you and the customer. As an alternative to focusing on motivation, help your property managers build or enhance their skills through training and practice.
Training Becomes its Own Motivator
When you invest in training, you send managers a strong message that you care about them as people as well as their success. When they see you care about them, the natural reaction is to reciprocate and care more about you and your business. Another reason you get motivation mileage when you train employees to sell more effectively is that winning is inherently motivating, and by investing in training, youre helping staff win more frequently.
After Michael Phelps won his seventh gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games, can you imagine him saying, Gosh, thats enough for me. I think Im going to sit the next one out? Doesnt that sound laughable? His world-record performance while obtaining his eighth medal makes it clear he was highly motivated to race again.
Youve heard the adage that winners never quit. One reason its true is because winners dont feel like quitting. Winners want to keep going. They want to keep getting better. They crave the next success.
Look at Who Youre Hiring
The skill level and past experience of your employees is another reason why you need to move beyond raw incentives and adopt a training program. You may not be hiring trained sales professionals to work at your property. If this is the case, you have a gap between what you want your employees to do and what they can deliver. If they werent trained by someone elseand not trained by youhow do you expect them to be effective at sales?
Although you may get lucky and find someone with a very high aptitude for selling and persuading, youll have more consistent success when you have a system in place to build your managers skills. A training system will ensure your average employees get better and your gifted employees become phenomenal.
Training Gives You the Advantage
You have an opportunity to create a differential advantage when you invest in areas your competition isnt. Even if you already do some sort of sales training in your organization, take a close look at how much time, energy and money youre investing in your managers. Is it significantly more than your competitors?
Many self-storage operators arent investing heavily in sales training, and theyre not taking their employees sales effectiveness seriously. This is a weakness ripe for exploitation.
Make Room for Practice
Building sales effectiveness is not easy. A training program usually helps a person to understand conceptually what he should be doing and why he should be doing it. Although having a conceptual understanding is a good first step, its not sufficient. Too often, property managers are like armchair quarterbacks with a conceptual knowledge of the game, but no real physical skill. They know whats supposed to happen, but find their unpracticed bodies are unable to do whats successful.
Practice is the key to closing the gap between knowing and doing. You can help your managers scheduling practice time into their daily routine. If your location is busy and interruptions are frequent, consider authorizing your managers to come in 30 minutes early or stay 30 minutes after closing so they can have some continuous practice time.
A training program and practice regimen helps property managers develop the skills they need to sell and persuade. Investing in them sends a message that you care about them and their success. Mastering skills is motivating because it leads to more frequent success in renting storage spaces. Finally, providing a professional sales-training program and making room for your managers to practice sets you up to have a competitive advantage and win in your market.
Kenny Pratt is president of Crescendo Properties Inc., which acquires and operates self-storage properties in the western United States. He blogs about self-storage sales and persuasion at www.sellingstorage.com . To reach him, call 916.849.1199; e-mail [email protected] .