“Hi. I need some storage.”
Those words are music to the ears of any self-storage facility manager. But even when you’ve got a motivated prospect on the hook, you still need to reel them into the boat and convert them into a paying tenant! In addition to being friendly while assessing their mood and willingness to engage in conversation, the best way to close the sale is to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations in terms of service.
Any potential renter expects you to tell them your office and access hours, available unit sizes and rental rates, and general information about the property. The way to make their initial experience with you better than anywhere else is simply to listen—listen to their needs and determine how can you make a difference. Perhaps you can recommend a reputable mover, offer help with choosing a unit size, or remind them of important things to consider when putting valuables into storage. Smile and show interest in everything they say.
These are generalities, of course, but you start to get the idea. Now, let’s look at some specific things you can do to go above and beyond with a prospect. Make a positive impression and land that fish!
How to Treat a Potential Renter
There are many ways to build a positive business relationship with your self-storage tenants and prospective renters. Remember, these folks aren’t just unit rentals—they’re people with thoughts, feelings and complicated lives just like you. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what you might need in a similar situation. This is perhaps the easiest way to determine what you can say, do or offer to meet and exceed their expectations.
For example, let’s say a prospect calls to inquire about storage and mentions that they’re just moving into the area. What can you do to go above and beyond and help ease their burden? For starters, offer them a referral to some of the area’s best realtors, physicians, veterinarians, gyms, apartment complexes and hardware stores. They likely need some or all of these things, and getting a personal recommendation from someone who knows the neighborhood can be a big help. You can even organize this information into a handy web page or handout. Here are some other ideas:
When a prospect visits your self-storage site, engage them in thoughtful conversation. Let them know you remember them by repeating specific details about their life. (This is why it’s crucial to take notes when a prospect puts in an inquiry.)
Try to get to know them a little. Ask what they do for a living. Perhaps they’re someone you should add to your list of business referrals! They might even work for a company that could also use storage.
When you give the property tour, offer the customer a complimentary beverage and show them your clean, well-stocked restroom. Cleanliness can make a very positive impression! Make your entire property as appealing as you would if your most fastidious relative were coming to look at it.
Continue to listen and engage by asking open-ended questions. Will they be putting their belongings into the unit themselves or do they have professional movers? If they’re hiring pros, suggest they have a directive as to where they want certain boxes stacked. For example, do they want their seasonal items in the back or more readily accessible? Kitchen and bathroom items are typically stored up front because they’re often the first to be unpacked. Think for the customer. You’ll offer these as mere suggestions, but it’ll get them thinking and let them know you’re considering their needs beyond just renting space to them.
If you run into a good tenant while with your prospect, ask if they’re happy with their storage experience. This is an opportunity to positively engage with the current renter while giving an in-person testimonial to the potential one! In fact, you should always acknowledge customers you see on site. Most don’t want to be ignored. They want you to see them and say hello. Always give eye contact!
As you walk the property, remind the prospect of the current rental rates and confirm when they’ll need the unit. A smart tactic is to let them see a unit that’s larger than what they need (if you have one available). For example, if you were discussing that they probably need a 10-by-10, first show them a 10-by-15, so they have a basis for comparison. You are the professional, so showcase the size you believe will be best for their needs.
At the end of the visit, if the customer says they’d like to rent the unit but not immediately, try to get a definitive move-in date. They’re still just a lead at this point, so enter any information into your management software and be sure to follow up. When you do, remind them of the conversation you had, including the fact that you’ve got a unit on hold especially for them. This will make them feel valued as well as obligated to rent.
Unless they’ve requested otherwise, check on the prospect once per week. Remember to listen closely to what they tell you and respond appropriately. Let them know that if their particular unit size is close to being sold due to demand, you’ll give them an opportunity to officially finalize the rental so they don’t miss out.
The above approach will help secure the self-storage rental and add to your bottom line. Why? Because you’re building a relationship with your future tenant. People will rent based on how comfortable they feel with you as the manager as well as how safe they feel while on site. The difference-maker lies in making them feel appreciated!
Think about it: If you have a favorite store you go to for groceries, hardware needs or what have you, even if it’s a little out of your way, it’s likely because of its cleanliness, the positive attitude of the staff, the helpfulness of the stockers, the knowledge of the butcher, the friendliness of the cashier, etc. Most of all, you probably feel valued as a customer. Make sure your new self-storage renters also feel valued! People who like where they rent will refer others, whether or not they get some kind of perk to do so. In contrast, those who aren’t happy will tell more people than you can imagine. Good news travels far. Bad news travels farther.
Once a self-storage prospect becomes a tenant, continue to go above and beyond by engaging with them when appropriate, listening, and catering to their needs. Even at lease signing, you can use sales tactics to their benefit. For example, if the customer indicates they expect to store with you for about three months until they close on a house, suggest they go on autopay so they don’t have to worry about the bill during this time of upheaval.
For all customers who elect to go on autopay, send a thank-you/confirmation email with the amount paid. Showing appreciation for someone’s business, whenever it’s prudent and appropriate, reinforces that notion of value.
In fact, valued customers are your best ambassadors for new business. Talk to happy tenants about how they can help you with referrals. If you’re able to offer an incentive, great! Though people will often say they don’t know anyone who needs storage, remind them that if a neighbor has a full garage or carport, they’re a good candidate. Ask them to suggest storage as a solution and share how much you and your wonderful facility helped them in their time of need.
Remember, a happy customer returns to you every time he needs self-storage and readily refers others to your business. And every fisherman can always use more fish on their hook!
Terri Friesner has worked in the self-storage industry for 16 years. She’s currently an employee with A+ Management Group LP in Nashville, Tennessee, overseeing a property in Apopka, Florida. She’s a longstanding member of the Self-Storage Talk online community and has previously contributed to “Inside Self-Storage” magazine. To reach her, email [email protected].