The linchpin to success for a self-storage facility may be the person who’s the face of the company—the store manager. Here’s how to make a great first impression with prospects and close the rental.

Derek Hines

June 3, 2017

5 Min Read
3 Ways for Self-Storage Managers to Be a Gateway, Not a Roadblock, to Facility Success

There a lot of variables that go into the success of a self-storage facility, including location, demographics, population density, competition, facility amenities and more. But the linchpin may be the person who’s the face of the company—the store manager.

There’s a lot more to managing a storage facility than standing behind a desk and waiting for customers to enter the door. Site managers wear several hats throughout a typical workday, including accountant, maintenance person, marketing manager and even janitor. But the most important jobs they have are customer-service agent and salesperson. How they work with a prospect in person, online and on the phone can be the deciding factor in whether that person rents a unit. Here are three ways to ensure you promote rather than hinder facility success.

1. Set the Right Tone

Walk-in customers are a store’s hottest lead, so it’s imperative they get red-carpet treatment. When a customer enters a poorly managed facility, the manager stays behind the counter, often not turning away from his computer screen. He may not even acknowledge the person right away. This sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. The customer—whether he consciously recognizes it or not—has begun to form opinions about the type of business this is and the kind of service he’s likely receive.

At a thriving storage facility, the manager comes out from behind the counter and greets the customer before he gets 10 feet into the office. His tone is cordial and upbeat. “Good morning! Welcome to [storage company name]. I’m John. What can I help you with?” This is a positive introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Studies show that customers who are greeted with a smile are more likely to buy. In the best-seller, “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy,” author Martin Lindstrom discusses “The Smiling Study,” conducted by researchers at the Stockholm School of Economics. It revealed how a smiling person leads to more sales by evoking more joy in the customer. It showed volunteers would be more likely to patronize the company where they received an initial smiling face.

Also, dress makes a difference. A marketing study by Julie Baker, Dhruv Grewal and A. Parasuraman showed that social factors including the way a salesperson is dressed influence a store’s image and service-quality perception. Store managers who wear a dress or polo shirt with the company logo along with business-casual pants and shoes create an image of stability in the mind of the consumer. Conversely, those who wear hoodies or sweats are basically saying they don’t care about their facility image or the customer’s needs.

2. Build a Relationship

Once you’ve greeted the customer, initiate a conversation to learn about his requirements. Instead of asking which unit size he needs, which assumes he knows what will fit in a 5-by-10 or other size, say something like, “Tell me a little about what you’re storing.” Then you can follow up with questions based on his answers. For instance, if the customer’s list of items includes a couch, a good follow-up would be to ask how long it is. This way, you can explain how he’ll be able to save space by standing the couch on end.

Another good question is, “Have you started packing yet?” This allows you to get into the subject of packing supplies, which can lead to ancillary sales. You might also ask how often the customer plans to visit his unit. If it’s often, you can offer advice on making access rows or how to maximize the space.

After figuring out the customer’s needs, offer him a tour of the unit type he’s considering. If possible, show him the exact unit he’ll rent. This will allow him to envision his belongings in that space.

Along the way, take him to the loading and unloading area and discuss how he’ll bring his possessions into the facility. A good question to ask is, “Are you moving everything yourself, or are you renting a moving truck?” This can be an opportunity to discuss the possibility of renting one of your trucks, if you offer them.

The goal is to keep learning more about your customers. The more you know about their situation, the better you’ll be able to anticipate other questions and issues that may arise. It also shows you’re thinking about their needs. Then, when you get to the point of closing the sale, you’ve developed a relationship with this person.

3. Point Out the Positives

Some managers tend bring up negatives without even knowing it. For instance, they may make offhand comments about the finicky keypad, the slow gate or the long walk to the unit. While these comments are said to make conversation with the customer, they build up an undesirable facility impression in that person’s mind.

Instead, turn any negatives into positives. For example, one manager I know had a non-passenger freight elevator that was exceptionally slow. When he showed it to his customers, he promoted the fact that the elevator was large and they would be able to get most if not all their belongings onto it, which would make their move much easier.

It’s also important to point out the amenities your store offers, especially when you know the facility down the block doesn’t have them. For instance, if your site offers climate-controlled units, promote them.

At the end of the day, gleaming buildings, beautiful signage and fancy websites only gain the customer’s interest. It’s up to the self-storage manager to show prospective tenants why your facility is the one in which they should store their precious belongings.

Derek Hines is an Internet-marketing assistant for West Coast Self-Storage, a self-storage acquisitions, development and management company with facilities in California, Oregon and Washington. He writes extensively on all subjects related to self-storage. For more information, visit

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