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Buyer Personas: What They Are and How They Improve Your Self-Storage Sales Efforts

If you want to rent more units and sell more products at your self-storage facility, you must connect and build trust with your customers. The question is how. One way is to leverage the power of buyer personas, which will help you “read” prospects and anticipate their needs. Let’s talk about what they are, and how to identify and use them.

Lee Kunkel

February 23, 2022

6 Min Read
Understanding Buyer Personas to Improve Self-Storage Sales Efforts

As the self-storage industry grows, the race to secure tenants is as spirited as ever. Innovative tools and technology have given many facility operators a fresh edge, but one competitive advantage requires none of these things. If you can connect with your customer on a personal level, you will make the sale. The trick is to identify some buyer personas that’ll help you read each prospect quickly and anticipate their needs.

Identifying Personas

HubSpot, which provides software for inbound marketing, sales and customer service, defines a buyer persona as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It's based on market research, actual data about your existing customers, and a few (educated) assumptions. It helps you to understand and relate to an audience to whom you want to market your products and services.”

Buyer personas are incredibly important for market segmentation, according to U.K. business consultancy Grow. “They allow you to segment your customers into different groups. Knowing the different motivations and purchasing habits of your customers will allow you to target different groups appropriately.”

Before self-storage operators apply any sales techniques or even begin to identify customer needs, we need to understand what makes our market unique and identify potential audiences based on research and our current and prospective customer base. There’s no universally recognized set of buyer personas in this industry, as every market is unique; but this is a good place to start.

Ask yourself: What’s the typical background of my ideal customer? Demographic information is incredibly helpful here. For example, do many of your renters fall into a specific age group or profession? If your facility is near a college, military base or retirement community, you may find that to be true. Are they mostly male or female? Do they tend to need storage for specific items such as recreational vehicles or business inventory?

Answering these types of questions will help you identify your primary buyer personas, and there may be several. Once you’ve acknowledged them, you can begin to determine the best ways to communicate with these groups.

Reading Individual Customers

Once you’ve established some general buyer personas for your self-storage operation, it’s time to get strategic. Though a prospect may clearly belong to one of your customer groups, which can help you anticipate their general needs, you still don’t know their individual personality or circumstances. You need to be able to “read” them. This is where listening and asking key questions comes into play.

Active listening is an infallible tool. While it may seem simple, it’s a polished skill that needs to be developed and crafted. You need to listen to more than a person’s words. Their tone, body language and urgency are also important. Maybe this customer is very “to the point,” and their idea of great service is quick, polite and business-oriented. Or maybe this person likes to chat, and connecting with them on a personal level is the best way to earn their trust. Being able to quickly identify key indicators of a persona will go a long way.

Pay close attention to body language. Eye contact allows you to create a connection and lets the customer know you’re focused on what they have to say. When asking questions, maintain this contact and read what their eyes are saying. If the customer breaks that contact, it can tell you whether they’ve lost interest or their confidence in the conversation.

Facial expression and posture are two other key indicators of how someone is feeling about the interaction. If a customer comes in with a straight face and their body language is giving off waves of frustration, this person may be best served with conversation that only addresses their immediate needs. You can still answer any questions and help, but doing so in a more reserved manner might better suit that person.

Now imagine a different scenario: A customer comes in clearly happy, actively asking questions and engaging you in conversation. In this case, you can be more expressive and use their enthusiasm to spark a more organic, relaxed discussion that’ll let that person feel a sense of connection.

It’s also important to set the right pace. Is the customer clearly in a hurry? In that case, giving them more efficient service will match their urgency and tone, which they’ll no doubt appreciate. On the other hand, maybe they have questions and seem to want to tackle things at a slower pace. If you take your time and provide more information, that’ll improve their experience.

Also, bear in mind that the customer isn’t always standing in front of you. They may be on the phone or reaching out via email. Still, you can take clues from their tone of voice and word choice. Both will help you identify their priorities and shape your responses to better communicate with the individual.

One final word of caution: Be careful when using industry terminology. Your customers many not understand self-storage-specific terms like “delinquency,” “lien sale,” “tenant insurance” and others with which facility managers are quite comfortable. If you use these terms, explain what they mean, so the customer isn’t uneasy. This can also bring some sincerity and connection into the conversation. The goal is to build the prospect’s confidence in our service and its ability to meet their needs.

Put It Into Practice

After the initial conversation, you should be able to determine how this customer fits into your buyer personas. For example, let’s say that after studying your customer base and completing some market surveys, you’ve discovered that your business attracts a lot of college students. After reviewing this data, you come up with a course of action on how to serve the needs of these potential renters. You realize that most of them are short-term renters and likely tech-savvy due to their age. You also know price and saving money is a priority for this group over some other features such as location and security.

With the information you’ve gathered at this point, you can map out the facility features that are most likely to get a response from this group. Online rentals and bill-pay options coupled with “special” pricing will pull the focus of these prospects and get them in the door. Your research, targeted approach and training on how to best communicate with this persona will prove beneficial!

Rehearse Your Skills

Role-playing is a great way to work on the above skillsets. Taking time to identify buyer personas and train with members of your self-storage management staff will help new and seasoned employees develop their listening acumen and better read customers. Revisiting this training every few quarters will reinforce best practices. Connection-building is a talent every salesperson needs to succeed!

The ability to read customers and quickly make sound decisions based on those readings is a skill that can take time and experience to master. Just like other sales techniques, it should be reviewed and kept at the forefront of the manager mindset.

Lee Kunkel is the senior training and development manager for Storage Asset Management. He’s worked for the company since 2013 in a variety of roles including store management, district manager and training coordinator. He graduated from Robert Morris University in 2013 with a degree in public relations before entering the self-storage industry. To reach him, call 717.779.0044 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Lee Kunkel

Senior Training and Development Manager, Storage Asset Management

Lee Kunkel is the senior training and development manager for Storage Asset Management. He’s worked for the company since 2013 in a variety of roles, including store management, district manager and training coordinator. He graduated from Robert Morris University in 2013 with a degree in public relations before entering the self-storage industry. To reach him, call 717.779.0044 or email [email protected].

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