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Self-storage operators who listen to customers, learn their needs and then offer the appropriate solutions will fare well in the competitive industry landscape. Follow these tips to become a stronger salesperson.

Amy Campbell

January 26, 2016

7 Min Read
Listen, Learn, Offer Solutions: Tried and True Sales Tips for Self-Storage Operators

While some self-storage operators are natural at sales, others have to work at it. Being a good salesperson is an art, and there’s a big difference between a smarmy “used-car dealer” and someone who truly believes in a product or service and wants to share it with customers.

In the self-storage industry, sales is a huge part of the job. Before you can take a payment, you have to get the customer to sign on the dotted line. Yes, he’s called your facility or walked through your door for a reason—he needs storage. But unless yours is the only facility within a 20-mile radius, you’re competing for his business, which means you’d better have some solid sales skills.

Here are some tried and true tips on how to better listen to your customers, learn about their needs and then offer the appropriate solutions.

Listen

People like to talk. We have TV talk shows, talk radio and social groups all centered on the need to gab. When a potential customer calls or walks into your office, your sales drive kicks in. It’s your time to convince this person that your facility is the best place to store his stuff.

Hold up. Yes, you should put on your sales hat, but your real job here is to listen. Too often, operators jump ahead in the process. You’re reaching for the lease before your customer has even communicated his needs.

The biggest mistake operators make is offering a rental rate before even engaging the prospect. If you’re simply quoting a price over the phone or in person, you’re shortchanging the entire enterprise. What if your customer is packing up a three-bedroom house but asks for pricing on 5-by-10 unit? Unless he’s rented a unit before, he likely has no idea how much space he’ll need. You’re the expert, so you need to guide him.

Instead of having your sales spiel at the ready, try a short Q&A so you can get a feel for your customer’s needs. Here are a few questions you should ask every prospect:

  • Have you rented a self-storage unit before? This will tell you how familiar your customer is with the service. You’ll find many prospects are first-time renters.

  • What do you plan to store? This is much more effective than, “What size unit do you need?” Remember, the majority of customers have no idea how much space they require.

  • How soon will you need a unit? This gives you leverage on price sensitivity and can help you create a sense of urgency. If your prospect needs storage immediately, he’s looking to buy today. If you’re down to your last 10-by-10 unit, you can use that info to persuade him to commit.

  • How long will you need storage? This can also help you gauge your customer’s price sensitivity. Those looking for long-term storage are typically seeking a better deal than those who need storage for a month during a move.

  • What’s most important to you in choosing a storage facility? This is where you’ll uncover what your customer truly cares about—price, security, location, operating hours, etc. Once you know, you can then highlight your property’s attributes and services that align with these priorities.

This is just a sampling of what you might ask. You can adapt your inquires to each situation. As you ask these questions, really listen to the responses, so when it’s your turn to talk, you give thoughtful information. Your customer will know if you were actually listening or thinking about your to-do list!

Learn

What you learn by asking the questions above will tell you a lot about your customer. You’ll be able to determine how price-sensitive he may be, how long you can expect him to be a tenant, and what his specific storage needs are. This can also help shape your sales presentation.

As you speak with your prospect, you’ll learn more about him. Did he mention packing up dishes, and you just so happen to sell a dish-packing kit? Does he need to store items that could be responsive to heat or cold? If so, offer a temperature-controlled unit. Is your tenant an entrepreneur who will access the unit frequently? A unit near the front of the property—priced a bit higher—will be attractive. This is your chance to offer more than just storage. You’re posing a total solution to your customer’s needs.

Zero in on what you learn from your prospect to cultivate your sales approach. For example, if a customer is concerned with facility safety, point out your property’s video cameras and lighting to help seal the deal. Anyone with limited funds will appreciate the free use of your facility’s rental truck. You’re basing your sales presentation on your property’s total value as a solution to problems, not just the price of a unit.

Offer Solutions

Many call this last phase, “asking for the sale.” Instead, it’s better to assume the sale.

First, avoid asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, after a property tour, you might say, “So, which unit will best fit your needs?” Or you might ask a phone customer, “Can I schedule a property tour for you at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. today?” When it’s time to close the deal, you might say, “I’m glad you stopped by our facility today, John. I believe this 10-by-10 unit will fit your family’s needs. Let’s head back to the office and complete the paperwork so you can move in right away.”

Once in the office, invite your prospect to have a seat and offer him a beverage. Have the lease and a pen handy, so you can start the rental process immediately. Highlight any critical parts of the lease, such as late fees and property rules. Also ask your new tenant if he has any follow-up questions.

This is also the perfect time to offer ancillary products and services. Rather than ask if the customers needs boxes, say, “How many boxes do you need today for packing?” Most tenants will also need a lock, which you happen to sell! If you have an auto-debit program, say, “Our customers prefer the convenience of our auto-pay plan. Would you prefer to use MasterCard or Visa?”

Customer Objections

Sometimes even the best sales pitch isn’t enough to persuade a prospect to rent a unit. For this reason, you’ll need to be adept at handling objections. First, determine why your prospect is wavering. Is it the rental price? Perhaps a small discount will persuade him. Or you might consider adding a “special” packing-supply bundle consisting of a handful of boxes, packing tape and a black marker, or throw in a free lock. The cost of these items is minimal compared to the revenue you’ll generate from your new tenant. These gestures also show your customer you value his business.

Perhaps your prospect is feeling rushed to make a decision. If this is the case, try some small talk. Strike up a conversation about a local sports team, the weather or his kids, if they’re in the office with him. Sometimes a short pause and friendly conversation will lead to the sale.

If he says he needs to “think about it,” let him know the size and location of the unit can’t be guaranteed. Tell him even the rental price changes from day to day. This might be enough to persuade him to act now. You can also reiterate your facility’s key selling points to show him “shopping around” isn’t worth his time and effort. Prove to him why you’re the self-storage facility he should choose.  

If your prospect still balks at signing the rental agreement today, ask for a phone number and e-mail address, if you haven’t already. Let him know you’re glad he stopped in and you’ll follow up with him in a few days. Give him your business card and invite him to call if he has any questions or decides he wants to reserve a unit.

Remember, you’re selling more than just rental space; you’re marketing your brand and everything that goes with it. So if you offer packing supplies, make that clear. If you have amazing security, make it a focus of your presentation. If you provide the convenience of online billpay, tell prospects about it.

You have to walk that fine line between pushy and firm. No one wants to be pressured, but if you’ve done your job right, the customer will be ready to sign a lease. For most people, selling isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes trial and error as you find your own selling style. Once you do, you’ll find every interaction will be more successful.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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