December 1, 2006

3 Min Read

I am sure we all agree that retail products such as boxes, packing materials and supplies arent your primary income source. So, its not surprising that much attention is devoted to selling storage units and little on peripheral product sales. Still, once your manager is on a roll and the customer has agreed to rent, those add-on sales can be easier to make. Yet, many managers admit leaving money on the table.

Consider this: In the average self-storage, an 8-by-6 wall space with 16 square feet of floor space can generate $12,000 to $24,000 in added profits a year. That works out to $250 to $500 per square foot. The sore truth is that money walks right out the door because many staff members dont know how to sell retail products.

Training vs. Learning

An extremely successful vice president of sales once said he didnt want his people to be trained to sell. He preferred they learn to sell. His contention was that training and learning describe two intensely different activities. The first focuses on the trainer, the second on the salesperson. He was convinced his people learned faster and were more motivated when self-taught. Heres how he did it and how you can apply his techniques to your retail sales.

Were all creatures of habit. When salespeople find an approach that earns them rewards, they tend to repeat it. The challenge is to get them to try selling new products in the first place, and equip them to succeed.

Reward your employees for selling boxes and tape. If theyre already doing it, reward them for selling other products. If your average sale is four retail items, pay a bonus for sales of five and six, but dont keep the sales incentives in effect forever. Remember, once theyve learned to sell those products, theyll go on selling them. You can run the incentive program again when you add enough rookies.

Silent Sales Tools

Salespeople often learn by reading what customers sometimes overlook: packages, brochures, posters and other silent salesmen. Look for the sort of packaging and point-of-sale materials that spells out what employees should say in their pitch.

Weve found, for instance, that a series of reminder posters are popular with managers because they remind customers (and staff ) what products are needed to ship, store and move the professional way.

Another idea is to group related products into kits. Products that customers might need for shipping, moving or storage should be displayed together. You might even apply special pricing to encourage kit sales. It may trigger a sales spike in the short term; more important, it will help your employees learn what products they should sell together.

Picture a Motivated Staff

No matter what the prize is, incentives are always welcome. Be creative and think beyond dollars: Create perks salespeople might enjoy and remember to honor their accomplishments publicly.

As much as Employee of the Month has been lampooned, the truth is most people crave recognitionso give it to your star students. Post pictures of your best people, even if only in your backroom. If you have more than one unit, send newsletters to all of them honoring the best in each unit and the best of the best.

Finally, when you discover one employee has learned to sell exceptionally well, give him a bonus to teach the others how he did it. In that way, youre combining monetary and ego rewards into one neat package. Youll get an A for giving everyone opportunities to learn, while theyll get an A for becoming expert sales students. 

Bob Strenk, president of Supply Side, has more than 20 years of marketing and sales experience. Supply Side, distributor of shipping, packaging and moving and storage supplies, has developed merchandising programs for the U.S. Postal Service, The UPS Stores, Kinkos, Uncle Bobs Self Storage, Extra Space Storage and many other leading companies. For more information, visit

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