Make a customer not a sale. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Always be closing. Coke only sold 25 bottles in its first year, so never give up. This is but a handful of the motivational sales mantras you hear today.
Sales philosophies are like dogs: Everyone thinks theirs is the best, and they’re eager to tell you about it. Ironically, none of them are wrong. Amazon offers more than 2 million books on the topic of sales, many containing good information. You could spend a fortune on books, videos, classes and conferences, and you’d be overwhelmed with advice. To guide you in your self-storage sales process, I’ve distilled the deluge down to three philosophies.
1. Make It Fit
My first sales philosophy is to tailor your pitch to fit your personality. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. If you’ve ever met me, you know I laugh and joke all the time, and rarely take anything seriously. It drives the people close to me insane! When I offer a sales presentation or a tour of a storage facility, I’m high-energy, fun and outgoing. However, others in my company are the opposite. So, who’s right? We all are.
People see the sincerity of a person, not the salesmanship. When you’re true to your character, people see you’re authentic, and it makes them feel comfortable and respected. They don’t feel like they’re being “sold.” You’re present in the conversation and able to engage in a helpful manner. You develop a genuine connection with customers. They’ll see, hear and feel this, and reward you by sharing their time with you.
Even though your personality should be foremost, there are sales practices you should follow. Whether you take phone calls at your facility or offer tours, you’re using techniques. And like any skill, they need to be studied and refined. Learn everything you can about sales. Even if you receive training from your company, remember there’s so much more material out there. Many storage operators severely lack basic sales know-how, so anything you can absorb will put you ahead of the game.
2. Sometimes It Works
My college philosophy professor once told us, “Some things work for some of the people some of the time.” He wasn’t talking about the business world, and yet it’s a good summary of the second philosophy behind self-storage sales.
Let’s try an experiment. Write down the three principal objections you receive from potential customers. Now, ponder how you counter these objections. Do you have planned responses for each? If you don’t, create some now! If you do, I guarantee some of them work on some of the people some of the time. Now you need to expand this skill. If you attempt to overcome an objection one way and it fails, try another. There’s no rule that says you have just one chance. Educate yourself and practice so you have “some things for some people.”
When was the last time you updated your phone-sales techniques or tried something different? If you apply the “some things” philosophy, you need to have variations when speaking to people on the phone, depending on their cues. What questions are you asking the customer? Are there better questions? Call 10 facilities in different parts of the country and see what you can learn from their phone presentations.
3. No Magic
A co-worker of mine, who’s an avid Harry Potter fan, inspired this third sales philosophy: There are no magic wands or words in the world of sales.
If you’ve read the books or watched the films, you know Harry’s adventures take him and his friends through many trials and tribulations. Often, the only saving grace they have is the ability to wave their wands or conjure a spell to vanquish their foes. This doesn’t work in sales. Don’t get me wrong, some techniques and words are better to use. However, “magical” implies that something is easy, and sales isn’t. There are no magical words that will make your sales increase.
While what you say matters, it’s how you say it that counts. We’re in the business of storage and empathy. Operators get so caught up with saying words like value, new, guarantee, sale, easy, simple, etc., that they forget sales is about helping people get what they want and need. Shift your thinking from “I win when the customer rents from me” to “the customer wins when he chooses my facility,” and see what happens.
If you don’t have some sort of sales training at your company, I encourage you to seek it out. Ask your owner or supervisor if you can find or do some sort of training for yourself and co-workers. Even if you just send a monthly e-mail containing sales tips, it’s a change in the right direction.
As a self-storage operator, you should be doing what you can to sharpen your trade. Often to its detriment, our industry is viewed as a passive business when it should be viewed as a dynamic, active machine with cogs, wheels and levers. All these parts need to be changed and pulled. By taking time to develop your sales skills, you’re making everything move significantly better.
Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City. His goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, innovative ideas. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.