Managing a self-storage business is as much a sales job as working at a car dealership. Though you might not get the same amount of foot traffic, you get plenty of calls and walk-ins, and you must do everything possible to make each interaction count. Let’s explore four ways to ensure you’re ready, willing and able to give prospective tenants exactly what they need, and even upsell, without being too forceful.
1. Know Your Product
While this might seem like a painfully obvious suggestion, it’s important. You should be able to clearly and concisely describe your storage units (square footage, door opening, width, height) and provide directions to a particular unit on your property. For example, “We’ve got a 10-by-12-foot, climate-controlled unit available. The entry is 7 feet, 11 inches wide and 8 feet tall. It’s directly inside of Building A, on the left-hand side. It’s the third unit from the door, No. 495.”
Now you’ve told the tenant everything he could ask about the unit, including the distance he’ll have to travel and whether large furniture can easily fit through the door. You don’t necessarily have to spit out all this information in every interaction, but have the knowledge handy. If necessary, walk around the property measuring doors, hallways and other useful items to create a cheat sheet. Also have a site map, so you can quickly and easily direct tenants to their space.
Knowing your product also means knowing your extras. Do you have a current sale or special promotion? Know all the rules, restrictions and details beforehand so you can offer the best deal possible to anyone showing interest in your facility.
Finally, you must understand your facility’s weaknesses. If you have bad reviews online, know how to address them if a prospective tenant asks about an incident. We all make mistakes, and not every situation can be prevented. However, we can be prepared to respond to accusations, negative feedback and the like. Don’t fear your vulnerabilities. Knowing is the first step to improvement.
2. Lead the Conversation
We’ve all met “the talker,” the person who just wants to tell us his life story even though it has no relevance to the conversation. This is just a super-friendly individual with the gift of gab. To get him to discuss pertinent information, you must lead him. Ask what brought him to your facility. If he starts to veer off track, suggest a product or offering. For example:
Prospect: Hey, I’m interested in a storage unit. My dad passed away, and he left me a lot of stuff. I just need to get it out of the house. It’s been really hard. My dad liked boats, hunting and fishing, and I just can’t deal with sorting everything right now. I’m super stressed and unhappy. I just need a place to keep it all, so I can deal with it later, you know?
Property manager: I’m so sorry for your loss. You mentioned a house. How many rooms does it have? We’ve got a special going on that might interest you, and we have hand carts onsite for you to use when you move in.
Here, the manager not only listened to what the customer said, he led the conversation back to the matter at hand. Everyone loves a deal, so when handling a difficult situation, anything you can do to help alleviate a customer’s stress is a selling point—like the use of a moving dolly.
The best way to lead conversations without coming across as pushy is to relate your offerings in context. Understand what the prospect needs and then offer a solution with extras that’ll give him a sense of getting what he wants, plus a little more.
3. Win the Business
Winning a customer’s business is about showcasing your high points. Be a peacock and show off all the perks that come from renting with you. Tell prospects what they need to know along with some enticements. Share about your business hours, gate hours, lighted hallways, pest control and whatever else makes your property unique. Most managers assume people know about a facility’s features, but not everyone does. These little extras can set you apart from the competition.
Winning the business might also include the use of specials. Perhaps you have a limited-time, $1 move-in or you’re offering 50 percent off the first month’s rent if a customer stays for three months. Don’t make potential customers ask about discounts. Whatever the deal, make the customer feel like he’s winning. Attitude matters, and you should be excited to talk about doing business together. Tell them upfront just how amazing you and your facility are, and how happy they’ll be if the store with you. Renting a unit from you should be a prize; get excited about it!
Along with displaying this positive mentality, reiterate how you’ll fulfill their needs. Talk about key selling points that connect to their specific situation. Relate everything you say to the issues that created the need for storage. Pay attention and address their concerns in a manner that makes them feel valued. If you do this correctly, you’ll be 80 percent done with the deal.
4. Don’t Ask, Suggest
Don’t ask the customer what size storage unit he needs. Instead, ask how much stuff he’ll be storing, what kinds of items, and what prompted the need for a unit. If he objects or thinks you’re getting too personal, simply explain how you’re trying to help him. For example:
- “I don’t mean to pry; I’m simply trying to find you the best size and type of unit for your specific needs.”
- “You said you’ve got some furniture. Well, I would highly suggest a climate-controlled unit because of X, Y and Z.”
- “Oh, you’d like to store your RV. How big is it? We have enclosed RV-storage units in sizes L, M, N and O.”
Be the self-storage expert. When someone comes to you for your services, make him feel he’s in the right place. Be confident but not cocky, assertive but not forceful. Believe in your offerings and how they can benefit the customer. Demonstrate that you’re the right facility for the job and you can solve his storage dilemma.
Mohala Johnson is the director of Web technology for Tellus Development Ltd., a real estate and development firm that operates more than 30 self-storage facilities in the Southeast. With more than 10 years of management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and she’s excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her @MohalaJohnson on Twitter or www.linkedin.com/in/mohalajohnson. For more information, visit www.tellusltd.com.