Developing a sales culture is a key component to making a selling system work for your self-storage business. Even if you put processes and procedures in place, employ a coach and a manager, and set goals, without a sales culture, you’ll fail.
A company’s culture is often not what supervisors believe it is. They may have one idea as to the behaviors, thought processes and motivations that drive performance; but in practice, it may be very different. That’s because employees often get mixed signals and conflicting directions. To make a culture grow—in the right direction—you need a clear framework and consistent core messaging.
A sales culture has a few basic rules that drive every action and policy. Here’s a simple set of cultural norms for a sales-oriented organization:
- We’re always selling.
- We’re always setting up the next sale.
- We’re always building referrals.
- Our friendly and welcoming approach makes people want to buy from us.
- Our great customer service makes people want to buy from us again.
If these five principles are the bedrock of your culture, you can’t go wrong. You want every company interaction, policy or procedure to uphold these guiding philosophies.
You can build your culture by telling stories, which is what binds people together. Just look at the “Harry Potter” culture. These stories bind millions of readers across the globe.
Tell stories about your storage company that celebrate the five basic pillars outlined above. Find real-life examples in which an employee’s commitment to one or more of these principles resulted in a success, or a triumph against adversity. Then tell these stories—a lot. When people hear them, they’ll become recommitted to the company’s core philosophies.
Next, use the five principles to build your sales scripting. A script is really just a phrase that successfully moves a prospect along the path to the purchase. Scripts aren’t long, drawn-out monologues—no one has time for that. Instead, understand the concerns prospects have so you can build reassuring phrases around them. Understand their decision points so you can help them make a good choice with the phrasing you use. Following are a few examples.
Scenario one: The prospect has a concern about urgency. He needs to put things in storage soon. Your script for this might be, “I totally understand. A lot of our customers don’t realize they need storage until the last minute. I can be here for you today and get everything set up so you can begin moving in right away, or I can be here tomorrow, too. Which is better for you?”
Doesn’t this uphold the five principles? How often will a response like this lead to a rental?
Scenario two: The prospect has a concern about getting a truck or movers for the move. Your response might be, “I know it can be tricky to get everything coordinated. Most people rent their storage unit first to make sure they have what they need. Then they can breathe a little easier while they work on scheduling friends or a moving service because they know the unit is ready and waiting. Let’s get this off your to-do list and get your name on the unit now. We can do that with Visa, Mastercard or Discover. Which would you like to use today?” Doesn’t this also follow the five principles?
Scenario three: The prospect has a concern because funds are limited. Your guidance might be, “I understand a lot of people don’t budget for a storage unit in their move because they don’t think the need will come up. Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll put your name on that 5-by-10 unit. It’s a better rate than the 10-by-10, and I can get it for you half off the first month, so you would only need to pay $79 today. That should give you enough room, especially if you stack things high, and it gets you under a $100. I just need the correct spelling of your last name to get the order set up. How is your last name spelled?” You’ve taken the person by the hand and made a decision that will help his situation. You’ve hit all the guiding principles.
Training and Rewards
You can monitor staff performance by simply asking if every interaction followed the five principles of your sales culture. If you’re listening to a recorded call and it falls short, it should be easy for the employee to hear and understand where and how he failed. You can demand that salespeople use specific phrasing until they’re able to let the correct verbiage roll out of their mouths in their own words. A word of warning: If you’re not specific and demanding, people will develop their own habits, which may be unproductive and will certainly be hard to change.
Role playing is a great way to practice until phrases become natural and easy to say. Just focus on the bits and pieces of scripting you’re trying to perfect until you can string them all together. Trying to bite off more than an employee can chew during this exercise creates frustration and is counterproductive.
Building incentives around correct behavior and successful completion of goals is also helpful. You can create contests and small bonuses for using the prescribed scripting and getting rental commitments. Watch the results to ensure you’re encouraging the right activity, however, as incentive programs can sometimes encourage behavior you don’t want. For example, the desire to reach a bonus can cause people take shortcuts, game the system or fudge numbers. Incentive programs are trial and error, so try different things and see how yours develops.
Creating a sales culture is fundamental to your selling system. Spend time on it. Do it deliberately and carefully. Watch your results and make adjustments as necessary. You’ll be glad you did.
This article is part of an ongoing series on self-storage sales. The author will present a four-hour workshop on sales skills at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, April 10-13, in Las Vegas. For details, watch www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.
Tron Jordheim is business-development manager for the Store Here Self Storage third-party management platform. He’s consulted for many self-storage companies and spoken at industry events in Canada, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Prior to joining Store Here, he spent 15 years as director of the PhoneSmart call center and chief marketing officer of StorageMart. For more information, visit www.storehere.com or www.selfstorage.management.