Female phone-sales representative

Phone-Sales Tips and Tricks for Self-Storage Operators

Getting the phone to ring at your self-storage facility is only half the battle. You then need to convert these callers to customers! The following guidelines—including five questions to ask every caller—will help you improve your phone sales.

Getting the phone to ring at your self-storage facility is only half the battle. Knowing how to successfully sell your services once you have the customer on the line is the other half—the most important one.

With an increase in walk-in and online activity, many facility operators are finding their volume of phone calls is decreasing. You must make the most of each one of these valuable calls! The following simple guidelines will help you improve your phone sales.

General Phone-Sales Tips

For some self-storage managers, speaking on the phone comes naturally. Others need training on how to make the most of each sales call. Here are some tips to improve your skills, regardless of your current aptitude.

Be ready. Remove your gum, or swallow whatever food and drink is in your mouth. Then smile before you answer the phone. Customers can hear it in your voice! Take a split second to get focused on the call you’re about to receive; let everything else go. Stop everything else to focus on that call! Those other things will still be there when you’re finished.

Be an active and attentive listener. Answer the phone warmly and clearly, and do not mumble. Most important, pay attention to the customer. It’s easy to just regurgitate facts and information about your facility, but by asking your customer the right questions, you’ll get him to tell you about his situation. You’ll learn about his needs, so you can determine how to best help him. You might start by asking, “How can I improve your life today?”

Take notes. Notes are handy for providing a customized service experience, while you’re on the phone as well as during follow-up calls and appointments. Making the customer feel welcomed and presenting yourself as the local, friendly expert on all things storage will make him more comfortable and help build trust in your professional expertise. Always ask for his name and contact information and offer to e-mail him some information after the call. Once you get his name, use it throughout the conversation.

Here are some additional phone-sales tips:

  • Know what you need to know, and which questions to ask. Don't just give out prices!
  • Guide and control the conversation. Customers want an expert, not an order-taker. Be the one in charge.
  • Discuss all your facility’s features and discuss benefits, even if a customer doesn’t appear to have an immediate need for some of them. You never know when he may refer a co-worker, friend or family member.
  • Ask for the business. Don't allow the customer to hang up without asking for the sale and getting a means to follow up. Ask, “What will it take for you to become my customer today?” You might try, “If I could ______, would you rent with me today?” (Offer you a special, offer you a free lock, waive the admin fee, etc.)
  • Don’t forget about add-on sales such as locks, boxes, tenant insurance, etc. This is critical to improve income.
  • Understand that until you’ve developed comfort and trust with customers, you can’t sell them.

Five Magic Questions

There are five questions that’ll help you determine how to sell your various offerings to your self-storage customer. Never start quoting prices and offering discounts as your first line of response. Instead, follow a single-sheet script with each caller. Take extensive notes from his responses and use them to outline your property’s benefits in a way that relates to each comment. Here are the questions to ask:

1. Have you ever rented self-storage before? In some markets, as much as 50 percent of the population hasn’t rented a storage unit and doesn’t know all the ins and outs. Most prospects will focus on price when they don't know what else is important to ask. By asking if they’ve rented storage before, you’ll know how much information to provide.

2. What will you be storing? You need to make sure the use is qualified. That means no old tires or batteries, fish or other livestock, or food. If the unit will be used for commercial purposes such as storing inventory or business records, you’ll handle the prospect differently than you would a residential customer. Similarly, if the person plans to store a boat, RV or other vehicle, there’ll be additional information to collect.

3. When do you need to move in? This will help you create urgency no matter if the customer says, “this week” or “a month from now.” It’ll also help you advise the customer on how your facility is the solution to his problem.

For example, let’s say a customer needs to move his entire household. You might respond with something like, “Since your movers won’t be coming until the first of the month, you have a unique opportunity to make this the easiest move of your lifetime! Just bring a few treasured items to your storage unit each weekend, things you don’t want the movers dealing with like your antique China. By the time they arrive on moving day, all your most treasured possessions will be out of the way, and the movers can pack and move more quickly. You’ll be so glad you too advantage of this extra time! Let’s look at which unit size will suit your needs.” From here, you can make recommendations and close the deal.

4. How long will you need storage? This question allows you to limit the term of the discount, if you need one to close the sale. For example, let’s say a customer asks you to match prices with a competitor. You might say, “If I match the rate for the two months you think you’ll need storage, and then raise it to regular price thereafter, will you move in with me today?” This is much better than an open-ended discount that robs your property of value.

5. What’s the dollar value you’d put on your belongings? Make a note and write up a contract for the correct amount of tenant-insurance coverage. No other discussion is necessary.

Asking these questions shows prospects you’re customer-focused. Not asking means you’re not selling, you’re just quoting prices. Don't fall into the trap of price-selling; you can’t win this game.

Using What You Know

The more questions you ask your customers on the phone, the better you’re able to determine what they need. It also clues you into special programs you might extend to each caller, such as free use of the company’s moving truck, key release for package delivery or business-center services. Once you learn what brings your customers through the door, you can emphasize the benefits of your products or services and how you can exceed their expectations. This might include packing materials for residential customers or extended business hours for commercial tenants.

As the call winds down, ask your caller if he’d like to make a reservation or an appointment to tour the facility. Promise shopping assistance via your competition-survey book, accompanied by coffee and cookies. The goal is to get the customer to the next step in the rental process. If you’re just quoting prices, you’re only giving the caller a tiny percentage of the information he needs to make an informed decision.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with a few ideas on how to improve your phone-sales skills. Remember to always track your closing rate. This should include how many calls you receive as well as your conversion ratios. This simple task can do wonders to improve your ability to convert leads to leases.

M. Anne Ballard is president of training, marketing and developmental services for Universal Storage Group and the founder of Universal Management Co. She’s past president of the Georgia Self Storage Association and has served on the national Self Storage Association’s board of directors. She’s also participated in the planning, design and operation of numerous storage facilities. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalstoragegroup.com

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