I’ve never considered myself a natural salesperson. In fact, when I first started in the self-storage industry, I was petrified of sales and would always have my husband, Joe, show units to close the deal. Then I would come in, do the paperwork and explain the process of doing business with us.
I remember how I would listen to him and just be amazed. He could rent a unit to anyone! I started paying attention to what he was doing. No matter who came through the door or called on the phone, he found something in common with them. It could be anything: They both served in the military, had lived in the same town, had children the same age or been in the same line of work. Joe had a gift: He made people comfortable with his laidback approach. Once he started asking questions, they wouldn’t hesitate to tell him their stories. By the time they came to me, he knew everything about them.
After listening to him for a couple of years, I started to do the same thing. Yes, it took me a while to get confident. I was nervous! Plus, I don’t handle rejection well. But as I started talking with prospects and learned the right questions to ask, it became more natural.
The skills you need to be successful in self-storage sales are easy—and you likely already have many of them! Once you master these steps, you’ll close more sales effortlessly.
1. Be Friendly
When prospects walk into or call your office, treat them as if they’re already your self-storage customer. Give them 100 percent of your attention and be genuine. Answer their questions. Think about what makes you happy and impresses you when shopping for products and services.
I’ll give you an example. When my daughter was seeking her first apartment, we visited several properties. After hours of tours and questions, she chose the most expensive option because the leasing agent at that property spent the most time with us. She gave us her undivided attention and made us feel comfortable. She shared many tips and even questions to ask at other properties we toured. She spent the time to educate us about apartment living. Hers was the first property we visited and everyone after paled in comparison. In fact, she was so impressive that I gave her my business card and told her to call me if she ever needed a job!
When you shop for something, you want to know about the product, the service, even the company. Maybe it’s a car, an appliance or just new shoes. You have a lot of questions! So, you read reviews. You educate yourself to make the best decision. People are the same when it comes to storing their valuables. When you’re friendly, you put them at ease and make it comfortable for them to get the information they need. That’s more than half the battle already won!
2. Ask the Right Questions
I’ve learned customer rapport is vital when it comes to sales. Once, you master it, the rest will come. You need to learn who your prospects are. To gain their trust, you must ask questions!
- Who are they?
- When do they need the unit?
- How did they find you?
- How do they plan to move their belongings?
- How long do they plan to use your facility?
- Have they stored their items before and, if so, what was their experience?
- How can you provide solutions that address their concerns?
When you ask the right questions, people will talk to you. They like to share their stories. Simply listening and giving them professional feedback goes a long way!
3. Build Business Value
The next important step to being a good salesperson is to communicate your value. As a self-storage manager, you need to know and have confidence in your product. This includes features and benefits that set you apart from other providers in your market. Be familiar with your competitors. Perform a mystery shop and take note of things you offer that they don’t. If they do something you love, implement it at your site.
It’s also important to clearly communicate why these features matter. For example, you might tell a prospect that your property has wide, well-lit drive aisles, but he might not understand why that’s important. You can clarify that lights offer security and wide aisles make it easy to maneuver a truck. Maybe yours is a multi-story facility that contains covered loading docks. This is a fantastic benefit during inclement weather, so communicate that. High ceilings, tall doors, temperature-controlled units, professional pest control and security cameras are all benefits for the customer and should be presented as such.
4. Address Customer Concerns
If you’re worried about being too pushy, take a step back and breathe. You’ll never seem overly assertive if you’re showing genuine interest in the customer. Still, you must be able to address any concerns he has and effectively handle objections. Spend time with the prospect and discuss his reservations.
One of the most common protests we hear in self-storage is about price. Even in this case, you can close the deal by effectively communicating your value. Reiterate your features and benefits. If he leaves without renting, you’ll know you did your absolute best and you’ll get the next one. In most cases, the time you spent will stay on his mind and he’ll likely return. If price is his only concern, then maybe it’s a customer you can do without.
5. Follow Up
Always follow up with your prospects. You can’t do this if you don’t have their information, so always get a name, phone number and email address. Your outreach can be as simple as a quick “thank you for visiting” email or text that directs them to your website. Be sure to include your contact info!
A day after the visit, give your prospect a call. Leave a message if he doesn’t answer and be excited! Say something like, “It was such a pleasure to meet you yesterday. I would love to help you. Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions or would like another tour. I look forward to serving you.” This conveys confidence that he’s already your customer.
Once you accept the fact that, as a self-storage manager, you are truly in sales, you can have a huge impact. Put your personality into your pitch and present it in your own way. Always remember the golden rule and treat others as you would like to be treated. Your exceptional customer service will be reflected in your referrals and online reviews, resulting in a bigger bottom line.
By taking steps to be confident, ask the right questions, know your competitors and all the other steps outlined above, you’ll be a better salesperson in no time. It’ll even be natural. Find the common denominator between you and your customer. Listen. Provide solutions and follow up. You may even find that you make some lifelong friends along the way. To this day, I have best friends who started out as tenants!
Stephanie Tharpe is the president of A+ Management Group LP, which operates properties in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, and a partner and senior vice president of operations for A+ Storage of TN LLC. She’s the 2020-21 president of the Tennessee Self Storage Association, which selected her as “Manager of the Year” in 2012. Stephanie is also a moderator for Self Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community, and has been a featured speaker and panelist at national and state association conferences. To contact her, email [email protected].