Just before takeoff on an airplane, passengers hear a presentation about their seatbelts, oxygen masks and how to exit in an emergency. This message is repeated before every flight, regardless if the travelers have heard it before. There’s a reason for this. Systems and routines are efficient and effective. They’re teachable, and involve actions that can be tracked and analyzed. Systems can be monitored and maximized.
Systems aren’t just for safety procedures. Building one to sell products and services can have a similar affect. Done correctly, a selling system can become second-nature and help self-storage operators close more sales.
Frame of Mind
Selling systems are simple. A good rule of thumb is to make one that has no more than five steps, as most people can remember and recall a short list. Here’s the system:
- Make a friend.
- Make a connection.
- Make a recommendation.
- Start the rental.
- Prepare for the next steps.
Now that you know the steps, you’ll need the correct frame of mind. Think like a fast-food drive-up. Everyone who drives up to the window is a buyer. Similarly, everyone who calls your property or parks in your driveway is a buyer. People don’t contact a self-storage facility because they don’t need a storage solution. They come to storage because they have an immediate or upcoming need.
Now, there are reasons people don’t rent a unit even after seeking information about one. But just because some won’t rent from you doesn’t mean you should treat them as anything but a new customer. How would you like it if you walked into a store and the salesperson said, “You know, not everyone buys from us after they walk in the door. Are you one of those people? Because if you are, I don’t really feel like using any energy to deal with you.” That’s the message we often put out to people who call us for rates and information.
The main reasons people don’t rent a unit are:
- The need changes.
- You don’t follow the system, and they feel awkward and go away.
- They don’t have the money to rent the unit on the day they contact you.
- No one made them feel like self-storage was the best solution.
Three out of the four of these are in your control. If you follow the five-step system, you’ll have a new customer.
A sales system must be structured so everyone can keep it straight in their heads when learning it. But it should also be flexible enough so it doesn’t sound too scripted or stilted.
What does that mean? It means you should talk to people in your own style, tailoring the conversation to the person’s style of talking and his needs and situation. However, you can and should use specific scripting for small pieces of the system to keep your language effective and consistent. The verbiage needs to be collected, shared and frequently reviewed so it becomes internalized and comes out of people’s mouths without thought.
The Sales Manager and Coach
You’ll also need a driver for your selling system. This person will manage, push and tweak it, and then push it some more. Who’s best suited for this responsibility? In a small organization, it might be the owner or a manager who’s particularly interested in sales and can take on an expanded role. In larger companies, this is a sales manager. Your business might not be big enough to justify a full-time position, but you may be able to have an employee work part time as a sales manager and part time in another role.
You also need a coach who’ll support and mentor staff as they learn and perfect the system. Sometimes a single person can be both sales manager and coach; but these are different functions that require a unique approach. Your sales manager will track system statistics, adherence and performance to reward those who do well. He’ll also order retraining or reassignment those who have trouble. The coach, on the other hand, is the staff trainer, mentor and cheerleader. This person must master the system and demonstrate good teaching skills. He’ll instruct and correct behavior so employees can thrive in the system.
You need to be careful to ensure you have the right person in your mentor position. You can’t just take someone with has a knack for selling, or a “people person,” and name him coach. Learning to teach and manage are very different from knowing how to sell or relate to people, so choose this person wisely.
What to Invest?
A selling system isn’t about giving staff a few cheat sheets and a checklist and then turning them loose. It takes an investment in time, people, development, consulting, training and so on. But an improvement of only a few points in the conversion of inquiries to rentals is worth thousands of dollars in revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in asset value.
To determine the amount you can afford to invest in a selling system, look at your numbers. If you could rent units to 10 percent more customers, what would that bring in for revenue? If an average rental is worth $600 to your business, and you have a smaller operation where a 10 percent increase means one additional rental per month, you can spend $500 a month on developing your sales system and still be ahead. If you have several properties and you’re in an area with decent rate structures, a 10 percent bump might easily be worth $10,000 per month in additional revenue. That gives you a lot of room for investing in a selling system.
Here’s your homework: Use the 10 percent rule to determine what you can invest in a new system. Think about who you have in your business with sales-management or coaching skills. Can this person be further developed? If not, how will you fill the void?
Next, think about how simple this system really is: Make a friend. Make a connection. Make a recommendation. Start the rental, and prepare for the next steps. Then do what you need to make that process simple in practice.
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.