What’s the secret to improving your self-storage closing ratio? Listening. While it might seem simple, it can be a challenge for us humans. If you’re ready to hear more and talk less, read on to find out how you can alter your sales approach and gain more customers.

Scott Holland, Regional Sales Manager

February 15, 2024

6 Min Read

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” When you adhere to this time-honored axiom in social and professional settings, you’ll always learn more. It’s such a simple concept, and yet the application can be quite difficult. Why? Human nature.

So often, we listen to others only to respond when we should be working hard to understand. You’ve been there. Your friend tells a story of how they recently went through a health scare and had to have this or that procedure. You can’t wait to chime in and talk about your recent brush with death. “You had a hip replacement? Well, I had a triple bypass!” It’s just what we humans do. We want to share our experiences and expertise. It can sometimes be good thing. But in some circumstances, it’s more effective to simply listen and process information.

Take self-storage sales, as a prime example. As a facility manager, you have a goal to help customers. You’re supposed to present yourself as the expert. But how can you help if you don’t truly understand their needs and motivations? In these situations, if you follow Epictetus’ direction, you will sell more. Here’s why and how.

You’re Building a Relationship

Think of self-storage sales as a dialogue and start by introducing yourself. “Hi, I’m Susan. May I ask your name?” There’s nothing sweeter to someone than the sound of their own name. Use it throughout the conversation, but not too much. It should flow naturally. This’ll show the customer they’re important to you and keep them engaged, but you must be sincere. Building rapport is important, as it helps establish trust; and customers want to do business with those they trust.

People generally aren’t window shopping for self-storage or packing supplies. If they’re on the phone or in your office, they need your product. So, begin the interaction by determining their needs. Stand, smile and greet them, and then ask qualifying questions. Listen to understand. Sales is simply listening to what your customer needs, determining if you have it and offering the appropriate solution.

Politely ask permission before diving in, for example, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to help me determine the best storage options for you?”  It’s important to get this buy-in from the customer at an early stage, as it’ll help you close the sale later on. Then continue with open-ended inquiries such as “What are you storing?” and “Where are you in the moving process?”

If they’re in the beginning stages of a move, there are additional things you should ask pertaining to moving supplies and truck rentals. Conversely, if they say their truck is in the parking lot (an attentive property manager will have already noticed this), then the questions go right to the customer’s storage needs and you’re much closer to the sale.

Once you’ve gathered information from the prospect, repeat their statements back to them. This not only demonstrates that you’re listening, it helps you confirm what they need and remember what they said.

If you’re speaking to someone on the phone rather than in person, you’ll follow the same general procedure, though the discussion may end with plans for a site visit rather than a rental at this stage. Set a date and time for them to come to the property and look at the unit. Close rates are much higher when the customer commits to this. Add a reminder for yourself to call the day before the appointment, as customers are much more likely to show up when they confirm the meeting.

 

You’re Building Confidence and Trust

Once you’ve determined the best unit for your potential self-storage tenant, show it to them—and bring a lock with you! Demonstrate how the keypad and gate work, the elevator, where the push carts are, and review office and access hours. Also, highlight whatever features and benefits your property offers. Establish your facility’s value before presenting the cost.

At the unit, ask the customer to hold the lock while you open the door. Allow them to visualize their items in the space (generating more buy-in) by again discussing what they plan to store and how it might fit. Then ask, “Will this unit work for you?” If the answer is yes, have them secure the door with their lock and head back to the office to complete the paperwork. The key is to close the sale at the unit.

Sometimes the customer won’t be sure about the unit size or location. In that case, show them more until they find the perfect space. Or they might object to purchasing the lock. Let them know it was designed specifically for the door hasp and is the kind they need to secure their belongings. It’s always good to have several responses at the ready, such as “Our locks are designed for maximum security” or “This lock has a seven-year manufacturer warranty.” If they continue to object, move on. Renting the unit is most important and what keeps the lights on.

Many self-storage managers present their product hoping there are no objections from the customer, but there always will be, be prepared. Would you jump out of a plane and pack your parachute on the way down? Of course not. So, don’t try to wing it. Be ready for any sales scenario. Memorize some typical reasons customers give for not renting, then apply the proper responses in your own words. And practice! The better you are able to overcome objections, the more confident you’ll become and closing the sale will be second nature. Not only that, you’ll instill more confidence and trust in the customer, and that’s what’ll seal the deal.

You’re Meeting All of Their Needs

Once you’re back at your self-storage leasing office, recommend the appropriate moving boxes and other packing supplies. You might say something like, “Based on what you’re storing, you’ll need 10 small boxes, a queen mattress cover and a roll of tape.” Just remember, the goal isn’t to sell as much as you can, just what the customer needs based on what you learned during all of that quality listening. If you do this, they will buy from you. If you attempt more, you might come off as pushy and could lose their trust.

If your self-storage facility offers tenant insurance or a property-protection plan, mention it as you’re completing the lease. This is a good place for the option close: “We offer goods protection at these two limits for these monthly costs. Which would you prefer?” Less is more. Don’t get too deep into the coverage or what-if scenarios. You can always direct the customer to the provider’s website or phone number for details.

Improved listening will enhance your ability to understand and communicate with your self-storage customers, making you much better able to meet their specific needs. This builds trust and confidence with your prospects, which goes a long way toward winning their business. It’ll also make the experience of speaking to you more enjoyable, which will ultimately boost your sales!

Scott Holland is regional sales manager for Walnut Creek, California-based StoragePro Management Inc., a third-party management company specializing in self-storage. He has more than 20 years of experience of industry experience as a district manager for Public Storage and SmartStop Self Storage. For more information, call 925.730.9086 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Scott Holland

Regional Sales Manager, StoragePro Management Inc.

Scott Holland is regional sales manager for Walnut Creek, California-based StoragePro Management Inc., a third-party management company specializing in self-storage. He has more than 20 years of experience of industry experience as a district manager for Public Storage and SmartStop Self Storage. For more information, call 925.730.9086 or email [email protected].

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