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Using a Q&A Sales Technique to Close More Self-Storage Rentals

When you speak with potential self-storage renters, do you ask and answer all the right questions? To effectively close the sale, there are five things you must ask, plus five others the prospect asks himself as part of his decision-making process. Learn what they are and how to make the most of them!

You’ve done all kinds of marketing to get prospects to your self-storage facility. Now that they’re here, how are you going to close the rental?

You can vastly improve your sales effectiveness and boost facility income by employing a simple Q&A technique. This approach ensures each tenant gets what he needs, not just what he thinks he wants. Asking—and answering—the right questions proves you’re customer-focused and eager to help the prospect find a solution to his problem.

Below are five questions you must ask every potential customer to properly close the sale. I’ve also outlined five questions the prospect will ask himself as part of his decision-making process. Knowing and anticipating these will move your sales in the right direction.

5 Questions You Must Ask

1. Have you ever rented storage before? This lets you know right away how to move forward with the conversation. Does the customer need a quick tutorial of how storage works? A “why we’re different/better” chat? Will he need boxes and moving supplies? Will he work with a moving company or need a truck rental? Finding out the level of storage knowledge the prospect has will help you meet him where he is, so you can help him move forward effectively and efficiently.

2. What are you storing? This helps you determine what type and size unit to recommend. Does the customer need a climate-controlled space for antique furniture or traditional storage for his lawnmower? Does he require a small unit for a few boxes or a large one for his entire home? Does he need an outside parking spot for an RV? By determining what he’s storing, you can recommend the right kind of unit for his needs.

3. When do you need a unit? This will let you know if you have (or will have) the right kind of unit available and how soon you’ll complete the paperwork. Do you have the ideal space now? Will you need to combine units to make it work? Do you maybe need to recommend something else? Does the customer need to gather his info and come back to sign the lease, or does he have everything ready to go now? Should you go ahead and complete his lease now, waiving the prorate so he can move in when your office is closed? Asking this question shows you’re trying to help the customer stick to his moving timeframe.

4. How long do you think you’ll need storage? This helps you uncover the customer’s anticipated length of stay, which is important because it allows you to limit discounts. For example, you can offer 50 percent off for the first two months, then set the discount to burn off and revert to the street rate. Or you can match your competitor pricing “for the length of rental” based on the customer’s estimated stay. Either way, you aren’t giving a perpetual discount. Of course, the customer should be made aware if and when it will expire.

5. How much would you guess your stuff is worth? This lets you know how much insurance to recommend (or is required) to cover the customer’s stored property. If he says it’s worth $10,000, quote the $10,000 premium; don’t just go for the minimum. If he’s providing his own insurance, make sure the coverage is adequate and, if not, recommend he add more to be safe.

By walking your prospect through these questions, you’re providing a better service overall. He’ll notice your attention to detail, which shows you care about him and his needs. You’ll be better prepared to take care of him, and he’ll walk away feeling confident in your ability, with a level of comfort and trust. Admittedly, these questions can sometimes be tricky to ask during a formal sales presentation, but with practice, you can work them into natural, conversational sales style.

Self-Directed Questions

This brings us to the next phase: answering the questions your prospects aren’t asking out loud. When a customer encounters anyone selling him anything, he’s always going to ask himself these five questions, in a particular order. If his internal answer isn’t a “yes,” there’s a strong chance you’ll lose the sale. So, learn to anticipate these self-directed questions and how to ensure those coveted positive responses. This is the next skill you need to boost your sales.

Do I want to do business with this person? Within five seconds of meeting you, the customer has probably decided whether he’s willing to rent a unit from you. That's why first impressions, including your appearance and initial greeting, are so important. Customers must have a sense of comfort and trust if they plan to sign a contract. Make sure you’re friendly and well-groomed, and pleasantly offer your knowledge and guidance.

Do I want to do business with the facility or brand this person represents? For this question, there are two possible scenarios:

  • If he isn’t yet familiar with your brand/facility, it's up to you to position it correctly and to your advantage. Sell and tell, and promote your property’s features and benefits, especially as compared to others from which he has to choose in your area.
  • If the customer is familiar with your brand/facility, you've either got a good reputation, in which case you've got a leg up; a bad reputation, so you've got to start with damage control; or a mediocre reputation, in which case, you're back to positioning your facility to your advantage, as in the scenario above.

In any case, how you present your facility and brand is critical, and you should always seek to cast the most positive light possible. Never speak poorly of your company in front of a customer. Nothing sinks a potential sale like a self-inflicted trash-talk torpedo!

Do I want and need what the business is selling? Because self-storage is a need-driven business, the answer to this question is generally a resounding “yes.” People don’t rent storage because it’s on sale. Nobody pays to have access to an empty room just because they can. So, when a prospect gets to you, he already knows he needs your product. Your job is to figure out what kind of storage he needs and demonstrate why your facility is exactly what he wants.

The biggest mistake at this stage is being too pushy. Remember, customers like buying things, but they hate to be sold things. Show them why your product is a superior choice and why they should want it, and they’ll likely choose to purchase.

Through your conversation, you may discover the customer has needs and requirements that aren’t a fit for your facility’s offerings. If that’s the case, don’t worry. You may be able assist in other ways, which could earn the customer’s recommendation to friends and family, even if you don’t have exactly what he needs right now.

Do the price and value meet my expectations? If you’ve gotten this far in the conversation, the customer has recognized the need and is now assessing whether your offerings are affordable and worth the cost. This value assessment involves weighing his need against the many other demands that compete for his attention and money.

The customer may also want (or already have) competitive information that puts your price into context. You must be prepared to demonstrate the value of your facility vs. that of your competition. What else, besides an empty room, are they going to get with you? Things like a free conference room, customer-use dumpster, automatic doors, motion-sensor lighting, app-controlled gate access, package-delivery acceptance and other value-adding services can make a huge impact. If you can exceed the customer’s expectations, you can easily expect another “yes.”

Is this the right time to buy? Most of the time, when a customer needs storage, he needs it quickly. So, for most sales encounters, this question will be a big “yes.” However, some customers do research weeks or even months in advance. Any customer can be ready to rent and yet still feel it isn’t the right time. He may believe that holding out will result in a discount, or another product will come along that makes your offering obsolete. It's this last question—and its potential to block a sale—that causes storage companies to extend “limited-time offers.” This is a perfectly acceptable technique that can effectively drive that last “yes” into place and help close the deal.

If your customer doesn’t want to move in for a week or two, offer to do his move-in paperwork now and provide a slight discount, or waive the prorated rental amount for the wait time. You can pitch this as allowing him to get a head start; having extra time before moving day to prep his unit with pallets, plastic for the floors or a good working lock; and ensuring he can work the gate to get in seamlessly with his fully loaded truck. Convenience has sales power when it’s used effectively!

To become a better and more successful salesperson, it’s important to recognize the validity of these self-directed questions. The customer usually asks them of himself in the exact order listed above. If you answer them in the wrong order, the sale will be less likely. For example, you don’t want to open a conversation with a new customer by saying, “This is a limited-time offer!” He’ll likely be annoyed because he hasn’t yet decided whether he wants to do business with you, or whether he wants what you're offering anyway! The lesson is to not only be prepared to answer these five internal questions but to do it in a natural flow that’s aligned with the typical human train of thought.

By asking the right questions to best serve your customer and naturally answering questions he’s never going to ask out loud, you’re taking great strides toward successful sales. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to start working on these Q&A sales skills now. By the time your busy season hits, you’ll be well-equipped to close on a high percentage of your sales.

Stacie Maxwell is vice president of marketing and training for Universal Storage Group, a provider of self-storage management, education and development services. With more than 18 years of experience in the storage industry, she oversees the branding, design and marketing programs for the company and its portfolio, as well as the company’s award-winning multi-phase training programs. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalstoragegroup.com.

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