Sales can be a tricky element of our profession. For some self-storage managers, it’s a snap; but for others, it can be downright difficult. When interacting with our prospects, we can rely on all resources available to us including our past experiences and training, and the company operations manual. At the end of the day, though, it’s kind of like stand-up comedy: You need to read the room, time your delivery, put up with hecklers, then follow through with the punchline.
With technology and avenues of communication changing almost daily, it’s important to have guidelines that make the self-storage sales process easier and more effective. The conversations we have with our customers need to be clear and focused, so they help us determine the best way to close the rental. Further, our approach should be just as detailed for online prospects as for phone and walk-in customers. Good scripts can serve as a “blueprint” for these critical interactions. Let’s explore what they should include and how to use them.
The Online Approach
The sale of self-storage often begins online. Your company website is a great introduction for new customers and can help repeat or existing tenants find another unit or peruse other business offerings. People may reach out to you via email or chat to inquire about unit availability, rates or other service issues.
When you receive an online inquiry, fast response is critical. Customers have been trained by large retailers and other corporations to expect nearly immediate service. To facilitate this within your self-storage operation, create a template you and your team can copy, paste and customize to improve response time and ensure consistent messaging. The goal is to provide basic facility information and invite the person to interact with you. Here’s an example:
Thank you for inquiring about renting with ABC Storage. You can find pricing and available units on our website, and also reserve a unit. I’m available to answer any additional questions you might have via email, or you can call or stop by our office Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We look forward to earning your business!
Hopefully, the prospect will rent a unit online or visit your self-storage facility in person. Some customers will respond to your email with additional questions, so be prepared to answer them in a timely fashion.
An online inquiry also affords the opportunity to pre-sell boxes and other packing supplies. For example, you might allow people to purchase mattress covers, bubble wrap, tape and locks through your website and have them waiting in the office or unit when the new tenant arrives. If you offer this service, include it in your message. It might read:
We also provide an array of packing supplies including boxes, locks and bubble wrap, plus specialty items. I’d be happy to share more information about them and help you select the right products for your move.
A response to an inquiry from social media will generally be more informal with fewer details but can include photos. You can follow the same template you use for email and chat inquiries, simply customizing it to suit the platform, whether its Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Unfortunately online interactions don't allow you to read a prospect’s facial expression or hear their tone of voice—and vice versa. As the person isn’t on the property, you can’t show them around and point out all your best features. This is why it’s vital that your messages via email, chat and social media are as friendly and detailed as possible, and always end with a call to action. Having well-written templates will help you be more prepared.
Over the Phone
Your self-storage phone-sales efforts can definitely benefit from the support of a good script. Even if you don’t follow it to the letter, having a general outline to guide the conversation can keep you on track and ensure you don’t miss anything important. It should start with a friendly greeting that includes the facility name, your name and a simple “How can I help you today?” If the prospect immediately requests pricing, you can redirect the conversation by asking a series of open-ended questions to better gauge their needs, for example:
- Is this your first time renting a storage unit?
- What will you be storing?
- How long do you anticipate needing storage?
- How soon will you need the space?
Also (and this is important), get the caller’s name and contact information so you can follow-up if necessary. When someone reaches out to you online, you often already know their name, email address, etc. On the phone, you need to ask.
Next, your phone-sales script should cover property details such as hours of operation, location, unit sizes, amenities, retail products and anything else it might be helpful for a self-storage customer to know. Even if you feel you know this material backward and forward, it can be easy to forget things, especially if you’re nervous. Lean on the script to ensure your presentation is thorough.
Your self-storage management software may even have some built-in scripts you can follow or use a base to create your own. In fact, many of today’s programs offer them. Not only do they prompt you with questions to ask the customer, they’ll guide your responses to help you push the transaction forward.
Finally, it’s vital to practice your script until you can deliver it naturally and effortlessly. You don’t want to come off as robotic or monotone. Your written guide should be designed to help you hit the main points and assist you in gaining the rental.
Your in-person sales script should be more spontaneous and conversational. It’s best to memorize it enough that you can improvise, as you don’t ever want to sound canned or impersonal. The aim is to connect with your self-storage prospect, so you build a good rapport. Start by asking the same open-ended questions you would use for a phone sale.
Once you know the prospect’s answers, you can move to the next phase in the sales process. Show the customer your facility and explain its features and benefits. You won’t necessarily be following a script for this portion of the presentation, as you should be well-versed on how everything at your property works. Your new renter will no doubt have questions, and having detailed and complete responses at the ready will portray you as the self-storage expert you are and help you close the rental.
Self-storage sales can be very intuitive, but not always and not for everyone. In many cases, it can be helpful to have a detailed script or template, or at least a loose outline, to follow. By having this blueprint in hand, complete with detailed facility information, open-ended questions and complete answers, the whole process will be easier for you and your potential new tenant, whether your interaction takes place online, over the phone or in person. Good luck and happy renting.
Donna Edwards joined the self-storage industry in 2013 as a site manager, trainer and consultant. She’s been a presenter at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo and has contributed several articles to ISS Magazine. She can be reached at 843.384.6459.
Kevin Edwards has been in the self-storage industry since 2015. He’s a state-licensed property manager in South Carolina, where he currently oversees several properties, and a seminar presenter for national self-storage conferences. He’s worked for both privately owned and national operators as a site manager, traveling trainer, site auditor and auction coordinator, and has aided in property acquisitions and site inspections. To reach him, call 843.422.3461 or email [email protected].