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Selling Records Storage and ManagementNothing happens until the sale is made!

March 1, 1999

6 Min Read
Selling Records Storage and ManagementNothing happens until the sale is made!

Selling Records Storage and Management

Nothing happens until the sale is made!

Selling records-storage and management services requires an understanding of yourproduct and the needs of your customer. There are proven ways to "sell"records-management services that have been used by the industry for decades. This columndiscusses the methods, skills and tools required to perform productive selling.

Three Principal Methods

The Survey Method

The most effective method for selling records-management services is a systems-salesapproach called "selling the survey." Almost all business-systems-related salescompanies, such as Xerox and IBM, use the survey method to understand the customerrequirements and uncover additional sales opportunities. The survey method moves yourprospect one step closer to becoming a customer. Using this approach gets the customer toinvest their valuable time with you and allows you a first-hand opportunity to view theiractual circumstances.

The survey method is, by far, the most expensive of the three methods since it requiresboth time and commitment. It is also the best method to use for larger accounts. The timethat you spend with the customer will generate additional sales opportunities that arehidden without the survey. The survey process should be very tightly designed. In mostcases, a survey can take less than a couple of hours. It should include three parts: thequestionnaire, the walk-about and the interview.

The Fast-Start Educational Event

This method has proven to be a launching pad for large numbers of prospects to be movedvery quickly through the sales cycle to the survey and the proposal process all at once.Typically, this event is planned and implemented over a six-week period. It includes aformal invitation, a detailed event brochure and a telemarketing push just before theevent. Typically we can achieve 50 percent or more attendance at the event and 50 percentor more surveys from attendees. It is important that this be a tightly directed andproduced event to insure maximum results. Nothing can get more prospects to the surveyprocess faster than the fast-start educational event.


When used effectively, telemarketing can deliver small, highly profitable accounts toyou with a modest amount of sales expense. Do not fall into the trap of using techniquesdesigned for hard-sell product sales. Telemarketing must be professionally designed forrecords-management sales. Scripting must be tightly managed using a professional, trainedtelemarketing staff or your own personnel who are skilled in using the approach. Theresults of professional telemarketing sales are quite dramatic.

The Sales Cycle

Remember, sales and marketing always have cost related to them. The costsinclude sales materials, supplies and, especially, your time. In professional recordsmanagement, "the sales cycle" can be as long as six months from first contact toclosure. You should do everything possible to shorten the sales cycle.

Let's take a look at the typical sales cycle. It is generally true to say that thesales cycle is similar regardless of the sales approach or methods used. Only the timeframe is different.

Rating Your Prospects

The potential businesses in your area are "suspects" until they are convertedto the "prospect" status. You may believe that a business or professional firmis a prospect, but some key factor may keep them from being a real prospect. Our firsttask is to uncover the prospects from the suspect list. In order to do so, we mustunderstand what makes one a prospect.

A prospect usually is a business that understands the need for records-managementservices. Understanding the need may be as simple as having had a problem with a law suitor a tax audit and not finding the important files. Others customers need to be remindedabout their record-keeping responsibility. The fast-start educational event usually workswell to educate large groups of prospects all at once.

Once a suspect has been moved to the prospect category, the second step is to rate the"value" of the prospect to your business. There are many ways to rate the valueof a prospect. The simplest is by storage size. Another is by retrieval requirements. Athird is by evaluating the overall records-management requirements of the business. Forthe purpose of this article we will focus on size or storage volume. In traditionalrecords storage1, there are at least three levels of size to consider:

  1. Large professional firms or corporate accounts with more than 2,000 cartons.

  2. Moderate accounts with fewer than 2,000 but more than 500 cartons.

  3. Small prospects with 500 or fewer cartons.

In non-traditional records management, you probably can group prospects into threeprimary classifications: large, small and "under the minimum charge." Once anaccount goes over a couple of thousand cartons, it becomes much more price sensitive, andyou may get into competitive battles with the giants. Smaller accounts under 2,000 boxesare more likely to be concerned with service and relationship.

A large account to a self-storage operator or non-traditional records-storagecompany could measure between 500 to 2,000 cartons. This should be your primary targetaccount. A small account of under 500 boxes can be very profitable since they havenot yet reached a size that requires more diligence on the prospect's part. These accountsgenerally have a higher profit rate than the large accounts and may require more services,since the customer is less likely to assign a full-time person in the role of recordsmanager. It is usually a job assigned to a support-services manager as an additional taskthat is more trouble than it is worth. They are usually happy to outsource it.

An account that is "under the minimum" may be your best and mostprofitable market. These are customers that have low storage volume. I typically recommenda storage minimum of between $25 and $50. This best number should be less than the rentalfee of your smallest storage unit. An example of this would be $30 per month, if acustomer has 50 1.2-cubic-foot boxes at a contract rate of 35 cents per cubic foot. Thisexample would equal $21 per month, but since it is below your minimum, it would be raisedto $30. Using this example, you would yield 70 cents per cube. These accounts are also themost likely to be attracted to non-traditional providers like you, since they are not theprimary targets of the major commercial-records centers, such as Iron Mountain,Pierce-Lehey and others.

In next month's column, we will address other important factors related to sellingrecords-management services in a self-storage environment.

1 In past columns we have discussed traditional vs. non-traditional records management.Traditional refers to the older model that uses warehouse space with high ceilings.Typical start-up cost could be hundreds of thousands of dollars with a break even point oftwo to five years.

Regularcolumnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and owner of File Managers Inc.,a records-management consulting firm that also provides outsourcing services, file-roommanagement and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more informationabout records management, contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc., P.O. Box 1178, AbitaSprings, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751; e-mail: [email protected]  or Web: www.fileman.com.

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