March 1, 2003

6 Min Read

"Do you want fries with that?" is the familiar refrain we hear every time we walk into a McDonald's. That simple line was responsible for increasing the company's sales by a whopping 15 percent, virtually overnight. If it's good enough for McDonald's, it should be good enough for you as a storage owner or manager.

The key acronym to remember is ABS (always be selling). Any contact you have with customers is a potential sales opportunity. The question is when and where to do it. I've identified seven key times (though there are many more) at which an upsell is absolutely necessary to increasing your profits.

At the Time of Rental

When someone comes in to rent a unit, he already has his hand in his wallet. This is the ideal time to ask him to buy something else. What should you offer? Anything that would compliment what he just bought. If he is renting a unit, surely he might need some boxes or a lock. Once he agrees to purchase some ancillary items, you'll want to ask him to "buy some more fries": a box package or a premium lock. If don't have boxes for sale, get them. If you only have one type of lock available, get another one or even two at higher price points.

When You Show the Unit

What better time to ask a customer to buy something than when he is on his way to see the nicely cleaned unit that will house his belongings? Psychologically, he has already committed to doing business with you. Now is the time to look for other areas where the products you offer might apply. Get him talking and you'll find a way to sell him something.

When the Customer Buys Something Else

When someone comes into your office to buy anything at all, you'll want to see what else you can sell him. The fact he has walked in with the intent of purchasing anything at all makes him a much more likely buyer of your upsell.

Always know what you'll make available when someone wants to buy a specific item. This way, it will sound very natural when you offer it. When someone comes in to buy boxes, for example, offer him a set of tapes and marker pens. If he comes in to buy a lock, offer him tenant insurance. Even if he comes into the office for a soda, offer him something, it doesn't matter what.

When the Customer Drops Off a Payment

At the beginning of the month when people are dropping off their rent checks is a great time to hit them up for an additional item. They are in the office to pay for something. Have them keep their wallets open a few minutes longer to give you more for something else.

When the Customer Thanks You for Something

Whenever a customer thanks you for something, it's a great time to ask him to buy. You know you're on his good side because he just paid you a compliment. Why not ask him to back those nice words up with some cash?

When You Run Into a Customer on the Property

When you are out on the property walking around is another time you want to offer people some kind of an upsell. Engage them in conversation. Ask them how things are and look for an opening to match a product you carry with a need they have. It's that simple.

When You Send Something in the Mail

Some of you may send out monthly statements. This is another great time to offer an upsell. No one said you had to be physically present to offer an upsell. When you send customers mail, it's possible they will respond. In general, the actual selling will have to be done in person, so don't try and sell in the letter. Use the letter or correspondence to get them to come in to take advantage of whatever great offer you send them.

Things to Remember

The biggest reason most managers don't upsell is their fear of rejection. Human nature dictates none of us want someone to tell us no. This being the case, the owners out there will have to do some coaching. You'll have to show the manager how to upsell and make him understand the key is to ask for the sale every time. In many, if not most, cases, the customer won't bite. But we don't care--we're looking for the ones who do. The greater number of people who say no, the closer you are to getting someone to say yes.

Let's assume you ask for the upsell 10 times and only two people take you up on it. Should you feel bad? Absolutely not. That's two sales you wouldn't have had without making the offer. If you make the offer 1,000 times during the course of the year, it may mean 200 sales. This will translate into real money.

Also remember, in many cases, you'll actually be doing people a favor. Many of the items you make available for sale at your facilities are more reasonably priced than the same items in different outlets in your area.

You Must Have Something to Sell

All of the above discussion assumes you have something to sell. If you don't, my only question is, why not? I've heard people say they're "not in the box business" or something to that effect. That's ridiculous. We're all in the making-money business. Just imagine McDonald's saying it isn't in the french-fry business. The key is to offer items related (even tangentially) to the storage process.

Biggest Reasons People Don't Buy

The single biggest reason someone won't buy something at your facility is he thinks he'll be overcharged. There is one sure way to overcome this obstacle: Put a big sign on the wall facing the door to the office. The sign should read: "Our prices on all packing and shipping supplies are cheaper than anyone in town, including Wal-Mart." (I use Wal-Mart here for the sake of example. If people normally associate another store in your area with great prices on products, insert that name.)

Now all you have to do is undercut your competition by a penny on any item and you're being truthful. Many people don't buy things from you at your storage location because they perceive them as being overpriced. Hanging a sign as I suggest will completely overcome that objection.


The key to making the upselling system work is your offer must make sense and be presented in a helpful, conversational tone. Memorizing a script may be fine, but don't let it sound too rehearsed. People won't go for it. In fact, they'll be turned off and less likely to buy.

A manager must also buy into the concept. Simply telling managers they have to start upselling won't be enough. You'll need to get them to see how valuable it is. I recommend giving them a small piece of every product sale made so there will be some incentive to do it. Upselling is a concept not fully utilized by most storage owners. Don't be one of them. After all, it's easy money!

Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant who helps owners/operators during all phases of the business, from feasibility studies to creating an ongoing marketing plan. Mr. Gleeck is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing Success--Revealed! as well as the producer of professional training videos on self-storage marketing. To receive a copy of his Seven-Day Self-Storage Marketing Course and storage marketing tips, send an e-mail to [email protected]. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; e-mail [email protected].

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