What It Takes to Be a Great Self-Storage Manager

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The key to a successful self-storage operation is a “great” manager; but what does that mean, exactly? Here’s what it takes to be a truly effective facility manager who builds customer trust and closes each sale.

Behind every successful self-storage property is a great manager. In fact, the right employee in that role is the key to a thriving facility. But what makes a manager truly effective? Though the job involves many tasks and skills, at its heart, it’s quite simple: Provide the best customer service possible and close each sale. To do that, you must earn customer trust.

In general, facility managers need to be engaging, energetic, knowledgeable and committed. But even if you are all those things, you might still falter if you can’t build good relationships with your prospects and tenants. Your success in attracting and retaining business depends on your ability to do the following.

Listen. The first thing a great manager does to build relationships with customers is listen. You must really hear each person to understand his true needs and solve problems. For example, if a prospect says he wants to rent a 5-by-5 unit, but then rattles off a huge list of furniture he needs to store, pay attention and lead him to the right solution. You might hear “5-by-5,” but when you listen, you understand he needs something larger. Your job is to guide the tenant to the best decision and close the sale.

Smile! A great manager has an equally great smile. It’s important to always speak with a smile, even when you’re on the phone, and even on those challenging days. Smiling gives you a more pleasant tone and builds trust with the customer. It really can make or break the sale.

Follow up. A great self-storage manager captures lead information and acts on it quickly. You need to jump into sales mode! People only reach out to a storage facility when they need it, so don’t delay. Follow up and turn those prospects into tenants.

Know your store. A great manager must be knowledgeable about his facility and the local market. You need to know your site’s features and the advantages of each. You also need to know what the competition offers, and what they charge. This’ll help give you confidence that you can fulfill customers’ needs.

Promote your offerings. A great self-storage manager has a strong understanding of how to market his facility’s products and services. Spend time in your community building brand recognition and establishing partnerships. And don’t just focus on the obvious (unit rentals)! Your retail sales and other ancillary products and services are also important. You can simultaneously upsell and generate more revenue while meeting customers’ needs. Who doesn’t require a lock or packing supplies when renting a unit? Offer advice on products that’ll help tenants keep their belongings safe.

Communicate. A great manager continues to communicate with tenants throughout the duration of their stay. Once a prospect rents with you, your relationship continues. It’s important he doesn’t only hear from you in a negative context, such as when rent is past-due. Positive communication can be great relationship booster. Here are some things that’ll help:

  • A week after a new tenant rents, send a handwritten card to thank him for his business.
  • Check in with the tenant after several weeks to ask if his move-in went well and the property meets or exceeds his expectations.
  • Send a thank-you card or other upbeat message on the tenant’s annual rental anniversary.

Solicit and accept feedback. A great self-storage manager needs to be open to feedback from customers and willing to make positive changes. Your tenants will notice and appreciate the effort and be more likely to refer friends and family. Of course, you need to find a balance between customers’ needs and those of the business. This can be challenging, but if you adhere to company policies and procedures, you’ll makes the right decisions to benefit both parties.

Continue to learn. As the facility manager, you’re the person responsible for driving the business. A great manager understands his strengths and weaknesses and continues to learn what he needs to improve the operation. Of course, your owner has to be willing to invest in you and provide the tools you need to be effective; but ongoing training—developmental and professional—is integral to keeping your skills sharp.

Set goals. Every business has room to improve. A great self-storage manager identifies opportunities to better facility performance and sets goals to get there. Create objectives that are time-sensitive, measurable and realistic. This’ll allow you to create positive change and meet standards that drive the business forward. You might focus on lead-closing percentages, occupancy numbers, delinquencies, merchandise sales, etc.

Just remember: You can’t make everything a priority because then nothing is truly a priority. Rather, focus on three or four areas of improvement at a time. Once a timeline is decided, create incremental steps, evaluate progress and celebrate milestones.

To be a great self-storage manager, you need broad skillset with an emphasis on sales and customer service. If the master the above abilities, you’ll build trust with prospects and tenants, and the property will prosper.

Gina Hackett is a regional director for Storage Asset Management (SAM), a York, Pa.-based property-management and consulting firm that operates more than 220 self-storage facilities under 60-plus brand names. Responsible for supporting the operations team, Gina has more than 10 years of experience in multi-unit management. She joined SAM in 2017 as a district manager and currently oversees eight district managers and 86 stores. For more information, call 717.779.0044.

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