You’ve done everything you can to get your storage facility in peak condition. It’s impeccably clean, the security systems are in place and functional, and your marketing, online and otherwise, is up and running. You’re getting a lot of interested callers and visitors too. The problem is, they aren’t becoming customers. So, what’s happening? It could be price-related. But that only tells part of the story. The real story is that your store staff may not be closing the sales.
Let’s look at an example. A potential customer calls the store to inquire about renting a unit. The store manager starts out great by asking some good questions about what type of items they think they’ll be storing. Then they give the customer information about which units are available and the cost. This is where the communication breaks down. Frequently, the customer will utter the phrase no self-storage owner wants to hear. “I’m just checking around.” In the customer’s mind, they’ve already decided to move on and look somewhere else.
Guide the Conversation
Instead of letting the conversation get to this point, it’s important that store managers be trained on how to proactively move a customer in the direction they want them to go. For instance, after quoting a price to the customer, get some immediate feedback. “How does that sound?” Or even better, the manager should go after the sale by saying, “The next step would be to reserve that unit and make a deposit. How would you like to take care of that today, with your Visa or MasterCard?” “Should we get the paperwork going?” It’s all about feeling the customer out and listening for cues. If the manager senses some resistance to the above statement, they can come back with a comment such as “We’ve got 2 units of that size left in our inventory. Would you like me to put a 24-hour hold on one?” This gives the unit a higher perceived value in the customer’s mind, and makes them commit to it. If this tactic doesn’t work, then the store employee has to be free to negotiate with the customer in order to make the sale. This is difficult for some employees. They don’t feel comfortable playing with the numbers and offering the customer a discount. This all comes down to training and information. An employee needs to understand what the break-even point is and what the margins are. They should also have gone through role-play training where they are confronted with situations like this. When the time comes for negotiation, they will be ready to offer the customer something enticing in order to make the sale, such as half-off the first month’s rent, free lock, or free use of a moving truck.
Storage as an Add-On Sale
Another example- Customers that come in to buy packing supplies such as boxes and packing tape, are perfect targets for storage. They are most likely moving and with that comes decisions about what to take, get rid of, and store. The employee should engage the customer, asking them questions like, “Planning a big move?” and “Where are moving to?” Once the customer answers, there will be an opportunity to find out about whether they need storage. Employees can work in some levers such as, “we just had an opening for one of our 10 x 10 spaces that might work perfectly for you.” If they sense pushback, they can throw in a discount. “I’d be happy to cut $50 bucks off the first month if you were interested in leasing it.”
The Option Close
Another method of closing is called the “Option Close.” This is a technique that moves the customer into a place where all the choices lead to a sale. An example would be where a customer inquires about storage units and rates. After finding out what they want to store, instead of just giving out rates, start with statement such as, “So you could definitely get everything into a 10 x 15 unit, which is $249/month, but I bet you could get by with a 10 x 10, which is only $179.” This way, you’re leaving the customer with a clear choice and no easy out. The option close method is a great way of coming across as helpful instead of pushy.
Kenny Pratt of the blog “Selling Storage” writes that the reason that self-storage managers have a tough time closing sales is that they just don’t have enough practice. With the average store getting only a handful of calls per week, the opportunities to use effective closing techniques are few and far between. He suggests routing calls from other locations to a particular store for a week to allow that store manager to get into a rhythm of talking—and closing—customer inquiries.
Be careful not to assume it’s all about the price for a customer. If a customer comes into a store, you have more of a motivated customer on your hands than one just calling around. When they inquire about rates and availability for a particular size of unit, don’t be too quick to give them a discount. Instead, talk about the features and benefits of renting with you. “We just upgraded our security with a new 24-hour digital surveillance system.” Or, “We now have a fingerprint scanners at the access points, which makes it really convenient and secure to get in and out.”
Don’t Talk Yourself out of the Sale
Another important aspect to effective closing is the ability to be quiet. Once you’ve made a pitch, whether it includes a discount or not, be comfortable with the silence as the customer makes up their mind. If you jump in with an additional discount, you may be giving up more than you need to. Instead, wait for the customer to respond. Then take action based on the response.
Tron Jordheim of Store Here Self Storage, a third-party management platform, says that selling in the self-storage space is about developing a customer-centric sales system. He says that unlike other businesses, every person that contacts a self-storage facility is a looking for storage, whether it’s immediate or down the road. By focusing on the customer, developing a rapport and making a connection, you have opportunities to make recommendations and start the rental.
By teaching your store managers the skills of listening closely to the customer and having their best interest in mind, they’ll be able to close many more sales than they otherwise would.