Paul Schween, Author/Speaker/Trainer/Sales Professional
With the start of the new year, many self-storage owners and operators are implementing new or enhanced technologies at their facilities to streamline operations through automation and increase customer conveniences. They have budgets in place to offer customers the ability to make online unit reservations and payments. They may even install self-storage kiosks to cater to the do-it-yourself tenants who prefer to utilize self-service options.
While there are countless ways technology can
improve your self-storage facility, Paul Schween, a sales professional, author,
trainer, and speaker based in Gilbert, Ariz., urges the industry not to lose
sight of the fact that self-storage is—and should remain—a people business.
“Self-storage is slowly becoming a commodity,”
says Schween, “so, whether you’re a high-tech facility or a mom-and-pop shop,
you need good people on board who can sell.”
There is a consensus that self-storage
managers can “make or break” a facility, and Schween doesn’t see that changing
anytime soon. As a matter of fact, with increased competition, and more
self-storage developments on the horizon, the need for trained professional
managers will become more necessary than ever to compete.
Although some self-storage customers prefer
to utilize technology to find storage sites, make reservations, and submit
payments, there are still plenty of patrons who choose to interact with
managers and staff. For instance, baby boomers and older generations are less
likely to use a mobile app to reserve a unit or operate a self-service kiosk to
pay their rent than younger millennial tenants. Nevertheless, most all
customers still want to communicate with a human when
they need guidance.
According to the 2018 Self-Storage Almanac, 51 percent of the customers surveyed
for the SSA 2017 Self Storage Demand
Study first contacted a self-
storage facility by making an in-person visit. What’s more, 34 percent made
first contact by telephone. Therefore, when 85 percent of customers first
connect with facility staff in person or over the phone before renting units,
the need for quality sales training becomes obvious.
“This, coupled with the fact that technology
will only decrease face-to-face sales time, thus shrinking sales cycles,
further complicates matters,” Schween says, adding that a reliance on
technology can result in apathetic managers and an atrophy of critical skill
sets. As an example, they may be so engrossed in their smartphones or other
technology that they allow incoming phone calls to slip to voicemail.
“Technology simply can’t sell for you,” says
Schween. “It can augment your sales and enhance service, but it should never
replace people or do the job for a manager.”
Invest In The Art Of People Persuasion
If your goal for 2018 is to boost your facility’s
bottom line by selling more retail products, capturing more rentals, and
reducing concessions, then it’s time to start investing in your people and
providing them with the tools they need to achieve those objectives.
“There’s a greater need for sales training in
the self-storage industry,” Schween says, “and the ability to fully engage
prospects is necessary to maintain price integrity and push economic capacity.”
Relying on “old school” best practices or past experience will no longer get
the job done.
According to Schween, the main objectives of
sales training should be consistently making great first impressions and
learning to use quality questioning procedures to fully engage prospects to
increase sales and genuinely serve customers. This can be achieved by
developing a consumer-centric approach to sales and service. “Leading and/or
open-ended questions offer another profitable means of generating sales and a
means to stay focused with a consumer-centric approach to business,” he says.
Indeed, the golden rule of customer service
is “the customer is always right,” but, when it comes to self-storage, a
product with which prospective tenants may not be entirely comfortable,
managers must be able to accurately decipher their needs and suggest the
products and services that will match their situation and the belongings they
plan to store. Therefore, self-storage managers should be trained on probing
techniques and how to handle reluctantency.
“The three skills that generate the most
value in sales and quality service are starting with an excellent USP (Unique
Selling Proposition), asking strategic questions and effectively managing
objections,” he says. Schween’s article, “Serve More To Sell More,” which was
featured in the First Quarter 2017 issue of Self-Storage Now!, highlights how asking the right questions
requires a strategy and provides a list of appropriate questions to ask
One of the most important questions that
self-storage managers should be asking is: What are you going to be storing?
Obviously, the answers to this question vary, but they will always offer
numerous sales opportunities—from recommending climate-control features to
selling retail items to renting shelving.
Proper training will help self-storage managers think on their feet and
apply what they learn to real-world scenarios while enhancing service
“Teaching self-storage managers people
persuasion skills will have enormous benefits,” say Schween, who adds that
there are advantages beyond increased revenue. “There are psychological
benefits of training.”
For starters, quality training is known to
boost confidence and enhance morale. As Schween notes, “Self-storage managers
can gain self-assurance from training and, in turn, close more sales while
improving customer service.” Managers who improve their sales numbers tend to
be more motivated in other aspects of their job, especially when incentives are
Schween also mentions that quality sales
training is a practical way to fine-tune the image of your business. “Training
can complement your efforts to establish a brand and create a culture,” he
says, “but it needs to be a regular part of the routine if you want to see
lasting change. For long-term results, it needs to be massaged into the
day-to-day activities. Repetition is key. One event isn’t sufficient. Managers
need to hear it, write it, script it, role play, and rehearse it. This may
sound weighty, but it doesn’t take a huge concerted effort to integrate good
techniques–they either work or they don’t for the individual or the facility!
Take what works and incorporate it into a regimented routine.”
Nowadays, there are numerous training
products available. Many of which are made specifically for the self-storage
industry. This magazine and MiniCo Publishing’s other publications are a few of
those educational resources. MiniCo also offers webinars, blogs, workshops,
apps, free articles, and various videos. Furthermore, MiniCo has plans to
produce and disseminate new on-demand training videos this coming year.
“You need to look at various training
techniques to see what works best,” says Schween, who will be assisting with
the videos. “When people see, hear, and participate, they get a feel for how
things are done, and the likelihood of assimilation is enhanced.”
The Self Storage Association (SSA) and some state self-storage associations provide diverse forms of training courses, seminars/webinars, published material, and videos. While many contributions are made, and much can be learned from these best practices, it’s rare to find tools that allow owner operators and managers to literally build their own sales and service platform. Schween describes his book “Serve More to Sell More”, which is scheduled to be released this April, as a means to fill this void.
In addition, some of the industry’s software
vendors have training courses, blogs, webinars, help desks, and online
libraries specifically designed to augment their systematic approach. These
tools offer great advice on how to best apply sales and service strategies with
Schween notes that selling is a highly
personalized skill that is most effective when it matches one’s personality.
“For best results, one must take ownership of their own approach to maximize
their effectiveness,” he says. “This is how average producers rise to become
top producers and how a new level of professionalism is achieved. You hardly
see any larger operations without a fully-developed approach to sales and
service combined with their selected technology.”
Make It Count!
While some training does come at a cost, any
positive investment made into your people and the future of your self-storage
business is always money well spent. It is a win for managers, a win for
customers, and a win for the company. It sets precedence and creates a culture.
Training also demonstrates a caring attitude towards all involved. Some owner
operators might contend that training doesn’t have a lasting impact and people
are going to leave, but Schween points out that the only thing worse is not
training them and they stay.
“Training is necessary to empower your
employees,” Schween says. “Give them the skill sets they need to succeed!”
is the editor of Mini-Storage
Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and