Is it selling space or service?

Is self-storage about selling space or service? There are many opinions on both sides of the discussion. And there are those who would answer "yes" to this question, indicating that it's both.

As consumers span the continuum in their preferences, self-storage operators would be well-advised to answer "yes," and gear offerings based on a prospect's preferences-no more, no less.

That said, here are a few do's and don'ts in this arena:

1. Don't go past the sale. If a prospect wants to rent a 10' x 10' unit and seems confident that this will fill the need, don't feel compelled to offer a space analysis to confirm it. Even if this is a free service designed to get the tenant the best bang for their buck, make the decision to present the option based on the type of inquiry. When someone appears clear in their decision, complicating matters with all manner of value-added services can be counterproductive, and in some cases lead to the loss of a sale already well in hand.

2. Do ask questions if a prospect is clearly in exploration mode, and wants clarification. Based on their answers, present services that can help them decide. Again, though, offer based on the perceived need. If someone isn't sure about how much storage space is needed, a space analysis may clarify-and can lead to further opportunities for sales. One way to determine this is simply to ask: "Once we determine how much space you need, are there other issues you may want to address-such as special security needs, special climate control, et al?" if the prospect appears open to education and information, go for it. But, listen carefully to make sure not to over-sell or under-inform. If/when you're not sure, keep asking permission or questions to expand the discussion.

3. Don't unduly push particular products or services because somebody in the organization has decided this is the great new "low hanging fruit" of profits. More than ever before, consumers resist being sold on anything. Generally, they want to be accurately informed of their options and make their own decisions-without feeling the omnipresent threat of being hard-sold. Exception: When somebody requests that you provide the sales spiel to determine choices, obviously comply.

4. Do be knowledgeable about all products and services, so that you can provide the most accurate and complete advice. At the same time, if you can't confidently address a question, be honest about it and offer to confirm the correct answer. Most consumers will be satisfied with the words, "I don't know but I'll find out." They become much less tolerant when told, erroneously, that something they seek either is or is not available. Think about the last time you asked about a product in a big box store, and were either inaccurately informed of its location or told it wasn't in the store (and you subsequently located it). Instead of feeling your needs were adequately addressed (even if the answer wasn't what you wanted to hear), you wind up frustrated. Don't frustrate your consumers; give them the best information you can.

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