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An old idea made new again

Hello everyone! As many of you know, I have been in and around the self storage industry for some time now - 26 years, to be exact - and I have seen many ideas come and go. I was speaking with a customer the other day and during the course of that conversation I had an idea. Well; I "remembered" an idea that used to work for me back when I sold self storage.

Why is this important? Well, the idea itself worked really well for me and the company I worked for - but it was very manual - as you'll see shortly. So my thought was to take this old idea but apply modern technology to it. And you know what? It just might work!

 

I used to work for a company where we were encouraged to do in-home quoting and in-home sign-ups. The process worked a little like this: The customer would give us a call or drop into the facility. We would suggest that someone visits them to make sure "they only paid for what they needed" and save them the trip down to our facility.

This meant that we could have uninterrupted one-on-one time with the customer as well as make sure that they didn't pass any other competitors on the way to us and it sounded like we were looking after the customer by taking the hassle out of storage (which to be honest we were), but with a motive.

We were encouraged to visit the customer with our truck and before we went we would take the following:

  • A truck full of boxes and merchandise (in essence a mobile shop)
  • A quoting pad
  • An agreement pad
  • A 'you beaut', state of the art mobile phone (i.e. something like a Nokia 3110)

 

When we got to the customers place of residence, we would introduce ourselves and proceed to walk around the house quoting the items and generally building a relationship with the customer. You would be very surprised how receptive someone can be to a 'sales relationship' while in their house. At the end of the quoting process we would sit down with the customer and go through a process where we suggested a size of storage that they needed and asked if they agreed.

If so, we would then attempt (we weren't always successful but had a closure rate of around 75 - 80% if memory serves me correctly) to suggest that they either sign up "on the spot" (to take the hassle out of it) and / or could we sell them any boxes which we just happen to have in the back of the truck. It was very convenient, as the customer could come out and look and hold the boxes etc, and if we were successful they would buy some merchandise and signup and we would use our fantastically modern phone to call the credit card back to the office where another staff member would put through the credit card numbers in the machine and see if the money was good to go. Great idea!

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Our conversion rates were excellent, but boy did the process take some time to complete, and - as you can well imagine - even though it was very successful, it really took a chunk out of your day. The idea itself is fantastic and really delivers you, the self storage consultant, into a position where you can sign-up new customers... but the downside is the time taken. So could we take this idea and modernise it? I think so... here's how.

We would, of course, still need the truck and the physical merchandise; we just can't get around that. However, the benefits start as soon as we start quoting. We could use the SSAA's handy storage space calculator on our iPad (or similar device) which would allow us to calculate the space required. Then we could then sit the customer in front of the iPad and let them book a space through our StorConnect product. As part of this process, the storage contract is automatically generated & stored in StorMan back in the office. The customer signs the contract using the signature recognition module in StorConnect (they can use their finger or stylus to sign) and, finally, the credit card payment can be processed online in real-time using the integrated Ezidebit payment module... job done!

 

I wondered how many people would use the modernised version of this 'old' idea in a real life situation, so I started asking around and found that every business I rang (about 20) expected to have their customers find them either on the web or by visiting the facility. When I asked what the conversion rate was (and then averaged it over the 20 or so customers I called I came up), I came up with a fairly low closure rate of just under 37%... yet I was getting almost 80% using a method that could be streamlined thanks to today's technological advancements.

To this end, I challenge those who read this to try it for themselves and see how you go in conducting your own in-home visits and see what increase in your closure rate you experience. I would love to hear some stories (good, bad or otherwise) - so please leave your comments below! Good luck.

Regards,
- Ben (International Sales Manager, StorMan Software)