One of the biggest challenges for Carlos Sousa, Head of Sales at Access Self Storage, is that his company’s core service – self storage – is essentially the sale of fresh air. Here he explains how his team have got around this issue and the importance of thorough customer research and content development in any sales strategy.
The beauty of working in sales for the self storage industry is that our units can be used to store almost anything. Our customer base is extremely diverse, and includes movers, students, small business owners, or people just looking to clear out some more space at home. Having lots of places from which to attract new business does work to our advantage. On the flipside, it can be extremely challenging to develop a sales strategy that targets every buyer demographic when your product is essentially fresh air. What makes one storage space better than another? What factors other than price do our customers look for when deciding to make a purchase? How can we influence the decision making process and stand out from the competition?
Our industry is perhaps an extreme example of an issue faced by many salespeople: finding and developing sufficient suitable content about your product or service to use in sales and marketing. Simply having a good offering isn’t enough: if your sales teams can’t communicate the benefits effectively to customers then it’s unlikely they’re going to close the deal. The best sales teams find creative ways to convert their potential leads into customers and ensure price isn’t the only factor in the decision making process. Creating this content requires a significant commitment to research and development – but if a fresh air salesman like me can boost my sales performance with the following strategies, it stands to reason that you can too!
Thoroughly research your customers
The more you know about your current and potential customers – their needs, their values and (perhaps most importantly) what annoys or frustrates them – the more opportunities you’ll have to help them.
Understanding the different types of people your business services is one of the most important parts of a solid sales strategy. If you don’t know who your customers are, how on earth are you going to be able to sell to them effectively?
The key with this research is to gain as deep an understanding of your potential market as possible. Conduct interviews with your customers, or offer an incentive if they fill out a feedback form or survey for you. Used properly, the data they provide will be worth far more than the financial outlay needed to get them to participate.
But don’t just investigate the customers you already have – look to your competitors and try to understand what business they are winning that you’re not. Also review your missed opportunities: if a sale didn’t close, find out why. If there’s a common theme, such as your staff taking too long to respond to enquires or an overly pushy approach, it should be addressed in your new strategy.
Target their varying needs
Simply telling customers about your product or service isn’t enough to generate a sale. The best salespeople are able to put their offering into context for their customers; they make the sales pitch feel personal and help them realise it’s an offer they can’t refuse.
Take your customer research and use it to develop customer personas, segmenting different types of people based on attributes such as age, job, income, lifestyle, and location – amongst others. With this information, you can gain insights into which specific needs your offering addresses. This also gives your sales teams a head start; they’ll have a reference sheet for them to understand the customer in front of them and develop their pitches accordingly.
Sell a lifestyle, not your product or service
This is the part were content comes in. Focus your messaging on what the customer can gain and how you meet their needs. In the context of my role, once we had our customer personas made, we understood that not all storage units are used the same way:
- Our home mover customers typically have lots of large items to move and store at once – so on-site pallet trucks or our pick-up and drop off services will take the hassle out of their moving day.
- Our collector customers use their units like a garden shed, a place to get away from it all – 24 hour access to their unit and a delivery receipt service is valued by them as they expand their collection.
- Our small business customers often use units for their stock – multi-site storage and on-site forklifts help them manage this, and other business services such as office rental, phone answering and mailboxes are available as required.
The point here is that one service does not fit all, and simply telling customers about the different things we offer is nowhere near as effective as providing evidence of their benefits. A customer case study is far more valuable than a detailed breakdown of your offering, and a testimonial far more persuasive than just saying you’re good at what you do.
The content you create could come in many forms: a series of blog posts, a handy guide, an informational eBook, or a back-catalogue of happy customer case studies. Whatever it is, the most important thing to remember is that each piece must target at least one of your customer personas with the aim of building a degree of trust between them and your business. Once created, this content can be distributed to existing and potential customers via email, on social media, or made available in store. Sales teams can also refer to this content as part of their pitch: “Why not find out more about the small businesses like yours that have benefited from our service by checking out the case studies section of our website?”
Researching and developing this content takes time and effort, and it’s probably something you’ll have to work on with your marketing team (if you have one), but you’ll get back what you put in – and then some. Your sales team will be able to turn their pitches into stories and find they are better able to show potential customers what they stand to gain. All of this ultimately will lead to more deals closed and, thanks to the far deeper understanding of your customers that you now have, the opportunity to successfully improve the service you offer.
By Carlos Sousa, Head of Sales at Access Self Storage, Along with commercial storage, they also provide many other services for our business customers, such as office space, document management, vehicle parking and mailboxes.