Video Mystery Shopping Tip: The Power of Product Knowledge

Last week I was watching several Video Mystery Shops and I was stunned by the lack of product knowledge that some leasing consultants exhibit. The fact is, in order to be really successful in sales; you have to be passionate about what you are selling. In order to be passionate about what you are selling; you must be confident in your sales presentation. In order to be confident in your sales presentation; you must have extensive product knowledge.It all begins with you! You must become the product expert!

When you become the product expert, you create a high comfort level with your prospects. They TRUST you because you have the answers. For most people, deciding to lease an apartment is a very big deal. For whatever reason they are making a lifestyle change and  are looking for an expert to guide and lead them through the process, and that my friend, is YOU!

A few years ago, I was in the market for a new computer. Now, I consider myself somewhat techie, but I don’t have a clue about the inner-workings of the latest and greatest products that are out there. I needed some ‘expert advice’. SO, off I went to Best Buy to get my information so I could make a smart buying decision. Salesperson Sam greeted me, and after I explained what I was looking for, he led me to the computer section of the store and *showed* them to me. I started asking him questions about the capabilities of the different machines, and which one would work best for me and my business. He got a blank look on his face, as if I had just asked him to recite the Greek alphabet….backwards. It became PAINFULLY clear he did NOT have a clue about his product!

Thankfully, Salesperson Sarah came to his rescue! Sarah explained to me the advantages, benefits and capabilities of each machine; she discussed the operating systems, memory capabilities, and everything else under the sun that pertained to each computer. By the end of the presentation, I was ready to *drink the kool-aid*! Sarah was my HERO! I confidently purchased my computer from her and never had a moment’s regret!

So, how do YOU get the product knowledge that you need to be an expert in the apartment leasing industry? Here are a few easy tips!

  1. Spend time in and around your community! Learn and understand everything you can about your apartment community.  Your clients are counting on YOU to be their resource during the entire building process!
  2. Scripts /role play. Create a notebook that includes all the features and benefits of your apartment homes. Write down information about each feature and why it is unique and important to your prospects. Practice with your peers, your apartment manager, or even with your dog! Just be sure to practice.
  3. Know your competition! One way to help you learn more about your product and your community is to know about your competition’s product and community. This will allow you to point out differences and unique selling points that make your apartment community the superior choice!

There is no excuse for NOT knowing everything about your product. Your prospects and clients will quickly be able to tell if you don’t know what you are talking about. Trust me! Last time I was at Best Buy, I noticed poor Salesperson Sam was no longer working there…….rumor has it he took at job at MacDonald’s…..I guess he figured out it would be easier to gain product knowledge about Big Macs instead of Mac Computers!

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Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Set Realistic Goals – or – why you can’t lose 10 lbs. overnight!

My high school senior picture!

Next month I am heading to Long Island, New York for my high school reunion! There is something special about going to a high school reunion. It’s as if you are stepping back in time!  It’s always fun to see old friends and reconnect.  So, in preparation for my big trip I have decided I wanted to lose a little weight. I have given myself one month to lose 10 lbs. I should easily be able to attain my goal of dropping 10 lbs in a month, right?  

In order to achieve my goal, I have created action steps, like: exercise daily, eat nothing but salads and drank enough water daily to launch the Mayflower, the Pinta Nina and the Santa Maria!  At the end of each week, I will weigh myself to measure my success. If all goes according to plan, I should be able to fit back into the same jeans I wore in high school, who cares if bell bottoms aren’t in style anymore??   I have set my goal and I am going for it!

In the apartment leasing industry, we are constantly setting goals for ourselves. How many apartments are you going to lease this month? How many prospects are you going to call? How are you going to follow up with those prospects? Our professional lives revolve a lot around our professional goals. But, these goals must be realistic! If your professional goal is to lease 10 aparments per month, yet your traffic is only 2 people a week, you may want to rethink your goal!

So, how do you go about setting your professional goals? Are they realistic? Or, are they too high or too low? When setting personal and professional goals, I like using the SMART goal system.

Specific – Get crystal clear and focused on your goals. General: ‘I want to lease a lot of apartments this year’

Better: ‘I have leased two apartments per week or 104 apartments a year’. (I also state my goals in the past tense as if I have already achieved it!)

Measurable – Establish a system for tracking your progress with each goal.

Attainable – Once you identify your goals, and write them down, it is easier to devise a plan to attain them. Do you have all the tools and resources you need? If your goal is to become a stronger closer, yet this is an area where you are not strong, you may want to consider sales training, working with a sales coach, or reading books on how to improve your technique.

Realistic – Are you really going to be able to accomplish your goal? My goal of dropping 10 lbs in one month is realistic. However, if I had made my goal 10 lbs. in one week, it would not have been!

Timely – What is your time frame for achieving your goal? In setting goals, you must have a beginning and an end. It isn’t enough to say ‘I want to lease 10 apartments. Instead your goal should be: ‘I have leased 10 apartments by September 1st

So, make sure when setting YOUR professional goals you are being SMART. Have an action plan in place to achieve your goals, and stay focused on the end result! As for me, my goal for the month is to keep working the plan! And, I have my bell bottoms hanging in my closet just waiting for me to do it!

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Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Sharpen YOUR Saw

How many professional industry related events have you attended this year?

Many times I am told by apartment leasing consultants and leasing managers that they would love to attend these types of industry events, but they don’t have the time, or the budget, to do so.  I say you can’t afford NOT to attend.

In Stephen Covey’s highly acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, his seventh habit is: Sharpen the Saw. This means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. I love his analogy of the saw. What happens if we don’t sharpen our saws? Well, probably the same thing that happens to the knives in my kitchen drawer when I don’t sharpen them! They get dull and can barely cut through a stick of butter!

Now, there are certainly many ways for you to ‘sharpen your saws’ in all areas of your life: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. But, one of the best ways to do so in your professional life is to get involved and attend events that support and enhance our industry!

By getting involved and attending these types of events you are able to grow and improve your greatest asset – YOU! Whether you have been in apartment leasing for 20 years or 20 minutes, you will benefit by attending events, conferences, expos and other training programs specific to the new home building industry.

Three ways to ‘sharpen YOUR saw’ at industry events:

  1. Networking – Use these industry events as opportunities  to expand your sphere of influence. Connecting with others is probably the single most important reason for attending industry events of any kind.
  2. Training – Register to attend some of the educational classes being offered. Industry experts are being brought in to share their knowledge with YOU. Our industry has changed dramatically over the past five years. You have got to keep up with the latest and greatest techniques and practices that are available to you.
  3. Resources – Take the time to walk through the exhibit hall. I feel like a kid in a candy shop at industry trade shows. There are so many new gizmos and gadgets on the market for new home sales people!

So, if you are wondering when the next big event for your industry is going to be, visit the following websites for information, or for information. You won’t want to miss Lease-A-Palooza in September! You just never know who you will run in to, what you will learn, and what an impact it can make on your career. Keep those saws sharp!

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Video Mystery Shipping Tip: Need a Secret Sales Weapon? Sell YOUR Property Management Company!

What makes one apartment community better than another apartment community? I mean, really, aren’t they all about the same? They use the same types of building materials, they typically offer the same types of floor plans, and the same types of amenities, and have similar monthly rent ranges at a similar square footage, right? So, what is the big deal about telling your prospective renters your property management company’s story?  

Well, for starters, your property management story is your secret sales weapon! Think about it, your apartment community (including your property management company) is your brand! OF COURSE you want to tell your prospects all about the property management company! Face it, not all apartment communities are created equally! Let me give you an example, when you need to go to the grocery store, how do you select which store you will shop in? After all, most grocery stores offer the same selection of canned food, produce, meats and other products, right? WRONG? My guess is that you will go to a specific grocery store because of its ‘brand’. You trust the brand! You like the brand! You are loyal to the brand! There is a reason that Publix is the dominating grocery store in Florida and there is a reason Winn Dixie is closing stores quicker than you can say ‘The Beef People’. It’s all about the brand and what that brand represents to people.

By selling your property management company you not only gain credibility and trust with your prospective renters, you are able to affiliate yourself with a brand that is much bigger than you are alone! So, why do some apartment leasing consultants have a difficult time selling their property management company? My guess is they don’t really know how to do it properly without sounding like they are reciting speech they memorized for a ninth grade graduation. Your property management company’s story needs to come naturally and not in the form of a Shakespearean soliloquy! Here are a couple of tips to get you started!

Three Tips to Selling your Property Management Company:

  1. Always ask your prospects ‘what is important to you’ in an apartment community and its property management company? This takes the pressure off of you and allows you to get some very valuable information from your prospect! Once they answer the question, you can craft your property management company’s story to address those specific items. If, for example, having a well landscaped apartment community is a hot button, adapt your presentation to include information about why YOUR property management company prides itself in providing the most pristine and well-kept landscaping in town!
  2. Use the pronoun ‘WE’ when talking about your property management company. It isn’t an ‘us vs. them’ scenario. I can’t tell you how many times in video shops I hear the apartment leasing consultants saying: ‘Well, I can always ask them if that change can be made’. Remember, you on the same team as your property management company. Use this to your advantage.
  3. Do your homework – KNOW your apartment community and property management company’s Story! Know who the key players are (by name), know when they opened for business, how many apartment homes they lease each year, how many communities they have, and what sets them apart from the rest! What is your property management company’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? If you need help, talk to your leasing manager.
  4. Practice – do some role-playing with other leasing consultants. The more comfortable you are in your delivery, the better you become in your sales presentation!

We all know that in sales, in order to really be successful, you’ve got to believe in the product or service you are selling. In apartment leasing, that product is your property management company! Make it your secret sales weapon!

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Video Mystery Shopping Tip: It’s OK to ask for the close! Really!

One thing I have noticed in watching countless video shops is that most sales people don’t like to ask for the close. Why is that? It is no secret that as apartment leasing consultants, our objective is to rent our prospects an apartment, right?  But, for some reason this seems to be the most difficult part of the entire process. Just this morning I watched a shop, and the sales person scored far above average in every area of her shop but scored a ZERO on her closing techniques!

I’ve had client’s tell me that they are ‘uncomfortable asking for the close’ or that they don’t want to ‘act like a used car salesperson’ or ‘be too pushy’, I understand all of that, but the bottom line is: if we don’t ask for the close, we don’t get the sale.’

So, I would challenge you to think about this a little differently. You see, you aren’t really ‘asking’ for the close, you are actually creating a closing foundation during your entire sales presentation. So when it does become time to ‘ask for the close’, it is a natural progression of your sales presentation!

 I’ve come up a few tips to help you create this ‘closing’ foundation that promise you will make it MUCH easier and more comfortable to close the deal!

  1. Practice with your trial closes – If you use enough trial closes during your presentation; it will make asking for the final close a piece of cake! Start getting comfortable asking for a trial close on the apartment community, the amenities and the actual apartment. This way, you are getting your prospect’s buy in along the way! So, when you get to the close, you are actually just reaffirming to them what they’ve already told you. 
  2. Use objections to your advantage – Most of the time when a leasing consultant is met with an objection from a prospective renter, their first reaction is to immediately solve or explain away the objection. I encourage you to not be so quick in responding to objections, but instead take this time to probe. Start by acknowledging the objection and then ask them to explain WHY this is an objection. Once you have that information, you can provide your solution or your explanation to overcome the objection. And, finally (and this is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART), confirm with your prospective renter that they are completely satisfied with your response and that the issue is no longer an objection.
  3. Remain in control of the process – Your prospects are relying on you to be the apartment leasing consultant, the expert in your field. You are the one with the knowledge! You’ve given them information about your apartment community, your floorplans, your prices, and your upgrades! You’ve answered all their questions and you’ve given them your valuable time. So, why is it that at the most important and critical part of the process, you hand over your power to them and make them in charge?  You are the one in the driver’s seat and you owe it to them to let them know what the next step is in the process of leasing their new apartment home!

Remember, if you don’t ask – the answer is always NO!

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Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Train your team to Listen more and Talk less

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey

I stumbled upon this quote the other day, and I really liked it! OK, I may not know who Robert McCloskey is, but I certainly like what he says! This quote SPEAKS volumes in the apartment leasing industry. It could make the difference between showing a prospect an apartment AND leasing a prospect an apartment. 

After many years of watching video shops, I have discovered something about leasing consultants and sales people –we like to talk. Shocking, right? Well, because we do like to talk, this sometimes can make it more difficult for us to do the opposite of talking….which is listening.

When prospective renters come into our leasing office, the first thing we naturally want to do is ‘tell’ them everything we know about our apartment communities! We want to tell them how spacious our floorplans are, how fabulous the amenities are, etc. There is SO much information going on in our brain that oftentimes we do what I like to refer to as the ‘Information Dump’. We want to tell them EVERYTHING we can, whether it is important to them or not!

Now, we may occasionally ask the prospect a question or two, but instead of REALLY listening to their responses, our minds are already racing at the speed of light wondering if we remembered to tell them the fireplace was an included feature and that if they signed a lease today they would receive a $100 discount on the first month’s rent. We do this because, in many cases, this is what we have been trained to do. 

However, I challenge you to look at this process from a different perspective. What if instead of ‘information dumping’ we took the time to simply ask our prospects questions and really listen to their responses. I tell my clients all the time that when you do this, it actually makes your job easier! You see if given the chance, your prospects will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about their renting motivation! I promise you!

And, there is an added bonus! Once they give you this important information, you will be able to personalize and tailor your presentation so that you are not ‘information dumping’ but instead providing them with valuable information that is important to THEIR needs! It’s all about zeroing in on and focusing on what the PROSPECT wants.

Remember it’s your job to connect with your prospects to find out what their emotional triggers are. And, the best way to do that is to LISTEN.

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Video Mystery Shopping Tip: Top 10 List for Creative Follow Up

 Since few prospects actually rent an apartment on the first visit, we should all become experts in getting them to return. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Be committed to instant follow up.
Follow up with everyone who visited that day. Don’t let the follow up pile up! All your conversations will be fresh in your mind and the prospects will be impressed that you are so organized. The purpose of the call and/or note is to thank them for stopping in.

2. Be Creative
The definition of creative is to look at what every other apartment community is doing with follow up and do something unique and different to stand out from the crowd. One Florida client who leased beachside apartments sent little bags of sand with a business card attached to all snowbirds who visited during the winter.

3. Send something, then call.
It’s great to send notes, postcards and customized letters. But, unless you follow up with a phone call, you don’t have the opportunity to invite your prospects back. Always have a reason to call. Perhaps they asked for some information you didn’t have handy. You can find out the answer, send it to them and call that they did receive it

4. PS on all form letters.
A form letter is better than no letter. Be certain it always contains a PS on the bottom to warm it up.

5. When calling, stand up!
A great tip to instantly increase energy and enthusiasm is to always stand when you are making sales calls. You will immediately become more animated and your voice will reflect your body language. The worst is to slump in the chair and slurp the coffee!

6. Use a contact management system
The most effective way to manage your follow up is on the computer, whether it’s ACT, Goldmine or whatever you choose. This will allow you to have all your notes in one place and a regular reminder system to keep calling.

7.  Keep them informed                                                                                                           Find out something interesting or unique about your prospects and include that in your follow up. Perhaps they expressed an interest in a particular hobby (golf, tennis, swimming) or had a pet. If your apartment community (or surrounding area) has something new to offer in that area, this is a great opportunity to let them know about it!

 8. Customize and personalize.
In today’s world of high tech, it is so refreshing to get something one of a kind. All notes need to be hand addressed. You can delegate this to a group that has handwriting down to a science…Grandmas!! Consider hiring senior women to help you hand address the note cards. You need to include some personal information you gathered when they visited. The better you are in the “discovery” phase, the better follow up note you can write. Don’t write the usual “Thank you for visiting…if you have any questions, please give me a call”…BORING

9. Send follow up. Directly to the kids.
Do your children LOVE getting mail? When my daughter was young, she would go nuts if junk mail has her name on it. Find out what interests the kids have and make an effort to send something of interest to them.

10. Organize your time and keep your momentum.
Plan a time each day that you will make your calls, send e-mails or follow up notes. Keep going until you set that appointment. Stay focused on your goal. Put your follow up activity in your day timer. Give yourself a pat on the back for sticking to it.

Creative follow up takes time and effort.
Are you willing to do what it takes to make it work for you?

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