“The times, they are a-changin’.”
Even though the first point of contact for a prospect is still the phone call or email, in today’s “pandemic” environment, leasing and move-in practices have temporarily changed. Basically, a person can rent an apartment and move in without being face-to-face with a leasing consultant. Who knows, these changes could become the “new normal.”
With limited opportunities to build a relationship with your prospect, first impressions based on telephone techniques and customer service, community and apartment interior appearance, quality of your virtual tours/photography, closing techniques and follow up become your best tools of the trade.
Terrific Telephone Techniques — Let’s start with the telephone. Your prospect has been surfing the web, and your community made their “shortlist.” They picked up the phone and called you first. How are you going to make that great first impression that will ultimately influence their decision-making process by making your community stand out above the rest? Your customer service skills must shine!
Do you have a “suggested” leasing script for your staff members? It helps to coach and guide them, especially if they are new to the business. If you don’t have one, we can supply you with a basic one that you can customize. The person answering the phone should have a smile in their voice and introduce themselves before asking each caller for their name, a preferred telephone number to use in case of disconnection of call and asking how they heard about the community. Follow that by asking what type of floor plan they are interested in and how soon they need to move. Please ask if they are familiar with the community, then offer to simultaneously review the community website with them to take a virtual tour.
Have each staff member create their own description of the community, its amenities and each floor plan. Paint a picture with words so each prospect can follow along and visualize each amenity and each room of their new home. We have a great list of recommended words to help you with this task. Remember to sell the features and benefits while personalizing the call by using the caller’s name during the conversation. Be friendly, energized and start using your assumptive closing techniques from the beginning.
Some communities are allowing self-guided physical tours, but by appointment only. When the prospects show up, they are given a packet by a staff member standing behind a protective shield. The packet contains a key fob and a map with directions on finding the models and or vacant apartment homes. When the tour is over, the packet is placed in a box on the way out, and the key fobs are sanitized for the next tour. Take this opportunity to ask the prospect what they thought of the home; what did they like the best? Ask for any objections so that these can be addressed and discussed and hopefully overcome.
Community and Apartment Home Appearance — Quality of photography and videography is important for online tours, but the physical appearance and attributes of the asset must be addressed before photos. How is the curb appeal of your community? Do you need to have the maintenance staff or the landscapers tidy up your entrance with a few freshly tended flower beds and fresh paint on the curbs and parking areas? Are the signs and directories clean and up to date? Has the parking lot been swept, and is the asphalt in good condition? Are the weeds under control, and have the sidewalks been swept and maintained? Check out the path to the model or vacant apartments too.
Inside the apartments, sounds and smells are important but not as important as the lighting and layout of the floorplan. Mini models are still a great way to highlight apartment features. Try adding a few eye-popping items to pique interest and make the viewer remember your unique apartment. Add something quirky and fun in an unusual spot in the kitchen or bathroom. Use color to enhance the experience. After setting the stage, make sure you choose a professional photographer or videographer to create your photos and videos.
Closing Techniques — All of the closing techniques you learned can still be used, but you have fewer opportunities to use them when a prospect is doing a self-guided tour. You may no longer have the luxury of a stroll around the community with your prospects, so be sure to close them whenever possible. The window of opportunity is much, much smaller now. Need a refresher on all the different ways to close on a prospect? We have an e-learning course for that!
The Follow-Up — Say you knocked their socks off with your greeting and descriptions, and they have gone on their virtual tour. What’s left? The follow-up is your last opportunity to close and collect! A timely follow up by telephone, text, mail or email expressing your desire to welcome them to your community will set you apart from the competition. You would be surprised how many apartment communities do not follow up with their prospects, and studies show that 25% of your prospects you follow up with will lease from you.
The Move-In Process — So perhaps, without ever meeting your prospects, they chose your community to be their next home and have submitted their application and qualifying documents online. You and your great customer service were the icing on the cake. All leasing paperwork is now computerized and finalized with e-signatures. If a “wet” signature is required, a special area inside or outside your leasing office can be designated for pick-up and drop-off of documents.
Of course, by now, we assume that everyone is following the CDC Guidelines regarding sanitizing everyone and everything and are following the proper social distancing rules. That includes procedures for making each vacant apartment market-ready. Be ready to explain to each prospect the methods your company is using to keep prospects, residents, employees and vendors safe. If you have special cleaning chemicals and protocols, tell your prospects about them. Knowledge is power. Make them feel comfortable about their decision to become a part of your community.
And what about the keys? Agree upon a specified time for the move-in and unlock the home in advance or upon arrival. Leave the keys inside the apartment with a written request to text or call the office upon receipt OR use the packet approach again. Do a pre-inspection and mark all items that you know are not perfect, and leave the list for the new resident to complete and return or scan and email back to the office.
It’s still all about the basics with a few new twists and turns. Are you struggling with the changes? Occupancy Solutions offers online e-learning courses and webinars on all of these topics and more. I am also available to do custom webinars now and once the current pandemic passes, in-person training sessions or keynotes. Visit our website at www.occupancysolutions.com and call 1 (800) 865-0948 for your free consultation today.
Elaine M Simpson