Overcoming Uncontrollable Community Weaknesses

Overcoming Uncontrollable Community WeaknessesblogObjections are rarely great news, but they indicate interest and are an opportunity.  As leasing professionals, it is our job to find opportunities in every situation, even the difficult ones.  We all want to be as customer centric as possible.

 

Your community weaknesses are typically your objections.  Sure, they aren’t fun to deal with, but we all have them.  The trick is approaching them with the right mindset.  That mindset being that objections are actually good news.  You are getting objections because your prospect is interested. If they weren’t, they’d simply move on to another community.

 

When a prospect evaluates your weaknesses, he weighs them against your strengths and then decides how significant they are.  You need to ensure that your strengths make the weaknesses a non-issue.  That means you have to become a problem solver with great credibility.

 

The trick to overcoming objections is preparation.  This is not the time to wing it or cross your fingers and hope the prospect doesn’t ask the question.  Be prepared and confident with a thoughtful and respectful response.  Let’s run through a few tips.

 

  1. Your prospect is the most important person in the room.

Whether it is over the phone, in person, or even email, treat every prospect as if she is the most important person in the room.  When you give your prospect your undivided attention, you build a stronger relationship.  Your prospect knows you sincerely want to help.

 

  1. Focus on the prospect’s needs to establish trust.

Ask your prospect what problems he wants to solve.  Or what are his goals with a move?  The sooner you focus on the prospect’s needs, the sooner he trusts you, and the sooner he concludes you have his best interest in mind.

 

  1. Listen carefully and never make assumptions

Listen carefully so you can determine which points are most important to your prospect.  One of the biggest complaints I hear is that leasing professionals offer boilerplate solutions before they have listened to the prospect’s problem. Even if the stories are nearly the same, prospects want to tell you their story.

 

  1. Offer information and educate the prospect

Listening carefully gives you the ability to offer information and then a solution to your prospect’s problem.  The more you educate the prospect, the more she believes that you understand her problem and have the skills and qualifications to solve it.  This also creates incredible loyalty.

 

  1. Explain the benefits of living at your community.

Don’t forget the benefits!  Especially the things that can’t be seen or touched.  Prospects want to know all the great things about choosing your community for their home, so don’t be afraid to humble brag a little.

 

  1. Do not pressure the prospect for a decision.

Lastly, never apply pressure for the sale.  This will ruin all the credibility you just established when overcoming objections.  Allow the prospect to make his own decision after you’ve done everything you can to educate him.  Keep the line of communication open and be incredibility responsive now and in the future.

Posted in: Sales and Marketing |

 

Stand Out From the Crowd During Leasing Season

Stand Out From the Crowd During Leasing SeasonLeasing season is here!  It is your time to shine and stand out from the crowd.  And the fact is that simple and effective follow up is a simple way to do that.

Did you know that 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect?  48%!  That is huge!  That number most likely gets even higher during busy leasing seasons, which means your opportunity to be better than everyone else isn’t all that difficult.

VALUE PROPOSITION

The first thing you need to do is think about your value proposition.  I’m not talking about mission statements or fluffy marketing messaging.  A value proposition is a statement that summarizes why  prospects should be leasing from you.  This statement should convince a potential prospect that your community will add more value to her life than any other community, or in the very least, solve a problem.

 

Before you open your doors tomorrow morning, make sure your entire team knows what your value proposition is and be ready to include it in all follow up conversation.

 

LEAD MANAGEMENT

Up next is lead management.  If you haven’t already gotten your leads in order, time is up.  Getting caught up with past leads now could create significant leasing opportunities.  When was the last time you personally contacted leads from 90 days or 9 months ago?

Don’t forget that the people that didn’t lease from you last season might be up for a renewal again this year.  Reaching out now to reconnect could lead to a very lucrative spring season.

 

SELF-QUALIFY

Finally, allow your prospects to self-qualify.  This means you put it all out there.  Your prices, reviews, lease terms, availability, etc.  Don’t make your prospect hunt for information.  They don’t want to pick up the phone, but they want to get all the information they possibly can about your community before they commit to walking into your office.  Providing the necessary information online creates a better user experience and prevents you from spending time with unqualified leads.

 

Posted in: Sales and Marketing |

 

5 Reasons to Resuscitate the Pen and Paper

Resuscitating the Pen and PaperWhen was the last time you received a handwritten letter in your mailbox? Today’s typical home receives a personal letter about every seven weeks. According to the U.S. Postal Service the striking decline in letter-writing is “primarily driven by the adoption of the Internet as a preferred method of communication.” But unlike e-communications, handwritten notes are unique because they are capable of engaging people on a deeper level than other forms of communication.

 

They can differentiate your company from others by positioning you as a thoughtful and appreciative organization that takes the time to go the extra mile. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference in customer experience.

“There are lots of digital methods of communication, and my clients are bombarded via those channels every day. A handwritten note takes time but shows that they’re worth the effort.”
– Julia Angelen Joy, Z Group PR, Founder.

So, why is the pen dead in our industry? In the 2015 EPMS follow-up study of more than 44,000 completed leasing shops, only 5.4% of leasing professionals put their pen to paper, 31.6% chose the telephone, 33.2% selected email, and 45.5% simply did not conduct any follow-up with the prospect. Why is the handwritten note method so low? During a recent training session we asked a group of employees, “Why don’t you send handwritten thank you cards?” Their consensus was clear—time—it takes too much time and email is quicker. If email takes less than a minute from start to finish and the handwritten note takes three minutes, is the difference worth gaining a more loyal customer? Of course!

Here are 5 reasons to resuscitate the pen and paper.

  • It’s Personal. There’s something very personal and satisfying when you open an envelope and find a hand-scripted note. It packs more punch than the thank you that shows up on the screen. It speaks to the fact that customers who feel they are treated as individuals are more satisfied with their experience and more inclined to remain loyal. Loyal customers buy more, purchase more often, cost less to serve, and have higher retention rates.
  • It’s a Lost Art. Technology has actually made the handwritten note somewhat of a lost art, allowing it to have an even larger impact today than it would have in years past.
  • It Speaks Service. Thank you notes serve as an element within customer service that show you are willing to go that extra mile for customers. Customer experiences that evoke positive emotions always win.
  • It’s a Differentiator. In an increasingly impersonal digital world, sending a thank you card in the mail is a great way to distinguish yourself and your company from the rest and connect with customers in a meaningful way.
  • It is Rare. Handwritten thank you notes radiate personality. Your recipients of a pen and paper thank you note will know that time and consideration was taken. Pair that with how rare handwritten thank you notes are today, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

 

In this fast paced digital world, people gravitate toward things that warm their heart. Your product and service may be wonderful, but you have to set yourself apart from the other communities just like yours. To your customers, you are only as good as their last transaction with you. A personalized thank you note just might make the difference between a “thanks for your help” and “when can we move in?” Give your customers something that they can’t find anywhere else.

Posted in: Customer Experience |

 

Managing Negative Feedback

Managing Negative Feedback“After seeing a brand’s response to a review, 71% of consumers change their perception of the brand.” Bazaar Voice

 

What is written in a negative review is not the only thing that is important. How you respond to a review is just as important as the score and what is being said in the written portion. Prospects and residents are reading reviews, but in some cases, they are more interested in how you handle problems. Do you take ownership? Do you problem solve? Do you sincerely apologize? Hopefully your answer is yes to all of these questions.

 

When you respond to reviews, you aren’t responding only to the unhappy resident. You are responding to the entire online community that includes prospective renters.   How you handle a difficult situation is immensely important, because it is available for all to see.

 

Whether it’s a simple customer complaint or a troll, how you respond more or less stays the same. The first thing you have to do is listen. Unhappy residents want to be heard. This is the secret to managing negativity. People want to be acknowledged by you personally. And not with a scripted response. They want to hear from a real person.

 

If a mistake has been made, own it and share yours plan to correct it. Maybe even explain why the mistake was made if it is appropriate to do. However, be cautious of sounding defensive.

 

If the reviewer is a disgruntled resident, they’ll appreciate being heard, and your response can potentially turn frustration into brand loyalty. If the resident is a troll, then your response isn’t really for the individual, but rather for the community. The troll may or may not continue the dialogue, but the important thing is that you let your community and prospects know that you care.

Posted in: Ratings & Reviews |

 

First Impressions

First ImpressionsIt’s that time of year again, the insanely busy leasing season. We all know our first impression is critically important. This includes things like curb appeal, the scent in the office, and the cleanliness of common areas, but do you know that you are a big part of that impression?

 

A first impression happens in just a fraction of a second. To be more specific, our brains process verbal and non-verbal cues in a tenth of a second to form our opinions of a person or experience.

 

Once that impression is formed, it is nearly impossible to reverse. And don’t think first impressions only happen in person. We also make fairly accurate first impressions based on Facebook photos. Makes you think twice about what you’re sharing on your business page!

 

When we see or meet someone for the first time, we are evaluating a few things. Attractiveness, likability, trustworthiness, and competence are examples. In fact, research has found that attractiveness and trustworthiness are the qualities we judge most quickly.  Yes, attractiveness. That doesn’t mean sales people need to be super models, but it does mean that you must be well groomed and well dressed.

 

Fist impressions are made up of a number of factors, but there are a few that stand out more than the others.

 

  • The way you dress.

Career apparel makes more sense now, right? Prospects and residents want the people running their apartment community to look professional and capable. Would you trust someone in jeans and sneakers to manage a $50 million asset? Or even a $10 million asset? Probably not.

 

  • The firmness of your handshake

When it comes to the first time you meet a prospect, the firmness of your handshake plays a role in the initial perception. A weak handshake can create a feeling of passivity, which doesn’t imply competence.

 

  • Your voice.

The tone and tenor of your voice are also significant. Personality judgments such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and warmth are all made the moment a person hears your voice.

 

When we form a first impression of another person, we’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is. Whether we realize it or not, we are judging the person’s intentions and competence.

Posted in: Sales and Marketing |

 

Who is Gen Z?

0010856068S-849x565Are you thinking about Gen Z yet? Millennials are about to be old news, and the generation following them has a completely different set of needs and values. This new group is going to be our target renters before we know it. For some properties, they already are.

So who is Gen Z? They were born after 1995, which means the oldest of the group is already 21. While we don’t know much about Gen Z yet, we do know a lot about the environment they are growing up in.

 

During Gen Z’s most impressionable years, the world has been very volatile, specifically the economy and environment. They view the future as being pretty bleak, but they are idealistic and want to create change in the world. Now don’t confuse this generation’s mindfulness with belief in the American Dream. They are fully exposed to the economic decline and increasing fragmentation in the country. This includes fragmentation in families, the media, religion, politics, and demographics. Due to their exposure, Gen Z is independent and pragmatic.

 

This generation also wants everything, everywhere, and immediately. As a result of never having a world without internet, patience is not a characteristic. They are the earliest adopters of technology, and if what they want isn’t available, they will create it. They constantly self-educate with YouTube and other video and collaboration sources, which potentially creates a generation of future entrepreneurs.

 

Because Gen Y was the first to experience their personal live’s on social media, Gen Z witnessed and learned from their mistakes. Gen Z understands the value and importance of a personal brand. This doesn’t mean they don’t expose themselves; some of their closest relationships come from social media. They are simply conscientious about what they choose to share.

 

It is time to prepare for Gen Z. How are you going meet their technology and environmental needs?

Posted in: Generational Understanding |

 

Creating a 90 Day Reputation Management Plan

Create a 90 dayHaving a positive online reputation is essential for any business, especially apartment communities. Prospects, competitors, and customers can easily research your community online to determine if you have a positive or negative reputation and then decide if they want to do business with you before you every have the opportunity to have a conversation. Just one negative resource or comment can deter a prospect.

 

A positive online reputation will encourage them to pick up the phone or walk in your leasing office. With that being said, investing in reputation management is crucial for your business, and having a 90-Day Reputation Management Plan is a necessity.

Your reputation is your secret sauce; it sets your brand apart from your competitors and drives revenue growth. And your utilizing your residents is key. Encouraging them to generate reviews and contribute to your online reputation will have a huge impact on your success. Unlike most advertising models, positive resident reviews are priceless.

In order to move forward with a plan to gather positive reviews, you must understand the motivation. A strong customer acquisition strategy must be augmented by an effective, customer-centric retention strategy. Start with encouraging reviews. Even the happiest of residents need to be motivated to leave their feedback on third party review sites.

With the following tips to create a 90-Day Reputation Management Plan, you will have new, authentic, positive review in no time.

Tips:

  1. Be Honest. When a resident confronts you about a negative experience, it is important to be honest and transparent. Own your weaknesses and never bend the truth. Residents can see through false promises, so be careful and act as a real person. You can turn the negative experience into a positive one, and you will become well respected as a company and an individual.
  2. Be a Good Listener. Conversations happen in multiple forms, and you will want to pay attention to the conversations happening online just as much as the conversations happening in the office. Invest in social media monitoring and watch for those talking about negative experiences – whether it be with you or your competitor – and take action.
  3. Be Quick on Your Toes. As mentioned above, negative conversations will happen online, thanks to social media. Don’t let the tweets or comments sit without a response for too long. This can become an open can of worms for other unhappy residents to chime in on, and it can create a negative impression for future prospects. React quickly, address the criticism, and always be polite.
  4. Be Open Minded. Take a moment to understand unhappy customers. This is the ultimate way to learn more about your audience and craft a better message and customer experience in the future. Learn from each review and customer feedback.
  5. Be Ready. Have a communication plan ready to implement in case a crisis situation arises (ex: community fire). A communication plan includes pre-written messages for each possible crisis, a specific channel to utilize during the crisis, and an employee available and trained to deliver the message and consult with press and unhappy residents.

 

We’ve all heard the saying “there is no such thing as bad press.” This may be true for politicians and celebrities, but that isn’t true for multifamily or customer service related businesses. Fortunately, you can easily overcome and manage negative comments and reviews as long as you address it correctly, consistently, and in a timely manner with your 90-Day Reputation Management Plan.

Posted in: Ratings & Reviews |

 

Overcoming Objections

How To Overcome Tough ObjectionsIn sales, the word objection can feel like rejection. It is easy to become so passionate about what you are selling that you feel rejected when your prospect presents you with an objection. However, objections aren’t a bad thing.

If your prospect raises an objection, it usually means he is interested. He is giving you a chance to respond, because he wants to live at your community.

 

The trick to overcoming objections is preparation. You never want to be caught off guard, because any fumbling could cause your prospect to lose trust in you. When you are prepared for objections, you are able to overcome them before they even appear. Observe your prospect’s’ body language, know your product and competition inside out, and you will easily answer questions through casual, comfortable conversation.

 

Now let’s dive into the process in overcoming prospect objections.

 

Listen.

When a prospect has an objection, avoid getting defensive. Give him a chance to fully explain his concerns without cutting him off or tuning him out. If you listen carefully, you can pick up on valuable clues that can help you overcome his objections and will even give you an opportunity to upsell other features that solve his problems.

 

Reiterate.

Once you’ve listened to your prospect, take a moment to repeat a summary of what was shared. This shows him that you listened and care. This will also give your prospect a chance to clarify if there was a misunderstanding.

 

Explore the Reasoning.

After listening and reiterating, you may learn that the prospect’s first objection isn’t his real concern. For example, he might have shared one objection because he didn’t want to admit that he’s concerned about his budget. Before you begin overcoming an objection, ask exploratory questions to draw the prospect out a bit.

 

Overcome.

By now you’ve had a chance to get to know your prospect and what is holding him back from making a decision. This is your time to overcome his objection. Be credible and present him with hard facts that back up you and your community. During this time, it is important to be respectful and professional. Make sure you are relating to him and his concerns, and don’t be presumptuous. Remember: he is leasing with you.

 

Going into any sales process, it is important to remember that an objection is a sign of interest. It is an opportunity for you to get to know your prospect better and identify his needs. Use the objection as a way to build his trust and your credibility. Objections will help you alter your sales pitch in order to resolve any future doubts or concerns and will ultimately help you close the sale. Use objections to your advantage.

Posted in: Sales and Marketing |

 

Developing a Customer Experience Audit

Developing a Customer Experience AuditDo you believe a resident’s experience ends as soon as the lease is signed? Or do you believe the resident’s experience only takes place during a customer service related transaction?

Believe it or not, the customer experience is a rather complex journey for your residents, and it never expires.

An incomplete or difficult customer experience can lead to a decrease in leases and frustrated residents.

 

We believe that the customer experience is the brand. And it is just as important as your logo or brand name. It is, afterall, the experience, whether it the user experience of your website, the feel of your leasing office, or your response time to phone calls and emails. Because there are so many aspects of the customer experience, it is important to develop a customer experience audit to ensure there aren’t any touch points overlooked, as well as to consistently improve the experience.

 

The simplest and most effective CX audit is a content audit. Content is many things: blogs, social media posts, ads, property signage, etc. You must look at all channels, including those you don’t own. Content is everywhere and it is typically the very first impression of your brand. It is a critical element in how community services are promoted and it inspires brand interaction and resident retention. Because of that, we have to ensure your content is meeting your prospects’ and residents’ needs. Are there any gaps that are resulting in a poor experience or loss of engagement?

 

When conducting your customer experience audit, you will want to inventory and evaluate the following:

  • Print. This includes signage, direct mail, flyers hanging in your mailroom. Assume print is anything you can touch.
  • Web. This includes your website, but there’s so much more.  ILSs, search results pages, review sites, local listings, and blogs are a few examples.
  • Customer Support. Think about your support that is both online and offline.  Including online help, chat if you have it, scripts that may be in place, and any automated emails and phone systems.
  • Social Media. This isn’t only textual content. It also includes images and videos!  For example, does that meme properly represent your brand?

 

Once you know what content you have, you can audit it against the customer journey. Customer retention isn’t a single event that only happens at lease renewal. It’s an ongoing process that happens throughout the customer experience. Developing and utilizing a customer experience audit will enhance your business processes and create loyal and happy residents.

 

Posted in: Sales and Marketing |

 

Resident Retention

resident retentionAcquiring customers isn’t cheap or easy. In fact, acquiring new customers can cost as much as five to seven times more than simply retaining your existing customers. Shifting our focus from lead generation to customer experience sounds like a no brainer, right?

Focusing on the renewals rather than acquiring new leases is easy. Why? Because renewals shouldn’t be a last ditch effort to beg people to stay.

The months of great customer experience lead up to the renewal moment. It’s an ongoing process that starts at the point of purchase and encompasses the resident’s experience throughout their lease. Remember, it is all about the small moments.

 

If you want to keep your residents and prospects from leaving, never stop selling. More importantly, never stop selling yourself and the value you provide.

There’s a saying that goes “The sale begins after the sale”. This means you should never see residents as someone else’s responsibility. If your residents have a problem with the dishwasher, you should be involved. You never wipe your hands of the deal. Because as far as you should be concerned, things are just getting started when the lease is signed.

 

We have a few tips to keep top of mind while you are interacting with residents to ensure a great customer experience that delivers high resident retention.

 

  1. Set Resident Expectations.

The first step to building better customer retention is to set resident expectations early. The earlier the better. By setting expectations early, you eliminate uncertainty as to the level of service you need to offer to ensure your residents are happy. This also allows you to build KPIs around specific expectations and ensure you are always over delivering.

 

  1. Build Trust Through Relationships and Remove the Fear.

We all like to do business with people we trust. Trust is essential in business, and building relationships with residents will garner that trust. But trust doesn’t just happen with anyone. You must take an interest in your residents and their story. Understand how you can play a role in their day-to-day activities and use this info to strengthen your relationship. It can be something as simple as knowing when they need to pick up packages or their communication preferences. We’re all learning that simply providing a service is no longer sufficient. As new properties enter the market, you need to start building shared values with residents and showing that you take an interest in them and want to provide a wonderful home.

 

  1. Develop and Anticipatory Service Strategy

Anticipatory service is a proactive approach to customer service. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, anticipatory service can eliminate problems before they even happen. This is important because the value you get is correlated to the value you give. To achieve this, you must understand your residents’ information needs and communication preferences. Instead of just playing the waiting game, check in with your residents.

 

  1. Take It Online and Make It Easy.

Where are your residents? They’re online. That means that the entire customer experience is not face-to-face interaction. People are glued to their computer screens, so connect with them online! Keep in mind that connecting with customers and building communities takes more effort and time than typical social media acquisition strategies. It is a daily exercise if you want to do it properly.

Posted in: Customer Loyalty |

 

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