The Most Important Question in Leasing That Nobody Asks

By Rob Foellinger

I won't keep you in suspense. I won't force you to trudge through this entire article before finally revealing what the question is. The most important question in leasing that nobody asks is this:

"Is it more important to keep looking around or to be sure the apartment you want is still here?"

Kind of disappointing, isn't it? Just kind of lies there, doesn't it? Doesn't even seem particularly clever, does it? How could this possibly be such an important question? Read on and I'll explain the psychology and rationale behind this truly magnificent question. You see, prospective residents can be divided into two distinct categories and there is really nothing the least bit peculiar or mysterious about either one. In fact, if you have been leasing apartments for a while, you have met dozens of both types. However, disaster can, and often does, strike when you encounter a prospect who is a combination of both types rolled into one.

I refer to the first category of prospective residents as "First Choice" prospects and you probably know many of them quite well. You might even be this type yourself. This is the prospect that visits your community and falls in love with a particular apartment, on a particular floor, with a particular view, in a particular building, with a particular carpet color and absolutely no other apartment will do. This apartment is this prospect's first (and only) choice. Sound familiar?

I call the second category of prospects "Tire Kickers" and you will recognize them immediately as well. These are the folks who cannot decide which apartment to choose until they have seen every vacant unit of the type they are looking for in your entire market area. If they are looking for a one bedroom apartment, they will not be ready to make a choice until they have personally visited all 879 vacant one-bedroom apartments in the area. I may have exaggerated just a tad, but you get the idea.

Suppose you run into a prospect who is a combination "First Choice" prospect and a "Tire Kicker". Lots of times you will watch as, true to form, the "First Choice" component of this prospect's personality falls madly in love with a particular apartment, on a particular floor, with a particular view and so on. And no other apartment at your community will do. However, the "Tire Kicker" in him soon surfaces and he leaves you to visit every vacant apartment within a 10-mile radius of your community. Why? Because he just cannot feel comfortable making a final decision before doing so.'s where the danger lurks. While your combination "Tire Kicker" and "First Choice" prospect is merrily off visiting scores of vacant apartments all over the area, that particular apartment he picked as his "First Choice" is still on the market, isn't it? And, since he liked it so well, there might be something about it that would cause other prospects to like it a lot, too. So, there is a pretty good chance that, while the "Tire Kicker" part of the combination prospect is out shopping, somebody else is going to come along and rent the particular apartment his "First Choice" side fell in love with.

So what happens when the combination prospect completes his pilgrimage and finally returns to your community to lease his "First Choice" apartment...and it had been leased to someone else? Does the "First Choice" side of this combination prospect allow him to compromise and settle for his runner-up choice at your property? Not usually. No, the prospect will leave you, often in a very sour mood, and promptly lease his "First Choice" apartment at one of your competitors.

Could this unfortunate loss of a sale have been prevented? Yes, in the vast majority of cases.

The leasing professional could have asked "The Most Important Question In Leasing That Nobody Asks" at some point during the sales presentation and found out if this prospect happened to be one of those worrisome combination "Tire Kickers" and "First Choice" types. When you ask "The Most Important Question", these combination prospects will show their true colors by giving the question a great deal of thought, often visibly struggling with it (lots of grimaces and head-scratching), and finally responding with something like "I don't know, they are both pretty important to me."

When the newly-diagnosed combination prospect gives this response, that is your cue to immediately initiate a discussion about the provisions in place at your community for "holding" an apartment for a limited time while he goes off to satisfy the "Tire Kicker" in him.

Simply enlightening the prospect about the realities of our business by saying something like "this apartment you like so much will still be on the market while you are looking around, but I will be glad to explain how we can temporarily hold it for you until you are ready to make a final choice" may prevent the unpleasant situation which occurs when he returns to find his "First Choice" has been leased to someone else. How many times a month would you estimate you might run into this "combination" prospect on a property of, say, 300 units? Just to be incredibly conservative, let's say you encounter a combination "Tire Kicker" and "First Choice" person only once a month. If you are able to rescue the sale by simply asking the combination prospect "The Most Important Question" and then helping him understand the importance of taking the apartment off the market long enough to go kick some tires, you will add a mind-boggling amount of revenue to your bottom line. How mind-boggling? Well, if your average rent is, say, $500 and you save just one sale each month for a year by asking "The Question", you will add a tidy $38,000 (!) to your revenue stream. Imagine what would happen if you run into one of these combination persons more than once a month (believe me, you will) and save the sale!

Ask the question. You will be glad you did.

Rob Foellinger is President of MarkeTactics Consulting Group, 1-800-770-3201. He is an award-winning national speaker who has earned recognition as a marketing consultant, strategist and author as well as a master trainer in leasing, marketing and resident retention. Rob Foellinger's Bio and list of his articles.

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