Try Something Different - By Russ Sandlin

The definition of sanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!

As leasing professionals, most associates develop strong leasing presentations and stick to the same format ...forever. There are certainly advantages to repetition in selling and if you were to ask ten of the most qualified sales trainers in America, I am sure you would hear sticking to a consistent game plan is both important and effective. The challenge is the prospective residents are all different. Each one comes to the leasing scenario with a different set of needs and expectations. Today's leasing associate has to be prepared to be different. Positioned to tailor their presentation to the prospective resident's needs through an interpersonal approach to the leasing process. Let's assume four elements the professional associate can use to add variety, color and a personal touch to their presentations.

Ask right questions:

The basis of interpersonal leasing is focused on Informational Gathering. The professional leasing associate who learns to effectively use this process will always be considered the most versatile and competent. Using questions that draw out information, get the prospect conversational and build trust are the most effective. A good example of using psycho graphic questions can be observed when a leasing associate defines the number of people who will occupy an apartment. You could simply ask the prospect, "How many people will occupy the apartment?" This is the most common question used by associates.

However, consider the prospect's perception. In this instance the question sounds interrogative. If, on the other hand, you asked your prospective resident, "Is the apartment just for yourself?", you would determine the same information, focus more on the prospective resident's needs and create a much less formal environment. Another excellent example comes later in the information gathering process. In an effort to financially qualify your prospect without intimidation, try these three questions; "What do you do?", "Who do you do it for?" and "How long have you done it?" When interjected in a conversational manner these questions will often allow you to avoid any unpleasant qualification on the front end. Of course, you will want to cover more specifics later in the leasing process.

Creating emotional appeal:

The decision to buy is emotional. In the 90's the prospective resident has taken more time selecting their new apartment home, which is evident based on the number of communities the prospective resident is shopping prior to making a decision. However, when the prospective resident says, "I'll take it!", it is an emotional decision. The professional leasing associate can use emotional appeal to position the prospect to make the leasing decision. While the days of forcing the prospect into a decision through "power closing" or "alternate of choice" phrasing are past. This does not mean the leasing associate has lost the power of emotional appeal to reinforce the selling process. Emotional appeal is the most powerful element you have as a tool to motivate the prospective resident to lease. In order to create emotional appeal, use the information gathering process to identify the prospective resident's needs. It is only through the prospect's individual needs that you can build emotional appeal. For example, during the tour you and the prospective resident stop at the swimming pool. Most leasing associated would say, "Bill, this is our swimming pool, it is open from 10:00am until 11:00pm daily. What do you think?" This technique develops little or no emotional appeal.

On the other hand, if you were to say, [based on the prospective resident's needs you defined during the information gathering process]. "Bill, earlier you mentioned how you like to stay in shape by swimming laps every day. Can't you just imagine how refreshing it will be to get in your pool after a hard day at work to unwind and workout?"

This Feature Benefit Relationship Survey evokes tremendous emotional appeal and is directed spedifically at your prospect's needs. It personalizes the leasing approach allowing you to focus on the prospecive resident instead of the product.

Using Body Language

How often have you met someone of whom you have said, "If you tied their hands behind their back they would never be able to talk?" The position and posture of your body during the entire leasing process is a universal language. Yourprospect acquires a tremendous amount of information about you and your personal commitment to them through this process. Using body language effectively can add explosive meaning to your presentation. It can enhance and very often change the meaning of everything you say. Consider the three basic stages of the leasing process and how you physically express yourself during each stage:

  • Information Gathering
    Here the prospective residents are wary. They have a great deal of apprehension about the process and they don't know you very well. You should focus on gestures designed to build trust. Shake the prospective resident's hand when you first greet them. All the studies I have read confirm that a handshake builds trust and reduces tension. When you sit theprospect down, pull out the chair and make a sweeping gesture and slight bow, graciously asking them to be seated. A study done by Harvard University identified the traditional Japanese bow as the most trust building form of body language. When you are gathering information, position yourself from two to two oand one-half feet from the prospect. Take the prospective resident to a comfortable seating area with a sofa or round table, rather than across a desk. Lean forward when you ask questions and make strong eye contact. Smile!
  • Presentation:
    Here, eye contact and gestures are the most important body language. Use sweeping gestures to indicate vast, open areas in the apartment. Touch, DON'T POINT! When you demostrate the kitchen, don't point out the cabinets, go over and open them. Open that 16 cubic foot refrigerator and demostrate the adjustable shelves, seperate dairy storage, large vegetable crisper, inset door shelving and adjustable thermostat so the prospective resident can control the temperature. Run your hand along the hanging rod in the walk-in closet as you tell the prospect there is thirteen feet of space to hang their suits. Look the prospect directly in the eye when you ask the trial close, "Diane, don't you think it will be great fixing brunch for your friends in your gourmet kitchen?"

    "When do you want to move in?", "Do you want to fill out an application?", do these words sound familiar? The close is a tension filled environment. It is here most leasing associates fail to realize the power of their body language. If you hesitate, look down at the wrong moment, cross your arms or put your hands in your pockets, you are sending a powerful message to your prospective resident. Strong closing gestures include; handing the prospective resident a pen to complete the application, looking the prospect directly in the eye when you ask for the deposit, gently reaching over to touch the prospect on the arm when you say, "This is exactly what you said you wanted, isn't it Bill?" Let's go back and reserve this apartment!" Being aware of how you use body language will add impact and intensity to your entire leasing process.

  • Verbiage
    It is often said, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." However, what you say is the difference between making a strong presentation and simply taking a tour. For example, what does "Can I show you our model?" or "Let's take a tour!" really mean? If taken literally they mean, "You are not here to rent an apartment you are here to simply look at our community." Change the meaning by saying to your prospect, "Let me show you your new apartment home!"

    "Would you like to fill out an application?" What does that really mean? Are you saying, "Well, I'm not sure if you like it or not?" What would happen if you said, "Bill, based on everything we discussed, this apartment has what you said you wanted. It's upstairs, has lots of light, a private view and it's away from the noise of the parking area. Please complete this application so I can reserve this apartment for you today."

By effectively using these four tools: Asking the right questions [at the right time] to determine your prospective resident's needs, wants and desires. Creating emotional appeal by using the Feature/Benefit Relationship Summary based on the needs you identify in the information gathering process. Using body language to confirm your verbal messages to your prospective resident and carefully choosing the exact verbiage to ensure your prospective resident hears your message will make you a more effective leasing associate. Try something different! Use your skills and your imagination.

As the consummate professional in leasing it is your responsibility to focus energy on every prospect, probe to identify their needs and finally use all your energy to make the leasing experience a memeorable one for this individual.

Reprinted with permission. Russ Sandlin is president of The Russ Sandlin Group, a nationally-recognized organization specializing in income focused training and marketing for residential & commercial property. - email 1-800-535-8858

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