How many times have you worked your way through the leasing presentation, convinced the prospect to commit and sign a lease and then felt satisfied the job was done? Have you ever thought about the fact that once the prospect has signed the lease, their relationship with you is really only beginning? If you can reframe your perspective to look at “closing” as the start of a long term relationship, you’ll find yourself with less resident turnover and greater resident loyalty in the long run. We present 5 steps to get to and beyond the close.
1. Focus on Where it All Begins.
After all, you can’t dive into a commitment without first navigating the courtship! When it comes to leasing, the courtship is the sales presentation, and the closing is the proposal. Here are four main reasons you may strike out on closing:
- I do not believe in what I am selling. Remember, what you are trying to sell doesn’t have to be something you want for yourself! Maybe you would not choose to live in the community you work for, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for the prospects who are coming to take a look.
- I am afraid I am going to be turned down. If you’re doing a good job of leasing and you’re priced right, you WILL be turned down sometimes! If you were able to lease to every single prospect that visited, it would mean your pricing is too low or your requirements are too lax.
- If I try to close, I will look dumb. Even if you feel uncomfortable at first, the techniques we’ll share today DO work and will feel commonplace with time.
- I perceive “pressure” as a negative approach. Your prospect came in to see you; you didn’t call them in! Many people need help deciding to lease with you. It’s not “pressure” if they qualify and want somewhere to live!
At the end of the day, leasing success is measured by actual move-ins, not showings or applications or deposits. Did you know that 70% of sales decisions are based on the prospect’s perception of the leasing professional? For this reason, it’s vital to make sure you are FEP! What is FEP? Well, that’s someone who is Friendly, Enthusiastic and Professional! Be aware of your facial expressions, body language and tone of voice to ensure you’re conveying a FEP nature.
2. Avoid the Non-Close
We’ve talked about reasons people fail to close. Now let’s look at actions you may think count as closing, but actually don’t:
- Handing out rental applications.
- Waiting for a prospect to say, “Yes, I want it!”
- Giving the prospect your card and asking them to call if they have questions.
- Being very careful not to be TOO pushy.
Most of these are great to work into the overall presentation, but you have to ASK for the close! In fact, it would be abnormal, inappropriate, and rude NOT to ask them to lease. Here are simple steps to get to and beyond the close:
- First Contact – ABC (Always Be Closing). Consider every prospect who walks in your door as potential to close and make sure you’re setting yourself up for success from the beginning and throughout the interaction.
- Develop the YES Habit. Nod your head while you ask questions to encourage a positive response from the prospect.
- Two-Word Questions. Use two-word questions to get your prospect nodding along with you!
- Temperature-Taking Questions. Ask the prospect questions about how they’ll set up the bedroom or where they’ll put the TV. Get them to visualize living there and give you subconscious feedback.
- ASK FOR THE MONEY. Every prospect knows they’ll be spending money for an apartment, so you won’t surprise them!
- A NO Does Not Mean NO. The first “no” you get from a prospect is just a reflexive response; keep pressing. Look for an objection you can overcome!
- Body Language. Don’t read too much into body language but look for positive signs like picking up the application or brochure or leaning forward.
- Know When to Shut Up. If the prospect tells you they’re ready to lease, STOP! Go on back to the office and get started on the paperwork instead of continuing the presentation.
- Where to Close? Anywhere! You can close anywhere you want! Close in the apartment, at the pool – wherever you can get the application right now!
3. Never Fear the Objection.
Don’t be afraid of objections; they are just buying signals made to look like a “no”. Take advantage of the opportunity to overcome the objection to get a “yes”! There are two main types of objections you’ll likely encounter:
- Easy Objections (Not True). These are easy to address because they are based on misinformation or a misunderstanding. In these cases, all you have to do is provide the accurate information!
- Difficult Objection (Is True). First, repeat the prospect’s concern in question form and then minimize the concern by stressing other relevant benefits of the community or reasonable and effective workarounds if available.
You have probably already heard all of the objections you’ll hear for your community. You are aware of the shortcomings and you’ll have your answers ready in advance. It’s easier to educate the prospect on the advantages of a possible objection than to defend it after the prospect objects.
Sometimes you’ve done everything right and you come down to the close and you get the standard put-off. It’s not a no, it’s not a yes; it’s just a delay tactic. Here’s how you can address these answers:
- “Let me think about it.” – “You should think about it! It’s a very important decision.” Or “Would you mind telling me some of the things you will be thinking about?” (This may reveal an objection.)
- “I really want to look around some more.” – “You should look around. You want to find exactly the right place for you.” Or “Would you mind telling me what kinds of things you will be looking for?” or even “Where else are you planning to look?”
4. 5 Simple Steps to Get to the Close and Beyond.
- Trial: Ask about how they will arrange the apartment. This is a bit of a pre-close.
- Direct: Directly instruct the prosect to come back to the office with you to complete paperwork and take the apartment off the market.
- Which: When you’ve shown two apartments, you ask which one they liked best. You can also ask in terms of the move-in date. When would you rather move in?
- Summary: Review all the things they liked about the apartment and all the ways the apartment meets their needs and preferences.
- Assumptive: When you’ve received positive buying queues, you can take the prospect back to the office, give them the application and let them know that while they’re completing it, you’ll go get them a drink and then leave them alone with the application!
If the prospect gets out your door without completing an application, don’t give up! You need to keep reaching out. It can actually take up to 14 extra contacts to close the deal!
- Let the prospect know you care.
- Try to make another appointment.
- Determine remaining concerns and true level of interest.
Once you’ve made the close and have elicited that commitment, the real work begins – keeping the relationship alive.
5. Know the Ingredients for Long Term Relationships.
- Genuine concern
How do these components or positive behaviors translate from a romantic relationship, for example, to a leasing relationship?
- An Engagement that Equals or Surpasses the Dating. Follow up after the rental commitment. During that time period between signing the lease and moving in, we need to be in touch with the new resident.
- Best Wedding Ever! Create an incredible and memorable move-in experience.
- Quick Recovery After First Fight or Misunderstanding. Ensure a prompt and appropriate response to the first service request or complaint.
- Daily Reinforcement of Marriage Commitment with Loving Acclamations. Offer continued acknowledgement and appreciation from the onsite team, especially the office personnel.
- Never Forgetting an Anniversary. Be prepared and anxious for the lease renewal.
You have a passion for your prospects and residents, and using these 5 steps to get to and beyond the lease will help lead to an ongoing positive relationship.
Rick Ellis, CAM, CPM
Since 1984, Ellis Partners in Management Solutions has specialized exclusively in helping our multifamily clients measure and improve the customer experience by teaming with customers to develop professional skills and behaviors in each team member. We evaluate customer service and performance of onsite leasing professionals through comprehensive mystery shopping reports, our multiple touchpoint resident survey program, and training. Our turn-key integrated customer experience program, backed by outstanding customer service, sophisticated technology, and ethical business practices, has made Ellis one of the multifamily industry’s most respected and sought-after providers of training and consulting services.