Addressing the Baby Elephants in the Leasing Conversation


The idiom “the elephant in the room” often suggests there is an obvious and hefty issue or discussion point, yet no one involved in the conversation wants to confront it so they pretend it is not there. Unfortunately, there are large elephants lurking around in many leasing conversations that go unacknowledged. For example, our old friend “close the sale” continues to top the list as the most commonly missed question by leasing consultants. Out of 11,493 shopping reports conducted by Ellis during Second Quarter 2018, 50% of employees failed to ask this key question.

However, there are also many baby elephants (less obvious questions) which present great opportunities to add value to your leasing conversations. These baby elephants aren’t being avoided intentionally; they are simply not being noticed.  There are several points in the leasing conversation where you can discover the baby elephants and improve conversions.

During the Telephone Conversation

The goal on the telephone is to set the appointment and encourage the customer to visit the community as soon as possible. While there are important qualifying questions that must be asked, this is also a great opportunity to go beyond a “checklist approach”. A question that engages the customer not only invites dialogue but also increases their chance of visiting. A natural conversation will better serve your customer rather than a mechanical approach.  You can ask questions similar to these during the telephone interaction.

  • What do you love about your current home? What’s missing? Are you looking for something similar or different?
  • How much do you already know about our homes / community? Do you have any friends or family who live at our community?
  • Have you spent any time in our area shopping or eating? What is your favorite restaurant?
  • Have you called any other communities? Do you plan on visiting them?
  • Have you timed your commute from our community to your office? Would you like me to map it for you?
  • Have you visited the school your children will attend? Will they ride the school bus? Can I send you the pick-up and drop-off time information?
  • Are you familiar with the pet services in our area? I have compiled a list of the local groomers, pet stores, and pet parks. I would be happy to send them to you.

In the Leasing Office and Apartment

The time spent in the home with the customer opens many avenues to discover their known and unknown needs, connect your offerings to those areas, and educate the customer on how choosing your community can improve their life and/or resolve their problems. Ryan Levesque, in Ask, sets forth that customers don’t always know what they want, and I wholeheartedly agree. It is up to the leasing professional to ask the most effective questions to draw out this information. This question asking process closely resembles the lyrics in the country song “The Dance” – you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. In essence, you are leading your customers to a yes or no. If they respond with yes, then you dance. If they respond with no, then you move on or change your steps.  Try questions like these before or during the onsite tour.

  • Are there any pressing questions you have about our community or homes that I didn’t answer on the phone?
  • Would you take advantage of our fitness center?
  • Do you enjoy cooking or baking? When it comes to the kitchen, what is most important? Does your current kitchen fit all of your needs? What is missing?
  • Have you considered how you will place your living room furniture in this area? Do you plan on bringing all of your current furniture, or will you purchase/replace some items?
  • How many items do you currently have hanging in your bedroom closet?
  • Where is Smokey’s cat bed located in your current apartment? Where do you think he would be most comfortable here?
  • Does your current home provide a lot of natural light? Is natural light important to you?

No question should be considered insignificant. Charles Simmons once said, “True greatness consists of being great in little things.” In our perception what constitutes a tiny detail is many times of much greater interest to the customer. But a customer’s pain points are not always obvious to them until you ask a question that sparks conversation. Encourage your leasing professionals to continuously test new open-ended questions and to seek out the baby elephants in the room. Ask them to build their own list of questions as a reference took to increase their chances of drawing out true customer wants and needs while building up value throughout the leasing conversation.

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions