Let’s be honest, anyone who is even mildly successful in leasing apartments is pretty good at conversing. We are always engaging in conversations, not just at the office but at company business meetings, local apartment association functions, sales meetings, at home, and on the weekend with friends.
Then why do so many Leasing Professionals leave all that “conversation” practice and skill behind when they “present” to the potential resident?
A presentation is often a monologue — a one-sided verbal presentation given by a single person featuring a collection of their ideas. A dialog is different; it opens the door to interaction, engagement, and influence.
Leasing today is about influence and moving people emotionally—it’s about having authentic conversations. This can’t take place if we are in pure “presentation mode”.
Why do leasing professionals still “present” and why do many industry professionals still refer to it as the “Leasing Presentation”? It’s not the terminology that really matters, of course, but rather the process it represents. Is the presentation process simply old habit or a mere response to company expectations?
Lisa Sasevich, a leading sales expert and often referred to as “The Queen of Sales Conversations” has some interesting thoughts on conversations and influencing customers. “In today’s world, people are looking to be inspired, encouraged, taught, and heard. It’s no longer about simply selling. It’s about becoming a trusted advisor. You’re now learning to influence. And that, my friends, is where you begin to make the biggest impact and attract dedicated, highly committed, highly invested clients and contributors.”
1. Please Talk With Me…Not At Me
There’s no shortage of proof that talking with someone is more effective than talking at them. Then…why do we do the latter? We have been talked at since we were very young by our parents, older siblings, and teachers. Then we entered the work force and were talked at by our supervisors — the people in roles of authority who wanted us to do things.
Then I remember those “ah hah” moments (and there were many) as a teenager when my parents would sit me down and talk with me not at me — it felt different. They focused on me and it resulted in a very memorable moment. Customers want to engage with someone who is authentic — a person that they can trust and have a genuine conversation with. They are looking for that memorable moment, the “ah hah” moment. I think most people would agree that conversations are real, memorable, and simply much more interesting than presentations. Talk with me…not at me.
2. Conversation or Presentation?
I have reviewed thousands of shopping reports during my 20+ years in the property management industry, and eventually you get really good at spotting a positive and negative report very quickly. The first thing I would do is drill down to two questions that had to with the Leasing Professional showing genuine interest in helping the customer and doing so in a conversational manner. If the answer was “no” it was highly likely that this would be reflected negatively in the rest of the report— evidence that the Leasing Presentation often falls short of a Leasing Conversation.
Why do they fall into a presentation vs. a conversation with the customer? Is it lack of training or insufficient practice? Do they forget how to have a conversation? Is it something else?
I do remember this from my days at the leasing desk…
- The leasing presentation was serious…there were people counting on me to ”
“deliver” by the book.
- I had to be “on message”…there was a pressure to perform and get it right.
- I needed to “present” and remember all of the things I was taught in training – the sales process, asking for the deposit, Fair Housing, company “rules”, important facts about my product, community, area, company directives, etc.
I am not sure this has changed much; in fact, I expect the list is a lot longer.
Our style of presenting comes from imitating what we believe we are supposed to do. We model what we know…what our parents, teachers and supervisors have done before us: we present. The problem is that we don’t go about our days presenting. I doubt many leasing professionals are sitting home on the weekend role-playing. The only time they practice presenting is in front of the customer or in a few training classes here and there. It is not second nature, and it is often scripted.
But…every day we do have conversations. Most of us are well-practiced in the area of conversing while this idea of “presenting” is awkward and sometimes uncomfortable on both sides. Today’s customer can see right through it all. A conversational tone feels more respectful, authentic, more approachable, and more listenable to your audience.
3. Be Prepared
I believe it ultimately comes down to being prepared. When you do your homework, practice, get so comfortable with your product, etc., your presentation will evolve into a conversation. Creating engagement and a successful customer experience takes preparation—blending knowledge and facts (the stuff you do before you meet) with the naturalness of a conversation. At that point your customers will be compelled to accept and remember the information you’re sharing, respect and trust you, and lease from you.
Don’t get me wrong. Using a conversational sales approach doesn’t mean you should just “wing it!” On the contrary, it’s important that you stay organized and do plenty of research and preparation beforehand. The more you know about the prospective resident before your appointment, the better. Sometimes the only different between a good Leasing Professional and a GREAT Leasing Professional are the steps they take before the customer arrives, as demonstrated wonderfully in Josh Delivers the Ultimate Apple Customer Experience.
At the end of the day, it’s the interaction between your frontline employees and the customer that often define a customer’s perception of the experience. When a customer can tell that they are being presented to, the perception of that experience suffers and this can be reflected negatively in apartment reviews. Every investment you make in strengthening the customer experience is for nothing if your employees are not having authentic conversations that demonstrate their commitment to fulfilling the desires of each individual customer.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
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