"Thank You for Calling": Phone Etiquette".
Even with today's email advances, the telephone is still the lifeline of any business. It is our first impression and our first opportunity -- or if poorly done our last opportunity -- to make a sale.
Have you made a sale over the phone recently? Polished telephone techniques can lead to successful phone sales. Here are some helpful hints:
* Welcome your caller;
* Establish rapport;
* Create an interest for your caller;
* Paint a picture of your community in their mind;
* Overcome concerns; and
* Close the sale.
Welcome your caller with a friendly greeting that is brief but informative. Some greetings are so brief you may only get a company or property name. Some greeting are so long that by the time the consultant is finished, you have forgotten their name. Whatever your greeting, don't forget to smile. A smile need to be on your face each time you pick up the phone.
Establish a Rapport
Ask the caller questions about their needs and listen for key words about what is important to them. Refer to those key words in your conversation. It is easy at this point to relate to some of the caller's needs. Do not get into a conversation about yourself or something you've experienced. The caller wants to talk about their housing interests, not yours. When establishing rapport, make sure to get the caller's name and repeat your name. Then, repeat their name throughout the conversation. Always ask them to spell names that may have variation or are difficult to understand. Sending a thank you note with a misspelled name sends a poor signal to your customer.
For instance, the caller asks if you accept pets. Instead of answering "yes", ask the caller what kind of pet, the pet's name and ask them to bring a picture of the pet when they tour the property. Show interest in the pet and you show interest in the pet owner, thereby creating rapport.
If a prospective resident says they pass by your community on the way to work, ask where they work. Ask where they live also. Show them the convenience of moving to your community -- less traffic, convenient bus or shuttle service, 24-hours amenities or concierge services for a busy lifestyle. This is a good time during the conversation to use some of those closing techniques you learned in sales training. Your job here is to convince the caller that you offer them something no one else can.
Paint a Picture
Help your caller visualize their new apartment home by using descriptive words, such as, "There is a gorgeous two-bedroom apartment home overlooking our vibrantly colorful flower garden. This two-bedroom has the mammoth size closets you said were important to you. On the way to your new home, you will pass your sparkling pool, relaxing picnic area with gazebo bordered by a serene pond, which is home to a wide variety of goldfish."
Paint a realistic picture of your community. Don't bend the truth because the caller may feel they were misled. If you are having difficulty coming up with descriptive phrases or "painting a picture," there are marketing firms or property management consulting firms that can help. Your local apartment association or the National Apartment Association are good sources in finding these firms.
Refer to "the apartment home" as "their home," creating a sense of ownership.
This is probably the most difficult phase of the sales presentation. At this point of the conversation, your caller may address some concerns. Answer them accurately, and move on. It is easy to become defensive or over-protective of your community. This won't get you anywhere. Overcoming concerns requires practice. Make sure you know your product, availability and community. Practice with a friend, coworker or tape recorder. Ask your supervisor to have you phone-shopped. Knowing what to say when without sounding like you're reading a cue card takes time and experience.
Offer the Apartment
A great opportunity is lost when the leasing consultant displays exemplary phone techniques but forgets to invite the prospective resident to lease. Our ultimate goal is 100 percent occupancy. Make it a point to ask about the prospective lease at least three times during a phone presentation.
There are many subtle ways of doing so. For instance, you could say, "It is the only apartment home on the first floor near the pool that has a fireplace. I can reserve that for you today."
This is one of many ways to invite your callers to lease. Confidence that you can help the caller, pride in your community, and the ability to serve as their apartment home-provider lets the caller know that you have listened to them and that you are interested in more than just their money.
If the caller insists on seeing the apartment home before committing, remind them to bring a check or money order for the appropriate application and administrative fees.
If your company requires a photo ID to tour the property, this is a good time to remind the caller to bring such an ID with them. Then, set up an appointment and prepare materials for their visit.
Offer directions and ask if you can give them a reminder call the day before your appointment. You can also offer to fax or mail some information for review before their visit. This way, if you didn't get an address or phone number when establishing rapport, you'll have it now.
Finally, don't forget to thank the caller. Thanking them for choosing you shows respect and courtesy.
Let's put it all together now in a hypothetical phone call from the leasing consultant's prospective:
"Thank you for choosing The Best Place Apartments, this is Mary Rose and I can help you ... One-bedroom apartment homes are available sir, when would you like to move in?
Is this apartment just for yourself or will others be living with you?
Are there any pets in the family?
My name again is Mary Rose and yours is ...
Great to meet you John, do you rent now?
Is this closer to work for you, John?
New job, congratulations
Where will you be working?
We value our friends at the Big Corp John, so you don't have to pay any up-front fees to apply.
Isn't that great?
I can reserve your new home by fax, phone or email. Which way is more convenient for you?
John, I have two different apartments available, may I tell you about them?
I can understand your wanting to see your new apartment home before committing John. If there is one you favored over the other, I can hold it for you with just a short application -- there is no financial cost for you to do this. (closing)
John, what's your number at home? ... (pause then repeat number) ... and a fax number to send you information and an application?
What time today can you get here to tour?
Saturday, sure, I'll be here from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; we'll set an appointment.
Do you know how to get to your new apartment home, John?
Don't forget to bring a photo ID on Saturday. I'll need you to leave it here in the office while we tour your new home.
John, thanks for choosing The Best Place Apartments, you're going to love it here.
May I call you Friday (repeating phone number) for an appointment reminder?
Don't forget to fax back that application. I'll write my fax number on the top. See you Saturday John, and have a great day.
Then, document the call, fax the paperwork you promised, make the reminder call, record the appointment date and time, prepare the materials for the visit and walk through the apartment homes you are going to show.
Even if you don't rent over the phone, remember to follow up. The key to any successful sales presentation is follow-up.
Mary Rose Lemons, CAM Ms. Lemons is a former property manager who began her property management career in 1988.