How to Know it's Time to Improve Your Leasing and Sales Process
by Donald Davidoff | February 20, 2018
Over the years we’ve reviewed quite a few multifamily sales processes and training programs. The number one thing they’ve all had in common is (to put it nicely) they’re old. They’re built for a time that no longer exists. The impact of this is twofold:
- It puts a drag on leasing performance and pricing while increasing lead generation costs.
- It creates a negative customer experience, harming word-of-mouth and Net Promoter Score (NPS).
With leasing season just around the corner, now is a great time to give your leasing/sales process a check up. If you’re wondering whether yours needs improvement, here are five signs that the time to improve your leasing and sales process has come:
1. If You Hear Yourself Saying (or Thinking) “Our Leasing Associates Just Need to Close Better”
The idea that closing is the key to successful selling has always been a myth. In multifamily sales, it’s just harmful. A focus on closing:
- Gets leasing associates focusing on the wrong things
- Is frustrating to prospective residents who are visiting your communities
- Creates a bad experience/feeling for the leasing associates
Show me a leasing associate who is having a problem closing, and I’ll show you a leasing associate who is making a mistake earlier in the sales cycle. The “sale” is made in the inquiry and advocacy phases, not at “the close.”
Additionally, closing rate is a not an ideal metric to solely rely on in multifamily sales. If you’re implementing an intelligent pricing and revenue management model, the higher your closing rate is, the harder your pricing system is going to work to raise rents to the point where your conversion rate decreases. This may be the right answer for pricing, but creates a bad experience for associates if their performance is solely tied to their closing rates.
2. If Your Leasing Associates Conduct 3 Tours in a Row that are Identical
If you were to ask me my number one pet peeve about the sales approaches that dominate the multifamily industry, the approach to touring would undoubtedly be the top. Most of the sales processes we’ve reviewed are process-centered rather than prospect-centered. This leads associates to treat every visitor in the same way – despite any differences.
We’ve written a lot about the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). ZMOT highlights how prospective residents are moving to a self-driven journey and a significant reason is the experience they have when they engage salespeople (or leasing associates). Far too often the experience doesn’t add anything that they can’t already learn online.
Effective leasing processes tailor the experience to the prospective resident. Every prospective resident is different, and therefore every experience should be different as well.
3. If Your Prospect Survey Scores or NPS Start Trending Down
It’s great that more operators are utilizing approaches like NPS to identify areas to improve their customer experience. It’s easy to forget that your sales process is the first moment of truth for a prospective resident, and therefore a crucial component of the overall resident experience.
Surveys are a fantastic way to gauge prospective resident satisfaction. If you want to understand what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong, you should be doing a prospect survey. If your prospect survey scores start trending down, that's absolutely an indicator that your leasing and sales process needs a refresh.
4. If Your Secret Shops Focus on the Mechanics of the Sale, Rather than the Alignment
A prospect-centered approach truly and authentically aligns with the prospective resident. What we mean by that is that the needs of the prospective resident are at the core of the entire process during each stage of the leasing process.
A common problem we see in leasing performance systems happens when the training moves to more modern, effective approaches, but the management and review of the process doesn’t align with what is being taught. For example, if you’re still using secret shops that assign point values for specific actions, there’s a good chance your system is out of alignment and needs to be tweaked, if not fully updated.
Designing shops and metrics to align with and reinforce the right behaviors and drivers of performance is hard, but worth the effort. You may be familiar with the old adage what gets measured gets done. Don’t forget the corollary to that adage, what’s easy to measure is rarely the right thing to measure.
5. If Associate Turnover is Trending Up or is Over 35%
Employee turnover is a fact of life in multifamily. Turnover is disruptive, costly and degrades the customer experience. With an overheated economy that has unemployment at historic lows, operators must do everything they can to minimize the rate and impact of turnover.
Today operators need leasing associates more than leasing associates need operators. A major contributor to turnover is the employee experience. If your associates find the activities they’re doing in their job to be too scripted or rote, they're not likely to be very engaged. That leads to poorer prospect experience and ultimately increased turnover.
With traditional sales approaches (which still dominate the operator world) associates must often behave in a manner that is not natural to them. It’s not unusual for even the most successful salespeople using a traditional sales approach to feel that they must behave like someone they don’t particularly like to be successful.
A modern sales process that is aligned with how buyers behave, engage, shop, learn and buy not only drives greater leasing performance, it’s also far more enjoyable for the salesperson. A common refrain from associates who implement the InSite Sales Performance™ program is that they don’t feel like they’re selling, yet people are signing their leases more easily. Our response is always: if you feel like you’re selling you’re probably doing something wrong. A strong, aligned sales process can have a tremendous impact on reducing the rate (and impact) of turnover.
Poor sales and leasing numbers are not simply training issues. They are process issues. With the world changing at a faster rate and as customers become even more empowered, the time has come to review your approach.