Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sales or Consultant. Who Do You Hire?



I was meeting with a newly hired VP of Property Management when he asked me what I looked for when hiring or working with leasing consultants. When I answered that I look for a service oriented person no matter what the position is onsite, he quickly cut the conversation off and dismissed me. I thanked him and then turned back. (Not necessarily to get the last word, more to appease my gut instinct) I said I thought it was a mistake to look for the killer instinct salesperson.

When a leasing consultant takes on the role of only looking for the commission, I truly, with all my heart and gut, feel they will never take on the other duties of being a leasing consultant: looking at the best interests of the property while always considering how they can be better caretakers of the residents. It seems those that are only interested in the commission look forward to the next commission and never stay in the present moment of wanting to serve the residents they have “sold a bill of goods to.”

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is Your Property Short Staffed?



There has been a surprising number of multifamily posts recently on the topic of following up with Prospect leads. Maybe it is because it’s an attempt to promote webinars or conference sessions coming up in the next few months and I am curious why there is so much debate about it. After all, if you receive a lead from one of your sources: Apartment Guide, Rent.com, Craigslist, Apartments.com, or your own website, why wouldn’t you follow up? Instead, the debate is likely about the timeliness (or lack thereof) of the community’s response.

On a recent community visit, I noticed one person in the office. That one person was trying to talk to a contractor, getting keys for his project, a maintenance tech asking her to override his time sheet because he made a mistake when entering his time on the computer, the phone was ringing, a resident walked in wanting to sign his renewal, when in walked the apartments.com rep to meet the manager and show her how his product would bring in so many new leads. This was the very definition of chaos. 

I am sure there were unanswered emails in her in box, some of which would be from interested Prospects. How long they are in the que is anyone’s guess. However, I think we can all agree that this was an understaffed office. It doesn’t matter why it’s understaffed, but I can tell you, it was stressful to watch. I can only imagine what it would have been like had a Prospect walked in and saw all that.
Here’s the thing about leasing and follow up. It comes in waves all day long. People get online at 8:00 pm and send out those generic “A renter is interested in your property” with nothing more than a faceless name, their email and maybe a phone number. A huge majority do not even specify the floor plan or move in time frame. I can tell you, for a leasing professional, the ones not including these facts will NOT be responded to first.

When I am working with new leasing consultants, emphasis is placed on follow up, in a very specific way.
1.       Look for WHEN the person wants to move in. The person who is looking to move in right away should be contacted ASAP.
2.       Look at the floor plan. Check for availability before responding.
3.       Look for their preferred contact method. Is it by phone or email? Respond first according to this preference. However, I have found that if you do not get a response to your email within 4 hours, you should call and at least try to leave a message.
4.       There is a lot of debate, too, on whether or not you should personalize the message. I advise having a template you can adjust to suit their preferences that includes property info, office hours and their floor plan availability and description. 

What about the faceless Prospect who doesn’t tell you anything relevant? Reach out by email or phone when you can, when you have time to breathe. While it is better to be able to respond right away, sometimes, it can actually take several points of contact to reel in the person to the Leasing Office. What is the BEST thing of all, is to make leasing ONLINE an option and easily accessible to all Prospects. Streamline your process! In fact, for those properties that are understaffed, use a call center service; make it your business to use the second hour of the day, the fifth hour, and the almost last hour to check for Prospect contacts – respond or follow up. In between, do the best you can and charm them with your killer personality the minute someone walks in the door no matter what else is happening or has happened that day. 

Leasing is not always easy. Quit criticizing professionals in understaffed offices. Start criticizing management companies for having understaffed offices instead. Give the right tools to your onsite teams to help streamline leasing (and maintenance for that matter.) If you have a team in place who is NOT dealing with understaffing issues, and they are still not following up in a timely fashion, then that is a different problem altogether.