A recent episode of “This American Life” featured a very proper British woman who discussed the seven things that should never be brought up in polite conversation. Among them, “route talk,” your health, your diet, your dreams and money.
It left me with very little to say.
Fortunately—for everyone—I’m not working in a leasing office. My stories of frantic WebMD searches, tangents about binge eating a box of granola bars while watching Bachelor in Paradise and graphic descriptions of roadkill I saw while driving to work—unpleasant though they may be—are reserved for my poor friends and family. No prospective residents involved.
The workplace is a different story, though. According to Don Davidoff, Founder of D2 Demand Solutions, the first two minutes of interaction with a prospective resident can determine whether the sale is won or lost.
Given the brief amount of time, it's important that leasing professionals have a clear process to start strong. Here are three rules to follow to ensure conversations start strong and stay that way throughout the process.
1. Best-Friends Conversation. The first (and most important) rule is that your goal shouldn't be to make a sale. Instead, it should be to have a "best-friends" conversation. Just don’t take this too literally, as most “best-friends” conversations are NSFW.
But think about it: If an old friend just walked in knowing that you have expertise about apartments and asks, "Where should I live?" you wouldn't jump right into features and benefits. You'd catch up with them, learn what's important and advise them on what they should do. If there was a match and it meant moving into your community that would be great, but if your community weren't a match, that would be fine, too.
And then you’d get back to gossiping about your other friends.
Prospects can sense your intent. If you're not aligned with them, they'll feel it. They may not be able to put words to the feeling, but it will have a material negative impact on the rest of the process.
2. Assume Positive Outcomes. Whenever you meet with someone, always assume that you can help them. Assume that they'll value your opinion and that things will go positively. This assumption creates a confidence that is attractive to prospects. Just as they can sense if you’re not aligned with their interests, your confidence will have a material impact on the outcome (and enjoyment) of the sales effort.
3. Don't Interrogate. It is true that the most powerful thing you can do as a salesperson or leasing associate is to ask good questions. However, it is critical that the conversation never feels like an interrogation for your prospect (and it's a fine line).
Ever been on one of those first dates that feel more like a job interview than a friendly chat to find out if you’re compatible? It’s a lot like that.
Questions should be conversational. Keep them open-ended and ask follow-up questions. Use the "tell me more" technique to keep your prospect comfortable and sharing. Pretend to reach for your purse when the check comes.
Wait—that last tip was just for dating.
For the full set of rules, check out “Tips for Starting Conversation,” in the August issue of units Magazine.