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All You Need Is Love

I recently had the opportunity to shop a number of new communities, and let me tell you, compared to the no-frill floor plans, kidney shaped swimming pool and fitness center the size of my desk I sold during my leasing days, it’s a salesperson’s Nirvana out there. Impeccably designed, thoughtfully appointed and generating a hip and now vibe, each of the communities I shopped was stellar. The leasing people looked professional, seemed to know availability and didn’t seem unhappy to show us around. It was, well, OK. Sort of like a date where you don’t have a bad time, you just don’t fall in love.    So what’s the problem?  It didn’t appear we were the tenth tour of the day, and none of the leasing professionals seemed to be tired or ill, they just seemed a bit... apathetic.    apathy - a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern.  Websters.   They’ve got a product that pulls out all the stops, a pleasant environment to work in and in my opinion, a great job.  They get to help people find a place to live, and that’s important.    So where’s the love? Where’s the over the moon, “I can’t stand it I love this place so much and you will too!” feeling?  Where’s the enthusiasm, the pride in product?  Why didn’t any of them look at me and say, “We want you to live here.”?    Don’t get me wrong, they pushed their product - hard. Trouble is, I felt a bit coerced and rushed to make a deci......
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What do they want? An Expert.

My son Sam has gorgeous, flaming red hair.  It is also thick and unruly, which results in a variety of bed-head that would be award-winning if there was such a contest. He likes it longer, and so do I.  A few years back, when his hair became overly shaggy and I was having a difficult time deciphering him and the dog, I took him in to my local chain salon to fix. The woman put him in the chair, threw a cape on him, looked at me, and said, “What do you want?” “A haircut,” I replied.  “No, do you want a 2, a 3, what do you want?”“I’m not sure what you are saying.  I want it a little longer, but it needs to be a bit shorter than it is right now.”“Then you want a 3.” “I don’t know.  What’s a 3?”“Number 3 clippers. Is that what you want?”  “I don’t know if I want that.  I want it longer in the back. It seems to work better when it is a little longer.”“Then you want a scissors cut?”  “I guess.  I am not a hair stylist so I am not sure I am understanding you.  I don’t want it shaved, if that’s what you mean.” “So you want a scissors cut.”  “OK.  That means you don’t use a clippers?”“Yeah.  Is that what you want?”“I think so.”  Wha, wha what?!!What did I want?  I wanted her to tell me what to do.  I wanted her, as the expert, to help me manage his unruly head of hair.  I wanted her to tell me......
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Up Your Sales Game.

  It's easy, and often tempting, to fly by the seat of our pants in this business. Ask yourself this question - “How many times have I entered a vacant apartment with a client in tow, and had no idea what I would find on the other side of that door?” Better yet, how many times have you tried to enter a vacant and the key wouldn’t work?  Lack of planning is the culprit here, and the risk is huge. Most leasing professionals make sure to know their floor plans, pricing and availability.  If they are really good, they might even be able to describe a specific apartment. The trouble with preparing much beyond that is it takes time, and you have to do it, even if you don't really feel like it.  It's easier to assume, for example, the models will look good, and the housekeeper turned the lights on, than to walk all the way over there and do it yourself, ensuring a perfect product. It's easier to use the phrase, "You'll save lots by using our fitness center" than to do the research on the specifics and then do the math, i.e. "The lowest price gym membership down the street is $42 per month. By using our fitness center for your workout needs we'll save you $504 over the course of your lease term." Knowing the specifics takes time, research and energy, but the impact in perception is huge, demonstrates your conviction and shows your clients a salesperson reall......
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It's Up To You.

Author's note. This little article generated a ton of positive response earlier this month when I sent it out as part of my eletter, so for those of you that don't receive...enjoy. Blue Monday this year was January 21st, 2013, and we don’t get to enjoy the happiest day until sometime in June. Cold weather, fading Christmas memories, broken New Year’s resolutions and no more holidays in the foreseeable future provide many an excuse to be miserable. “Hogwash!” I say. It’s all a choice. You choose to be happy or not. That simple, as demonstrated by the two stories to follow. So sit back, grab some cocoa and enjoy. I stopped by my neighborhood Home Goods store recently, and scored a fantastic deal on a couple of pillows, but that’s not the story. While waiting at the counter for my associate to look up a price, the clerk to my right finished with a client, sighed a deep sigh, bent over and laid her head on the counter. And that’s where she stayed for the next minute – eyes closed, head on the counter, in plain view of customers. (I can’t make this stuff up. Stop right now, and count to 15 to understand just how long each second seemed.) 45 seconds later,as I’m fishing for my camera, she came back to life, robbing me of a good shot of “Sleeping Checkout Girl”. Her demonstration provided great fodder for my husband who offered a plethora of thought bubbles. “Oh, I am so tired, I think I will ......
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Thanks, Zig

Zig Ziglar passed away today. The year was 1987. I had taken my first “real” job selling radio advertising for WCKK radio - The Music of Your Life! in Oshkosh Wisconsin. While enthusiastic at the opportunity, I knew absolutely nothing about outside sales, and was not at all prepared for the rejection, distrust and disinterest I was paid in trying to sell my product. In those days, selling, for most salespeople meant to manipulate or convince someone to buy your goods or services, and I was taught, and expected to use, every popular technique of the time.  Somehow, I knew in my heart it just wasn’t how I wanted to sell, and yet I didn’t know any other way, and persevered, while trying to convince myself I could be good at sales, even though nothing seemed to be working. With each rejection, I detested my job a little more, and soon was complaining about my client list and product to my husband, friends and anyone else who would listen. I had the worst list because I was the newest.  My client list contained no businesses that could even afford my product, much less sell their wares on an AM big band radio station. Nobody was listening anyway.  If I could get a job at a better station, I could actually make some money.  I started wasting time and avoiding cold calls.  My attitude was deplorable. And then, someone suggested Zig Ziglar.  I bought a cassette tape and listened as I drove around ......
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The Ultimate Goal in Service

Just got my “fresh off the presses” copy of Richard Branson’s new book, Like a Virgin, and found myself yelling, “I concur!” so often, I just had to share.  Here’s a little segment from the chapter titled, “The Customer is Always Right...except when he’s wrong” -  

The key to providing great customer service is for your management team to recognize the true worth of your front-line staff, the most talented of whom are expert negotiators with deep understanding of interpersonal relationships. Make sure that they have the tools they need to exercise those skills-that they have the information they need and they can work with real autonomy to find fair resolution to the issues that come up. (No scripts!)  

Sir Richard then goes on to say,  
If your business proposition is innovative, your ultimate goal has to be, ‘The customer always thinks that we are right.’ 

Wow. Read that last line again.

Translated, hire smart people that have a talent for communication and negotiation, and then give them the tools and autonomy to do the job they know they can do.  Teach communication skills, but don’t give them verbatim what to say.

Finally, and most profound, listen very carefully to what the consumer says they want, then take it up a notch and give them something just a little different and better. That’s how to deliver true anticipatory service.

What do you think?

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Say Whattt?!!!

The other day, I overheard an apartment manager say, “Have you read your lease?” in answer to what, apparently, was a ridiculous request, and I thought, “This is not going to end well for the resident.  Manager wins.” Then I thought of some of the other impulsive, condescending and “shut-em down” statements routinely used to keep residents in line and get them to go away.  “Your lease clearly states…” “It’s not our policy.” And my favorite… “If I did it for you, I would have to do it for everyone, or I would be violating Fair Housing.” (Admit it, you joined me in reciting that one as you read it, didn’t you?) What?  Violating Fair Housing?  Really? I cannot think of one way any of these statements could leave a positive impact or increase resident value perception.  Please, if anyone does, do not hesitate to share.   But wait, there’s more.  “I’m sorry but,”  (you know something bad is coming the minute they say, “but”). “If it were up to me, I would do it, but I could lose my job.”  And a maintenance favorite… “Yeah, they’re all like that, and I told them we needed to replace them but it wasn’t in the budget.”  When your words and tone can be translated to, “You should know better,” or “I’m really not sorry, I’m just saying that to soften what I am about to tell you” or “This place stinks and it isn’t run well because the company is too cheap to......
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Beat the Clock

I read with interest an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning concerning people’s perceived wait times in the retail environment. It seems guru Paco Underhill timed shoppers in line with a stopwatch to determine how real wait times compared with how long shoppers felt they had waited. Up to about two to three minutes, the perception of the wait was pretty accurate, but after three minutes, the perceived wait time multiplied with each passing minute. In other words, if a person actually waited 5 minutes, their perception was they had waited 10. Interesting.   Though we technically don’t make people wait in line, many times, they do have to wait. Based on this research, the longer they wait, the even greater time they will have perceived they waited. Heck, I have witnessed clients not even be greeted in 3 minutes. What’s a savvy leasing professional to do? First, understand that while lease paperwork needs to be finished, every second you spend focusing on that, rather than the customer waiting in the lobby, negatively impacts perception.  The paperwork will wait. You are paid to converse with people and lease apartments. Get to it.Second, reality dictates no matter how good you are, sometimes people will have to wait. Provide something for them to do. Show a movie in your clubhouse, have current newspapers and periodicals available, (make sure there is something for every interest), and give your clients an indication of exactly how long the wait will be. Make it their choice......
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The Power of a Simple Action

While waiting for my plane on Southwest the other day, a general ruckus caused me to look up from my work, and take note of a situation unfolding right in front of me. The ruckus was coming from a woman in a wheelchair who was clearly in distress. From her tone, it was obvious she was in one of those situations where you get so mad you cry. I can empathize with that, as I have been there.
Anyway, why she was mad, (something about the wheelchair attendant not letting her stop to eat something), was not the issue. She was just mad. A supervisor had approached and was talking to her, with little success - she just yelled louder about how upset she was between sobs, and what he did next reaffirmed everything I have been teaching about the power of body language in conveying meaning - he simply knelt down on one knee, looked her in the eye and lightly touched her arm. She immediately calmed down, stopped yelling and started listening. He promised he would take care of her, and the situation, and as she was wheeled away, she reached in his direction as if to touch him, and said, “Thank you.”
Just a friendly reminder...it’s not what you say, it’s what you convey. He cared, and she knew it. Empathy goes a long way toward making a wrong a right. Actions truly do speak louder than words. You choose.

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Can You Dig It?

Since three in four Americans show an interest in gardening today, it seems fitting to build a community garden for resident's personal and gastric enjoyment. Before you say, "Lori, we love this idea, but simply don't have the space to create a garden area - guess we'll have to pass.," consider these really cool and innovative products that will allow your residents to garden to their heart's content…in any kind of environment.If you don't have the space, but the residents have patios, or you have common areas that could use a little flower power, Urban Garden offers a pocket garden system made from recycled bottles for $29.99! It makes a perfect move in gift for the gardener, and imagine how these could beautify common area spaces! If your budget is tight, there's a 2-pocket flower box for $15.99. Both are lightweight and fold for easy storage.For that ugly old wall you just don't know what to do with, Plants On Walls living wall kit will allow you to create gardens where you never thought possible. A 32' by 51' wall kit starts at $528, and can be rearranged as the mood fits.If character is your calling, Springwise reported this week on a spiral tube shaped device called the Whirligro. So chic, and so unique! The Whirligro can be used in gardens, on balconies, decking, flatroofs or anywhere. The plants grow in compost/soil in durable growing tubes. Love it!So, there you go - get your gardening gloves on and get busy.Anybody doing......
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