If The Property Management Show looks and sounds a bit different this time around, it’s because the podcast has new hosts.
Marie Liamzon is the Director of Product Development at Fourandhalf and Brittany Stephens is the Director of Client Success at Fourandhalf. They got together with Sandy Highland of Sacramento Delta Property Management just after PM Grow to talk about the overarching theme of the conference and the current buzz in the industry: customer experience and customer relationship.
Sandy does a particularly good job of making people feel important, which is a critical component in improving your customers’ experiences.
Sandy Highland’s Story: A Brief Background
Sandy has been the Business Development Manager (BDM) at Sacramento Delta since 2015, and she started with the company in 2007. The VP who hired her was a mentor and a true professional who was willing to teach Sandy everything she needed to know about property management, which was a new industry for her.
After Sandy became the VP’s assistant, her mentor became ill and passed away. One of the last things she said to Sandy was get your license, so she did. She finished her licensing courses and convinced her broker she was ready to jump into the management process.
“She’s with me every day,” Sandy said. “Sometimes I feel her words coming right out of my mouth.”
Sacramento Delta manages between 1,700 and 2,000 doors depending on the season. It’s a large company that maintains the feel of a small family business.
Talking to Customers about Pain and Fear
If you could listen to Sandy’s sales calls, you’d find it interesting how naturally she gets people to open up to her. It’s because she’s willing to let them talk about their fears.
Everyone who calls your property management company is afraid of something.
Maybe it’s an investor with a large portfolio who is coming off a bad experience with another property manager, and they fear that every management company is the same. Maybe it’s someone who has been self-managing and is afraid and overwhelmed. Sometimes, callers can’t articulate what exactly they’re afraid of and they don’t know what to ask. It’s your job to talk them through it and figure out how to fix it.
Finding out where your prospect’s paint point is and what they’re afraid of will help you close more business and develop a better customer relationship.
This is the same strategy you use with content marketing. People go online to ask questions and if you can offer solutions and answers in public and in real time, they’ll feel more comfortable.
When someone is worried that a tenant will trash the house, you know that this is a personal investment as well as a financial investment for that owner. When someone calls to share their fear of having to evict tenants, you need to really listen and ask questions and do everything you can to alleviate the fear.
Asking Questions and Establishing Personal Connections
Start with the basic questions. What’s the status of the property? Is there a tenant in there now?
Even when a property is occupied by a great tenant and things are going well, managing that home is time consuming and exhausting. That’s how many of your self-managing landlords will feel when they call you.
If your caller is currently with another property management company and unhappy, find out why. This is important because if they’re angry about something that’s pretty standard in the industry, you can find yourself the next target of their frustration.
For example, fences are notorious for taking time because there has to be due diligence and neighboring properties have to be on board with the fence. So if an owner wants to leave his property manager because the fence he approved a month ago still hasn’t shown up at the property, you’ll want to be sympathetic but also temper his expectations.
Make sure that you aren’t going to provide the same pain points.
From Selling to Delivering Services
To effectively sell your services, you have to have a strong faith in your property management team. Have a system in place that ensures the services you’re providing are as outstanding as the services you’re selling. It’s the only way to win and retain customers.
You also don’t want to promise what you cannot deliver. This isn’t fair to your property managers. You don’t want them to be thrown into a situation they can’t handle. Be direct about what you can do and what you will do. Point out what differentiates you from the competition.
Adapting to the Style of Your Prospect
When you’re developing a meaningful relationship with prospects, make sure you’re flexible enough to adapt to their style of communication. Some people want to talk about everything on the phone. Others would rather have it all in front of them in writing. Some prospects will just want your rates and some rental values.
You should be confident that you’ll measure up in any way that you communicate your services and your value.
That confidence comes from knowing that the foundation of your operations and systems are good. You can stand behind what you’re offering.
Your reputation is important, and when you’re on the phone with a prospective customer, you’re feeding that reputation. Reinforce the positive reputation you already have.
You might have to vary your discussion based on where the lead is coming from. Sandy has found that word of mouth leads and Realtor referrals will stick faster. She has to do less explaining when the prospects know something about her already.
But, other prospects may play the what-if game for an hour. They’ll want to know what happens if a tenant doesn’t pay rent, what happens if a pet damages the floors, etc.
Be patient and build trust.
Keep in Touch with Leads – Personally
Make notes for every conversation so you can reference things that were discussed previously the next time you’re on the phone. Sandy has had leads call her three years after their initial conversation, finally ready to do business.
When you follow up, it has to be more than an automated email. Those nurturing emails and drip campaigns are useful, but a personal phone call every few months is also an important way to stay in touch and provide a great customer experience. Share stories that are interesting to your prospects. Offer free rental comps – anything you can do to keep in touch.
We are all consumers and we have all been treated badly at least once before. It’s important not to let the prospects or the customers you’re talking to feel processed. Work on those personal connections so you can keep the clients you have now and build a larger base of new clients.
Remember that retaining clients is less expensive than an ad on Google.
Responsiveness is Part of Customer Service
Business Development Managers (BDMs) like Sandy often bring in the clients and then hand them off to property managers. The relationship will be a little different, but hopefully your BDM will be willing to continue taking calls from those clients when necessary. Sandy points out that she hears from customers when they’re thinking about buying a second or a third property and they want to know how those homes will compare to the one they already own.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of accessibility. Sandy is easier to reach because she’s in the office most of the week. Property managers are in the field, managing inspections and showing properties and meeting with maintenance vendors. If a client she brought into the company wants to call and ask her about a rent survey, she’s happy to respond.
Make sure the transition from BDM to property manager is smooth. The customer should still feel important. If you’re doing your job right, those customers will be so happy that you won’t hear from them very often.
A big part of customer service is responsiveness. Sometimes, property managers get a bad rap because prospects don’t know what they do. So if a property manager doesn’t pick up the phone right away, they don’t know that it’s because the property manager is out doing his or her job.
Establish in-house standards about how quickly you get back to people. There should be some hard and fast standards about how fast your team picks up the phone. The people calling will likely be shocked that a live person is answering the phone and willing to answer questions. Your prospects don’t get that everywhere. It’s shocking how many property management companies don’t answer the phone.
Everyone is Important, and Passion Translates
Talking to Sandy, you can tell she has fun at her job and she loves what she does. Her personality makes people feel special, and it’s a great example of how to treat employees, clients, prospective clients, vendors; anyone you come into contact with. Your co-workers are your customers, too.
Vendors can be a great source of referrals, so treat them like they’re important. Word of mouth advertising, remember, is free!
It all goes back to listening. If you really listen to your customer and put yourself in their shoes, you can get them out of their pain and fear. Some people are in a real jam. Property management is never boring, and you need to make sure people don’t feel like they’re all alone.
Sandy’s next steps in her business are to master event planning and demonstrating gratitude. Make sure you’re working out your own strategy for how to show your existing clients that you’re grateful for their business.
Sandy can be reached at Sacramento Delta Property Management, and if you have any questions about this podcast or internet marketing for property management companies, please contact us at Fourandhalf.