The purpose of qualifying is to make certain that the future resident can meet the needs of your community and vice versa. Qualifying not only saves the leasing professional time, but saves the future resident time as well. Keep in mind that the qualifying process is more of a conversation than an interview. Your voice and manner should convey more of a friendly than inquisitorial tone. Your future resident will feel more at ease and they’ll respond accordingly.
Too many of us talk too much. In fact, a powerful expression that I have heard other sales professionals mention often is: “Shut up and start selling.” It’s true. The more you get your future resident to talk, the more able you are going to be to help them find the right apartment. Effective listening means more than just letting other people talk. You have to put a little energy into listening in order to absorb all that they have to say to you. Observe their tone and body language. You also need to indicate that you are listening carefully with eye contact and an occasional verbal acknowledgment.
Resist the Temptation to Qualify Without
Being as committed to your community as you more than likely are, it may be difficult to stop yourself from trying to determine whether or not a future resident meets your community’s criteria before taking the time to find out whether or not your community meets their needs. It’s important not to jump ahead or you’ll risk sounding just like another leasing professional who doesn’t care if he or she helps the person out or not. Your first commitment should be to the future resident and determining their wants and needs. Even quick references to “how great our apartments are” or especially “why we’re so much better than the competition” will undermine your attempts to show future residents that you are on their side.
The use of a guest card is very important in qualifying but before you bring it out, you’ll want to “warm up” the future resident. It’s important to first begin to relate on a more personal level. Start out by asking some very simple questions like”
- May I ask how long you’ve been looking for a new home?
- Do you prefer living upstairs or downstairs?
- Do you have any oversized furniture?
- Is there anything special you’re looking for in your new home?
Again, your goal is to show the future resident that you are interested in finding the right apartment for them – the home that suits their needs and wants – rather than just trying to find out what you need to know in order to complete the guest card. If you have already done this on the telephone, you many want to take just a minute with the future resident to recap the needs and wants that you are already aware of.
I can’t say this enough – it’s so important to simply take a moment to converse with the future resident person-to-person before you even write the first thing on the guest card. Ask at least three to four questions and listen perceptively to their responses. If you listen attentively, you’ll begin to sense when the time is right to move on to the business of the guest card. Be sensitive to timing, because this transition can seem abrupt if not handled carefully. Offer them a beverage or invite them to help themselves to drinks and snacks. When they’re ready, gently move on to obtaining the information that you need to complete the guest card. [Use AOA’s Guest Card – – members may visit www.aoausa.com to download a free copy.]
My favorite transitional technique if I haven’t already spoken to them is similar to the one I use over the telephone: “Sally, I have to ask you a few questions so that I can see exactly which of our apartments best fits your needs. May I have just a few more minutes of your time?”
I ask the question while leading them to the area where I’ll obtain the remaining information needed. The best place for this is away from your desk and telephone, possibly on a sofa (use a clipboard so you won’t have to lean over the coffee table) or in a room that’s furnished for this purpose. Try to avoid sitting across a desk from your future resident. This creates an unnecessary barrier and breaks down the feeling of a personal relationship.
Remember, that person sitting beside you is the most important person in the world at that time. Please do not answer the telephone, discuss service requests with a resident or otherwise turn your undivided attention away from your next resident. Consider how you would feel if you were in a jewelry store or car dealership getting ready to spend $12,000 or more – (the typical value of a two bedroom apartment on a one year lease) – and the person assisting you left you to answer the phone or talk to another resident.
Reprinted with permission of the Wisconsin Apartment Association News.