6 Sales and Strategy Tips From a Big-Time Apartment Manager

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on September 1, 2011
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Managing your own house is tough enough. Now envision managing 1,000 of them.

Business consultant Nancy Butler managed more than 1,000 apartments in Connecticut over the course of a dozen years and learned everything from how to close the sale with a new renter to how to keep them happy after they’ve moved in. Here are six strategies from Butler on achieving success in this industry — or just about any other.

  1. Understand the tenant’s point of view. When Butler met with prospective tenants, she asked them in detail about their preferences. “Some might say, ‘I want to be on the top floor because I don’t want noise over my head,’” she says. Focus on providing people with something that fits their specific needs.
  2. Show off the product. Instead of simply walking visitors through an apartment, Butler made a tour of it. “I’d walk backwards and take them through, so that I could show them every little feature,” she says.
  3. Turn a negative into a positive. If Butler suspected a visitor wouldn’t like a particular feature, she’d make a point of acknowledging it — and dispel fears. “I’d tell them, ‘True, it’s a small kitchen, but it’s perfect for when you want to have coffee and a doughnut. If you need more space, you can use the dining area.’”
  4. Give the customer time to decide. When a couple came to view an apartment, Butler always gave them time to discuss the apartment on their own after she’d completed her tour. “If they don’t get space to talk on their own, they might leave to talk and not come back,” she says.
  5. Keep the customer happy. After tenants moved into an apartment, they’d occasionally call to report a problem, such as a leaky faucet or a broken heater. “The most important thing is keeping the person calm and getting them to understand that you’re going to do whatever you can to make things right,” Butler says. She’d have her staff go through a checklist of questions to determine specifically what the problem was, and if it needed to be fixed urgently. “Don’t guarantee that anything’s going to be done by a set time, but guarantee that someone will get back to the tenant within a 24- or 48-hour period,” she says. “People just want to know that they’re being heard and that you’ll do the best you can do.”
  6. Find the right people. Whether hiring staff, signing with clients, or selecting tenants, it’s always important to make sure that the relationship will be a good fit. Butler ran credit and background checks on potential tenants, and as a result, she rarely had problems collecting rent. “We didn’t have a hard time because we got the right people in there to begin with,” she says.
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