Self Storage Sales Secrets

Make a customer not a sale. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Always be closing. Coke only sold 25 bottles in its first year, so never give up. This is but a handful of the motivational sales mantras you hear today. Self Storage sales matter!

Sales philosophies are like kids: Everyone thinks theirs is the best, and they’re eager to tell you about it.

Atomic Storage Group

Ironically, none of them are wrong. Amazon offers more than 2 million books on the topic of sales, many containing good information. You could spend a fortune on books, videos, classes, and conferences, and you’d be overwhelmed with advice. To guide you in your self-storage sales process, I’ve distilled the deluge down to three philosophies.

1. Make It Fit

My first sales philosophy is to tailor your pitch to fit your personality. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. If you’ve ever met me, you know I laugh and joke all the time, and rarely take anything seriously. It drives the people close to me insane! When I offer a sales presentation or a tour of a storage facility, I’m high-energy, fun, and outgoing. However, others in my company are the opposite. So, who’s right? We all are.

People see the sincerity of a person, not the salesmanship. When you’re true to your character, people see you’re authentic, and it makes them feel comfortable and respected. They don’t feel like they’re being “sold.” You’re present in the conversation and able to engage in a helpful manner. You develop a genuine connection with customers. They’ll see, hear and feel this, and reward you by sharing their time with you.

Even though your personality should be foremost, there are sales practices you should follow. Whether you take phone calls at your facility or offer tours, you’re using techniques. And like any skill, they need to be studied and refined. Learn everything you can about sales. Even if you receive training from your company, remember there’s so much more material out there. Many storage operators severely lack basic sales know-how, so anything you can absorb will put you ahead of the game.

2. Sometimes It Works

My college philosophy professor once told us, “Some things work for some of the people some of the time.” He wasn’t talking about the business world, and yet it’s a good summary of the second philosophy behind self-storage sales.

Let’s try an experiment. Write down the three principal objections you receive from potential customers. Now, ponder how you counter these objections. Do you have planned responses for each? If you don’t, create some now! If you do, I guarantee some of them to work on some of the people some of the time. Now you need to expand this skill. If you attempt to overcome an objection one way and it fails, try another. There’s no rule that says you have just one chance. Educate yourself and practice so you have “some things for some people.”

When was the last time you updated your phone-sales techniques or tried something different? If you apply the “somethings” philosophy, you need to have variations when speaking to people on the phone, depending on their cues. What questions are you asking the customer? Are there better questions? Call 10 facilities in different parts of the country and see what you can learn from their phone presentations.

3. No Magic

A co-worker of mine, who’s an avid Harry Potter fan, inspired this third sales philosophy: There are no magic wands or words in the world of sales. If you’ve read the books or watched the films, you know Harry’s adventures take him and his friends through many trials and tribulations. Often, the only saving grace they have is the ability to wave their wands or conjure a spell to vanquish their foes. This doesn’t work in sales. Don’t get me wrong, some techniques and words are better to use. However, “magical” implies that something is easy, and sales aren’t. There are no magical words that will make your sales increase.

While what you say matters, it’s how you say it that counts. We’re in the business of storage and empathy. Operators get so caught up with saying words like value, new, guarantee, sale, easy, simple, etc., that they forget sales is about helping people get what they want and need. Shift your thinking from “I win when the customer rents from me” to “the customer wins when they choose you,” and see what happens.

If you don’t have some sort of sales training at your company, I encourage you to seek it out. Ask your owner or supervisor if you can find or do some sort of training for yourself and your co-workers. Even if you just send a monthly e-mail containing sales tips, it’s a change in the right direction.

As a self-storage operator, you should be doing what you can to sharpen your trade. Often to its detriment, our industry is viewed as a passive business when it should be viewed as a dynamic, active machine with cogs, wheels, and levers. All these parts need to be changed and pulled. By taking time to develop your sales skills, you’re making everything move significantly better.

Self Storage Customer Service

Customer service is a topic that has filled books, lecture halls, and training manuals since the dawn of retail. While the concept is fairly simple, it’s taken on an almost Herculean life of its own.

What customer-service formula should you follow for your self-storage business? Whose cute acronym will make your operation the most successful? I like to keep my business as simple as possible. In fact, I would go so far as to say “stupid-simple,” as in the KISS theory: “Keep it simple, stupid.” Here are four tricks for keeping your service model stupid simple.

Stupid-Simple Trick 1: Infusive Service

Self-storage is unique. We’re trusted with customers’ most valued possessions, but we only see most of these people for about 15 minutes, during the rental process. Then they move out a year later, and we see them for a few minutes again. The whole exchange can seem cold and unfriendly.

Since we don’t see our customers often, I like to use “infusive service.” Infusive means inspiring or influencing. Your goal is to help customers see the awesomeness of your facility. Have you ever had a tenant compliment you on the cleanliness of your property? That’s a result of infusive service. From a passive act, you’ve inspired your customer.

Infusive service is essential in self-storage. While you might only see your customers two or three times during their stay, they might visit their unit dozens of times, so everything little thing you do can have a huge impact. How do you increase infusive service? Look at everything the customer touches—figuratively and literally—and ask how you can improve that experience.

  • Word your signage so you communicate your message in an entertaining way.
  • E-mail tenants a few times before assessing a late fee.
  • Pipe music into your loading areas.
  • Spend $4 every Saturday and give away cold bottles of water.

By doing little things over time and paying attention to details, you’ll build a store brand that will inspire customers. This infusive service is the essence of operating a finely tuned facility

Stupid-Simple Trick 2: Interaction

The second trick deals with direct customer interaction. It’s typically what we imagine customer service to be. When I took a college statistics class I learned two things: One, I hated college statistics; and two, the bell curve is widely applicable to the world.

Imagine we had a bell curve to represent the self-storage customer base. On one side of the bell, you have the customers who love us no matter what we do. We could dump rats into their units and they would say, “Well, I was thinking about getting some pets.” On the other side of the curve are the people for which we can’t do anything right. They want a reduction in rent because their 10-by-10 unit is really 9 feet, 11 inches on a side. Guess what? These are also the people who are most likely to leave a bad online review. Yikes!

Your sweet spot is the people in the middle of the curve. Fortunately, this is also your majority. These are the customers who need the most attention. When they feel special and appreciated, they’ll post positive reviews, refer your property to others and be loyal tenants. We love customer reviews- check out a few here

Stupid-Simple Trick 3: The Right Staff

The third trick for providing the ultimate customer service is to put the right employees in place. In my short storage career, I’ve seen the change in industry professionalism. I tend to hire a more energetic employee, even if he’s inexperienced, while other operators might prefer a more sedate but seasoned crew. There’s no wrong way but hire for personality and attitude. At times, hiring is difficult and there may be occasions when you’re under the gun.

Nevertheless, take as much time as you need to find the right people. Teaching someone how to use the computer and operate the store is the easy part. Teaching them how to deal with customers is the hard part. If you want someone to treat your customers right, hire someone who’s friendly!

Stupid-Simple Trick 4: Guiding Principles

The fourth stupid-simple customer-service trick is to teach your employees guiding principles and give them the power to self-manage. Every company needs “rules,” but I cringe at that term. It stifles creativity and encourages people to look at things in only one way.

The worst work culture you can create is one governed by fear, where employees are afraid to fix a customer-service situation because of an angry boss. Empower your staff to solve problems as they arise. Here’s an example.

One day I was working the desk when a customer entered the store. He wanted a late fee waived because his wife had been getting the e-mails. As it was our policy to charge the fee, I informed him it was his responsibility to keep his e-mail address up-to-date, and I wasn’t going to waive the fee. He then told me his wife was sick and hadn’t told him the rent was due. Still, I said the fee would stand.

He decided it was a matter of principle to get this fee waived, and even threatened to move out. Then, after 10 minutes of arguing, I had a realization. This wasn’t who I was and not how I wanted to do business. I stopped and sincerely apologized to the customer. I waived the $15, and two-plus years later, he’s still paying $400 per month for his unit.

Guiding principles are in place to help you make good decisions. Once in a while, it makes sense to “break” the rules to provide the best service you can. We are not in the business of walls, doors, and stuff. We are in the business of trust, empathy, and people.

Atomic Storage Group

Is Self Storage a Good Investment?

Over the past five years, the storage industry has grown up and come into its own as a recognized commercial real estate investment.

The self storage industry started long ago with sheds in the backyard. Its meager roots began as “mini-warehouses” as ancillary income for otherwise unusable land. Over the past five years, the industry has grown up and come into its own as a recognized commercial real estate investment.

Self storage has grabbed the attention of private equity companies and real estate investors. Cap rates have dropped like a rock and development has increased to a frenzy. With so many people eager to invest in self storage, we must consider if self storage is a good investment. Here are some reasons to invest in self storage:


Self storage is inherently more stable than other commercial real estate classes. Storage properties can range from 200 – 2,000 units which spread the vacancy risk compared to retail with 5-10 units. In a business with five units providing revenue, losing 1 unit will result in a 1/5th drop in income. In a 500 unit storage business, losing 1/500th of revenue barely makes a dent. The diversified vacancy risk improves the stability of a self storage asset.


Self storage has a low expense ratio compared to multi-family or office. When a storage tenant vacates a unit, it merely needs to be swept to prepare for the next renter. Storage has little to no tenant improvements or make-ready costs. Compared to multi-family, there are fewer significant utility replacement costs as well. The most substantial expenses are property taxes, insurance, and labor. Labor is a hot button issue as more self storage facilities are built to be fully automated.

It is enticing to cut payroll costs by $40,000 – $60,000 a year, increasing the bottom line. However, having a property manager typically leads to faster absorption and stabilization of the property. Self storage expenses are relatively stable and predictable, making it an excellent investment as long as the numbers make sense.


Street rates and rate increases make up the rent revenue potential in self storage. Street rates can be manually adjusted or preset to change based on specific qualifications. Similar to retail, the unit characteristic can drive the price. Retail can charge more for space that faces the street compared to the elbow. Storage units on the first floor are typically more expensive than those on the upper floors. Climate-controlled units have a premium price over standard units.

Storage, unlike most commercial real estate investments, has month-to-month leases. While this may seem like a weakness to those who come from the long-term lease retail world, it’s a massive strength. Month-to-month leasing allows rate increases to be issued with only 30 days’ notice. Smart storage owners calculate the average length of stay, and base rate increases off historical data.

Month-to-month leases also reduce the risk of locking in an under-market rate and remove the need for a step-up rent standard in office or industrial real estate. Couple the ability to adjust existing tenant rates with the ease of changing the street rate and the diversified risk of vacancy, and you see why self storage is an excellent investment.


Self storage is an operating business, unlike some of the other commercial real estate classes. It’s more retail than industrial, and more multi-family than retail. “Self storage” encompasses a wide range of property types from 5 units behind a house to a 2,000 unit class A property on Main and Main. The day-to-day operations will fluctuate with the class of property, but tenants still need to pay each month, will have questions, and move in and out.

The property needs to be cleaned and maintained. The bills need to be paid, and the accounting needs to be handled. If there is a full-time on-site manager, they will need to be trained and monitored to ensure they are running the property correctly. Although storage doesn’t have the headache of “toilets,” it’s far from a passive investment, unless you employ a professional management company.

Many storage owners treat the property as passive and neglect to adjust street rates, raise rates, tend to maintenance, or adequately market. With the drop in cap rates, these owners are losing millions of dollars by not running their property as they should. Which is one of the main reasons we started the Atomic Storage Group.


Self storage used to be reasonably easy to build. The cost was low, zoning was straightforward, and demand was pent up. After 2006, self storage development halted for several years. At the beginning of the boom, storage was still reasonably easy to get off the ground.

New development absorbed renters quickly, and occupancy hovered in the high 90% for most facilities. With the tariffs and increased construction costs, development is tougher. Land prices have increased along with construction, property taxes, and payroll costs. With an abundance of new supply coming online, rates have remained flat or decreased. It’s getting harder to make the numbers work with traditional financing.

Self storage requires more investment upfront and patient money. If your investment strategy can handle your cash sitting for 3-4 years, self storage may be an excellent investment for you. Sure, there are several creative ways to finance the property. Syndications, private equity, or private investor funding are all ways to get the deal done.

However, when the REITs are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to acquire properties at a great deal because the developer couldn’t hit their projections, we should all be a little nervous. If you are new to investing in self storage, be careful about the deals you choose to pursue. The two biggest risks in storage are 1) It’s too small and can’t support itself and 2) demand isn’t there to fill the number of units available. Think about it logically. Revenue must exceed expenses.

Income in storage comes from the capacity to rent to people who need it. You need capacity (size of the property) and people (market). It’s quite difficult to make 20 units in the middle of Nowhereville Population. 1 work, no matter how well you operate. So, is storage a good investment? I believe so. I love this industry and am fully invested. To make storage a good investment, you need the right market, patient money, strong rates, and excellent operational skills.

Partnering With A Storage Management Company

Parting with a self storage management company is one of the most important decisions you can make for your investment. If you are like most self storage investors, you got into the self storage industry to create passive wealth, not deal with the day-to-day management of a business. 

Self storage is unique in the commercial real estate industry as it is both an investment AND an operating business.  The business demands time and attention to give a strong return on investment. 

Whether you want to free your time to chase more deals or relax on a beach, we suggest hiring a self storage management company (like us!)

Self Storage Management

 If you are like most of our customers, you have some questions before you are ready to give a management company the keys to the kingdom.  We get it.  Here are some things to think through before you decide on hiring a self storage management company.

Who should you partner with?

There are basically three options in regards to self-storage management companies: REIT, Private Storage Management Company, or Boutique Self Storage Management Company. To hire a REIT, your store has to meet specific criteria.  It will be integrated into a network of hundreds of facilities very quickly.  The operating systems, marketing campaigns, sales programs, and facility reporting come pre-installed. Your store will be re-branded (at your expense) to the REIT name and identity. If you decide to cancel management at any time, you need to re-brand back to your original name. 

A REIT management company may choose to purchase your property when you decide to sell. A private management company is privately owned and may have 5 – 200 properties. Private management companies may or may not make you rebrand your property. There is less consistency among private management companies, so be sure to do your homework to make sure they are a good fit. A boutique management company (like Atomic), is a true partner in your company.  Boutique companies believe it is their obligation to run your storage business to the best of their ability and take care of your asset.

Boutique companies give their customers care and attention and do not just see them as a number on a spreadsheet. They focus on the small things that matter to yield the largest benefits for their customer. They focus on the bottom line just as much as the top. At the end of the day, it all comes down to who you feel comfortable with?  What are your goals for your business?