Part One of Three: Review the Leasing Process
Over the years, several different leasing approaches and philosophies have come and gone. Our industry has changed, and more importantly, so have the people we serve. Though many of the techniques that we used in the past are still valid, many others are no longer effective. Where people once wanted to be sold, they now prefer to be served, and today’s leasing approach must fulfill this desire in order to be effective. In other words, we are no longer in the business of simply selling the features and benefits of our apartments and communities. Today’s most successful leasing strategies call for demonstrating how those features and benefits are in keeping with the lifestyle expectations and desires of our future residents. The difference isn’t as subtle as it seems on the surface. Where it was once enough to simply close a lease on an apartment that met the future resident’s immediate needs; today’s resident wants and expects a longer-term commitment. If you really want to succeed in leasing apartments you must move beyond “leasing apartments” to helping the future resident solve their moving and lifestyle needs and wants.
Information is one of today’s most valuable commodities, and as a leasing professional, you possess a wealth of information about one of the most valuable decisions an individual can make — their choice of a home. Naturally, the future resident who has gone to the trouble of contacting you has done so because they want you to help them find the new apartment home that best meets their wants and needs. Needs are easy — most of the old leasing approaches can handle needs, hands down. Wants are a little more personal. Determining what they are requires that you win a future resident’s confidence; and satisfying them means that you’ll have to develop an effective rapport. As you can imagine, conveying a committed, resident-oriented attitude while successfully satisfying the future resident’s wants and needs requires a comprehensive approach. This approach is known as relationship leasing.
Focusing on the needs and wants of the future resident is only one of the skills that relationship leasing requires. Leasing Professionals must also develop the skills to exercise personal judgment, build a long-term relationship in order to improve resident retention, ensure the ongoing satisfaction of both residents and future residents, and connect with them personally as a true professional in the apartment home decision-making process. This means knowing your resident’s needs and wants, and then positioning your community, apartments and services to remain their number one choice.
Relationship leasing involves focusing on building a relationship with the future resident. Closing ratios and leases are increased because instead of pushing apartments, you are presenting a more comprehensive commitment to improve their lifestyle and serve them throughout their residency. Relationship leasing emphasizes the intangible side of every lease. It includes not only the apartment, community and services; but also the real value that each of these offers the resident, and what you personally bring to the mix.
Relationship leasing requires leasing professionals to understand where they are coming from, to maximize their strengths, to learn new skills, and to take full responsibility for managing the leasing process. It’s your responsibility in leasing to fully understand your future residents and how you can help them before you lease them an apartment. With Relationship leasing, you are in the driver’s seat at all times. You have a clear understanding of where you are in the leasing process and what it will take to have this person as your newest resident. The days are gone of closing hard, offering a concession and overcoming objections and then hoping for the lease. With relationship leasing, you create the relationship and mix in the leasing techniques that work. The rewards of being resident-focused are increased commitment, loyalty, referrals, and of course increased occupancy and reduced resident turnover! Relationship Leasing Professionals are top producers because they are connected to their Residents beyond the scope of their apartments and services, and way beyond their competition. The key to success in relationship leasing is to understand what happens during the future residents’ decision-making process and how you can positively influence their decision.
Relationship leasing helps you differentiate yourself from the crowd of competitors first by the approach you’ll take and finally by the results you’ll obtain. Your future and new residents will view you as a true professional expert. The relationship between resident and leasing professional is powerful, and it is your responsibility to foster that relationship so that both sides win. Many of you have already experienced the power of relationship building in the leasing process with future residents who have leased from you and prefer to continue to deal with you personally when they have a service request or a problem to be resolved. The reason for this is that you did a great job of relationship building in the leasing process!