Leasing Agent Sales Learning Delivers a Huge Payoff

Considering they represent multifamily’s sales force, it’s amazing how few leasing agents are effectively educated in how to close leases. Some come from sales backgrounds, but others from previous positions as leasing agents or retail jobs without ever being formally exposed to basic sales principles and product knowledge.

Leasing agents often wear many hats in the front office, with sales as just one of their responsibilities. Most are familiarized with essentials such as how your software works, Fair Housing regulations and your specific business practices and processes. But even when their primary duty is showing and selling apartments, they often lack training that would be considered elementary if they were selling something else.

At the recent RealWorld conference in Las Vegas, managers in attendance were clamoring to hear more about the addition of new sales training components to the EasyLMS multifamily learning management system, with over 100 attendees packing the EasyLMS session. It was evident that the managers recognize the potential payoff of incorporating more sales skills into EasyLMS as part of “basic training” for leasing agents.

The EasyLMS team envisions clients exploiting the following learning and more to turn leasing staff into razor-sharp salespeople. The EasyLMS catalogue has some of this material already built in, and clients can add their own to create a perfectly customized training experience. This is a great way to initiate new hires and have them be effective right from the get-go.

Basic sales and closing techniques

As mentioned above, it’s striking how many agents are placed at a desk to lease apartments without ever having experienced a basic course in selling. Even an elementary course can be hugely valuable, and leasing agents actually appreciate adding the skills to their resumes. Besides, selling is more fun and rewarding when you know the techniques and experience them in action instead of improvising.

Most important is having leasing agents understand that they’re not selling what the community offers as much as fulfilling what the prospects need. Experienced salespeople understand that sales begins with probing the customer to identify their particular wants and needs, then matching their products to these needs. But too many leasing agents run through the list of community assets without searching for those all-important signals. Even a brief exposure to basic sales techniques built into your learning system can make a world of difference in sales results.

What’s unique about the community

This is knowledge that EasyLMS clients can add to the learning database themselves. It might seem your leasing agents already know the selling points of their properties, but do they know, for example, how units at their community stack up to similar ones at the property down the street? As in sales of any other product, you have to know the “unique selling proposition” to be effective. Too many leasing agents simply show off their properties as if in a vacuum, not considering that prospects are likely looking at others at the same time, in roughly the same price range and with generally the same amenities. Have you trained your leasing agents on the specific advantages your properties have over those of competitors? This is especially important in the case of new hires; you don’t want to wait six months for them to absorb the competitive selling points of the property. These are things they should know right up front.

Industry knowledge

Shouldn’t salespeople know a fair amount about the business they’re in? Many leasing agents understand their day-to-day responsibilities, but don’t know much about the multifamily industry as a whole. What are the factors that cause multifamily businesses to make and lose money? What are the current market trends, both locally and nationally? It can be helpful for leasing managers to be able to see their jobs in the context of the wider industry, and understanding how they fit into the big picture also tends to increase job satisfaction.

Marketing techniques

Some multifamily managers push marketing initiatives from the home office out to the sites. Others leave a lot of the responsibility to the sites themselves. Either way, marketing should involve more than simply observing what other properties are doing, or what leasing agents have done in the past. It pays to build information on marketing techniques into your learning management system, and keep it updated to incorporate new and creative ones as they come along.

Hot buttons

At one point, granite countertops were the hot amenity that could help close a lease. Gyms, package receipt and storage for residents, sun decks, pet services and other extras flash on to the scene, then sometimes become ho-hum to prospects. When crime surges, a safer neighborhood and tight security is on renters’ minds. Sure, you can expect your leasing agents to mention the usual onsite and neighborhood amenities, but a knowledge of what’s “hot” can really help in sales. When indoor cycling is all the rage, it’s wise to have leasing agents mention that there’s a center a block away. One good thing about a customizable learning management system is that not only can it contain general education, it can be tailored per property to incorporate site-specific learning.

The talents and knowledge of leasing agents in the front office are more directly connected to your bottom line than any other business factor. After all, making money starts with leasing the apartments. Consider adding sales and marketing skills to your arsenal of educational resources and you can expect a handsome payoff.


Author and Contributor

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Based in New Orleans, Guy Lyman is a professional writer with over 25 years’ experience writing about multifamily and commercial real estate. Lyman is a frequent contributor and writer for the Property Management Insider blog.

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