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How To Never Have A Vacancy: Sales Skills For Apartment Owners, Leasing Agents and Managers

Updated on September 9, 2014

How To Master The Art & Science of Sales & Success (read in this order)

Sell or Be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life
Sell or Be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life
This book will introduce you to selling and lay down a solid foundation for you. This is as much a book about life as it is selling!

"You're In The People Business, Not In The 'X' Business" -Grant Cardone

If you own, manage or work for an apartment complex, whether it's 4 units, 40 or 400, in addition to that industry, you are also a sales person!

Surprise! Bet you didn't know that!

In addition, did you know that you are in the people business long before you're in the real estate, property management, leasing business?

Any time you have a vacancy, you have interrupted your cash flow. Whether you are employed by a management company or are the apartment manager, I'm sure we can all safely agree that vacancies are bad.

You must not only be able to sell your potential tenant on why you have the perfect place for them to hang their hat, you must also continue to reinforce that they made the right decision after all.

With the economy as unstable as it is, you can no longer rely on a market. You need to take responsibility for and start creating your own economy.

Let's take a look at what Grant Cardone has to say about this. Grant Cardone is an International Sales Expert and NY Times best selling author. He provides Motivation & Sales Training Programs to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, success minded individuals and entrepreneurs.

You may have seen Grant on Fox Business, NBC, MSNBC, and Business Insider.

Grant is also the executive producer and star of "Turnaround King", a TV program created around his motivating solution oriented business coaching.

Add in a real estate portfolio that is near $100,000,000 and it's safe to say, he's got some wisdom in this area.

Let's take a look at some of Grant's principles and paradigms. These are concepts that you can apply to get immediate results, fill those vacancies and best of all, never have to worry about vacancies again.

Step 1: Recognize you're also a sales person

You were born a natural sales person. If you don't believe me, go watch a kid in the candy isle at the supermarket and then get back to me.

Somewhere along the road, you got "natural born sales person" trained out of you. It's time to remember what it's like to ask, justify and persist. It's also time to forget your fear of doing so.

  1. Nothing happens in this world until a sale is made. In this world, business transacts and individuals exchange goods and services for money, products, time. At some point, you will need an agreement from someone. Whether that's on what movie to see tonight, to employment, all the way to why you deserve this home loan.
  2. You're on commission. Your job currently is a modified form of commission. If the company you work for doesn't generate revenue, they can't pay you. Even if you're not actively "selling" something, if you and every employee doesn't contribute to the company generating revenue, soon enough you'll be looking for work. Anytime you get an agreement from someone, that's a commission. Consider that for a second.

Bottom line here is that we are all part of the sales team in our company. As a leasing agent, you need to do more than just schedule appointments, show apartments and fill out forms. Apartment managers you are the front line, the face of the company. If you own the building you manage, you wear multiple hats probably. From manager to maintenance to now, sales force.

  • Why should a tenant choose your building?
  • Why should a tenant spend more than they budgeted to live in your building?
  • Why should they sign a 12 month lease right now and not think it over?

Can you answer those questions with conviction in your heart? Do you rely on the market and assume the vacancy will fill on it's own? Do you have a take it or leave it attitude or do you just continue to lower the price until someone settles?

Those are all very expensive methods of running the business and filling vacancies. So, the first step here is to acknowledge that you are also a sales person in addition to being the manager, leasing agent or owner. When you rent a unit, that's your fault and when you don't rent a unit, that too, is your fault.

How Sold Are YOU?

Step 2: When Value Exceeds Price, People Hook Up!

Any of these sound familiar?

  • Let me think it over...
  • I want to have my wife look at it...
  • We're just looking right now...

Have you ever wondered why people say things like this? Better yet, why do YOU say things like this?

Here's some food for thought for you. An individual will part with their hard earned money only when the value of the good or service FAR exceeds the value of the paper in their wallet. Isn't that true for you?

So, what does that mean to you? Simple, if you're showing a two bedroom one bath unit that rents for $1100, you want to show your future tenant this unit as if it was worth double if not triple that. Build so much value in the unit that the price you're asking seems not just cheep, but that it would be a mistake not to sign a lease right now!

So, a couple questions for you to ask yourself right now.

  1. How sold on the unit, the building and the company are YOU? If you're not IN LOVE with the building, the tenants, the location, the amenities, the size, the appearance, etc, how will you be able to justify the price? Simple. You won't.
  2. Do you know the right questions to ask when some one comes to "look?" The reason I put look into quotations is because that is your first clue. No one and I mean no one goes to "just look." They are there to solve a problem. Your job is to help them solve that problem and show them specifically why your property solves that problem for them. What can you ask them to stimulate a conversation that will allow you to build MASSIVE value in your property?
  3. Are you prepared to handle any resistance? People, yourself included, have natural resistances to spending money. No matter how good a job you've already done with your presentation, people aren't always confident in their ability to make a good decision. If you are prepared and well trained, you should be able to handle and assist your new tenant in making this important decision.

So, this section is about making sure you are completely sold, then, knowing how to build so much value in your property that your price is a bargain and finally that you're prepared to handle objections that come up.

SUCCESS TIP #1: Objections and resistance to moving forward is not a bad thing. It means the prospect is interested and struggling to make sense of something so they can move forward. Your job is to help them make sense of it, what ever that may be which leads to...

SUCCESS TIP #2: More often than not, as Grant will tell us, "it's almost never price." If someone tells you it's too much, it could mean it's too much for that unit or it means that you haven't completely solved their problem. Also, when someone asks for a discount, it means they want to do business. Treat it as such and help them find a way to justify the money.

Master these tips right here, and you'll never have to worry about vacancies again because you will be in control of the outcome; not fate or chance.

Step 3: Service is Senior!

Building value does not end after you do your move in pre-inspection and hand over the keys. It is crucial that you recognize that this tenant and all your tenants for that matter are the reason you're eating right now, have a roof over your head and drive the car you drive.

Service is critical to your survival. It's making sure that your tenants re-sign a lease with you and are comfortable with staying there a long time.

Take care of these people! Why is The Ritz Carlton even in business? Why would someone drop that kind of coin just for a place to sleep? Even if you wouldn't of couldn't, if you can understand why people do, then you will understand how to treat your tenants. How do you want your building to be perceived? As a Ritz or a Super 8?

You have to be willing to provide a Ritz experience. The more you demonstrate your willingness to be of service and help to your tenants, the less you'll be putting ads on Craigslist and putting up the NOW LEASING sign.

In Grant's book, Sell Or Be Sold, Grant will tell you that, people do and will pay more for a great attitude, excellent experience, convenience and feeling special. When have you paid more for something because of the attitude, service, experience, etc. How much do you pay to go to Disneyland? Is the price of a movie ticket fair? A fancy restaurant? No, they're all "too much" but they fill a need and we find a way to justify the money.

So, the question for you is, how can you, with the resources you have, make sure your tenants know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're taking care of them?

  • Respond Immediately. Tenant calls, texts, emails, do not respond A.S.A.P. Respond NOW. Respond Immediately. This tells them you're there, that you care and that you're available when they need you. This also allows them to feel secure that if the fit hits the shan, you'll be there right away as well.
  • Never say things like, "that's not our policy." While it very well may not be your policy or your problem, when you say that to a tenant or a potential tenant, let me tell you exactly what the tenant hears. They hear, "I don't care!" And they hear it quite clearly. How do you feel when someone says, "I don't care?" If a tenant living in your building has a problem, you have a problem. If their cable isn't working or if their internet is down the question should be, "How can I help?" "Is there anything I can do?" While it really isn't your problem, this is your opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty, deliver that Ritz Carlton experience, show them you appreciate their business and separate yourself from the competition who only does the bare minimum.
  • How do you respond to outrageous requests or statements? Grant Cardone will tell us that the first rule of selling is Always, Always, Always Agree. Agree first. When people are in agreement, they work better together. So, a tenant asks you to replace the 2 year old carpet that is fine. "No problem Mr. Smith. I'm happy to see what we can do for you. Let's schedule a time for me to look at your concerns with the carpet so I know what I'm up against here." This is a much better response than, "Mr Smith, your carpet is less than 3 years old and our policy is to replace every 5 years if needed. Besides, we never replace carpet mid lease. Sorry." Once you've had a chance to see it, you can then address their concerns and help them solve the problem, because remember, when the tenant has a problem, you have a problem.
  • How do you deal with bad credit? Bad credit is a common concern. When someone tells you they have bad credit, DO NOT despair. Remember, your job is to help them. Also, you have no idea who this person is, what kind of cash they have or how they got bad credit or even if they actually DO have bad credit. Have you ever had someone tell you they have poor credit and it turns out their credit is just fine? Don't judge a book by... well, you know the drill! Tell them, "No problem, we've helped lots of people with rough credit, I'll do everything I can to help you out." Once you've sold the prospect on the building and seen the credit, give them choices. Based on what we've seen and your credit, I can move you in today with "X." Another option could be "Y." We can also consider "Z" "X, Y, and Z" will be the conditions and options like larger deposits, advances on the rent or a smaller, less expensive unit. Make sure to treat these people like they can rent and with respect because this too will help you separate yourself in the market place. Even if it turns out you can't rent to them, if you've taken good care of them thus far, they very well may send you someone who can rent from you or reach out to their friends and family for help meeting the conditions because you made it worth it!

The point here is that every month a tenant is going to pay you rent which means that they basically re-buy your product every month. They more pleasant it is to write that check the longer they will stay with you. This is that moment where they consider how you've handled them so far and whether or not it's worth the number their writing on that check.

In Closing

What did we learn here today? We learned that everyone, including yourself, is part of the sales department in addition to being the manager, owner, leasing agent. We are all sales people.

We also learned that nothing is more important for a company than generating and maintaining revenue. Turn off that faucet and nobody wins.

We will continue to generate and maintain that revenue by building more value in our location, property, building and units than it's listed and perceived value. Then we will follow that up with an unprecedented level of service.

From here I'd like to challenge you to look at how you are performing in your market place.

  • What are you doing currently to separate yourself from the competition?
  • How much value are you currently bringing to your presentation?
  • Are you delivering at levels of service that exceed the expectations of your tenants?

If you need help in these areas, there's nothing wrong with that. We are in an incredibly volatile market place right now. And as the last few years have taught us, nothing's set in stone. You have an amazing opportunity to outshine everyone who thinks they can just go back to basics and ride it out. This is your time to expand into the market place.

Do you have a waiting list? How long is it? If not, why not?

About the Author

David Bradley is a Sales and Market Manager for Cardone Training Technologies. He has been a student of selling for over 10 years. He has also been a renter for most of his adult life. David lives in the San Fernando Valley with his wife where she has managed apartment buildings with up to 100 units. She currently is a Branch Manager for Apartment Owners Association of California where she advises other apartment owners and managers on the day to day issues one faces with running a building.

You can reach out to David at 310.777.0352 or

If you'd like more information about Apartment Owners Association of California or would like to join, call 323.937.8811 and ask for Neffertti Solis-Bradley.


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