Friday, February 25, 2011

The importance of follow-up.

My job requires that I "shop" properties on a regular basis, meaning that I walk in to a leasing office and pretend that I'm looking for a new apartment. It's a lot of fun, and incredibly educational. Depending on the day, I might be taking notes on any combination of the following:
  • Leasing office layout/decor
  • Model apartment decor
  • Apartment/community features and amenities
  • Leasing skills
  • Follow-up techniques
Over the last few weeks, I've shopped five properties in the Greater Boston area, managed by some of the industry's most well-known companies. Though the properties ranged somewhat in age, size, and target demographics, each property is a Class A property in terms of finishes and amenities, and the location of each is stellar. (True confession: during one of my most recent tours, I was struck with a pang of envy. If I were single, ten years younger and worked in the city, I would have moved into this particular community in a heartbeat—it was just that fabulous.)

What struck me most though, wasn't the amazing amenities, trendy model apartments, or even the friendly leasing staff at each property (all of whom, with the exception of one property, were professional to a T). Out of the five properties I shopped, only ONE followed up with me. The leasing agent at this particular property promised me that she would send me not one, but two emails that very afternoon with a summary of our conversation, and some additional information that I might find helpful. The emails were professional, cordial, and included all of the information an apartment-seeker might need to make an informed decision about next steps.  If I were actually in the market for an apartment, guess which property would have gotten me to come back and fill out an application?

If you work as a leasing consultant (or in any type of sales role), take note: After every tour, follow up with an email, phone call, or hand-written note. It's easy, takes only a few moments, and most importantly, will set you apart from your competition.

Many companies say that they use shops as a training tool: we do at my company, too. If that's truly the case, I find it fascinating that some of the country's best known apartment management companies don't do a better job at following up. Perhaps they think the apartment or community will sell itself? Maybe, but I know I'd certainly prefer to live somewhere that makes an effort to really understand my needs and wants, and then tell me that not only do they understand those things, but they have the best solution.

While I won't name the leasing consultant that sent me the thank you note (or the property, or the management company that she works for), I will say that she really knocked my socks off with both the timeliness and the professionalism of her follow-up. And to all of the leasing professionals out there who understand the importance of this very small, very simple, but essential step in the sales process: bravo. You're head and shoulders above your competition, and it shows.