Complete Story


Catch Attention, Interest, & Desire - Get Action

By Anne Mari DeCoster
AZSA Executive Director
Reprinted from the Spring Edition of AZSA's quarterly newsletter, Behind Closed Doors


Extraordinary has become the expectation.  At a recent AZSA networking event, AZSA member Don Willis, Marketing Director for Storage West, said, “You have to give customers an exceptional experience.  That’s how you get reviews.  People don’t review for the ordinary, but for the extraordinary – good or bad.” 

Don is right.  And believe me, when the experience is bad, your customers not only review you, but they call the AZSA office and complain about you too, which means they are complaining to their friends and neighbors. 

This high consumer expectation makes obtaining and keeping tenants even more challenging for self-storage owner/operators.  In pursuit of our mission to strengthen the self-storage industry in Arizona, AZSA has a cadre of educational resources to help you meet such challenges. We are fortunate enough to have members like Don Willis who contribute to this effort. 

Another such member is Terry Anderson, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Tenant Property Protection.  Terry developed our most recent Educational Workshop to train managers on point of sale, helping you close deals, care for customers, and keep clients coming back for more.  It is based on a tried and true method of earning customers’ business and loyalty.  AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action) dates back to 1925 when E.K. Strong’s “Theories of Selling” appeared in the Journal of Applied Psychology. 

AIDA is simple.  Not a one-size-fits-all solution to every sales challenge, but good overall guidance for sales professionals at that all important point of sale:  when the customer is in front of you (or on the phone), making a buying decision.



It’s all about your first impression.  What contributes to it?  Every sensory part of the customer’s experience.  What do they see, hear, smell, taste, feel when they first encounter you?  So, what about:

  • Uniforms?
  • Curb appeal?
  • “Aroma” in your office?
  • Temperature inside?
  • TV, iTunes, barking, etc. being heard?
  • Visuals on the walls?
  • Cleanliness?
  • How about a bottle of cold water and a smile?

Interestingly, these are the same things mystery shoppers grade you on too. 

Make a great First Impression:  the 2 Second Rule

The experts tell us that our attention span has now been eclipsed by goldfish, which have an attention span of 9 seconds.  Humans?  8 seconds.  In fact, according to Terry Anderson, “Many interactive media experts say you get the right to continue the conversation if you are liked in the first 2 seconds!  Then they will stay for 20 seconds…if they are engaged, 2 minutes…if your message is ‘viral’ or ‘sizzles,’ 20 minutes.”  Now, that’s not a lot of time. 

Look Up!

When your customer enters, stand up and smile!  You only have 2 seconds to “hook” them.  Are you at your computer?  Look up immediately?  Are you on the phone?  Make eye contact right away and signal that you’ll be right with them.  Is a customer on the phone?  They can actually “hear” you look away from the screen, stand up, and smile as you answer their call.  Seriously, I’m sure there are studies on that.



At this stage, your job is to discover their hot button, their pain point.  And nothing can do that like a good question.  Think from the customer’s point of view.  In my own life, when I was taking care of my not-so-healthy loved one and I called a long-term care agency for help, they answered the phone, “What can I do to make your day wonderful?”  They immediately identified my hot button, conveyed that they had what it took to help ease my pain, and hooked me.  I chose their agency and my insurance company paid them handsomely for it.

Self-storage is not so different.  Everyone contacting you is looking for the same thing:  space.  Greet them in such a way that conveys your space is what they want.  I’ve heard managers say, “What is happening in your life that makes you look for storage on such a lovely day?”  Immediately, they convey, “I understand your situation and am ready and able to help you out.”  Often you can see their pain:

  • “My truck is full of stuff and I have to go to work tomorrow.” 
    • You apply first aid to their pain:  We have units available right now.
    • By the way, there’s no need to discount the price in this situation.
  • “I work 6-6.  How can I get in here?” 
    • Your first aid:  Our gates are open until 8 p.m.  We can get you in here.
  • “My loved one died and I have all her belongings.” 
    • Your first aid:  We’ll keep them safe for you. 

As you build their interest, think from the customer’s perspective.  Use this focus:  “What does the customer need from us that would best solve their challenge or problem?”  Figure this out by asking good questions, listening to what they say, and match your offerings to what matters to your customer. 

A good way to clarify their most important concerns: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is…?”  Find their 9s and 10s and match your offering to them, so that your customer can see your features as the benefits they seek. 

Remember to demonstrate things, instead of just telling.  Get the customer actively involved:

  • Let them hold an iPad and take a virtual tour of your store;
  • Get them in the golf cart with a bottle of cold water for a “real” tour (remember to bring a lock from the merchandise shelf so they can claim their unit and lock it up);
  • Let them check out the box that keeps Mom’s crystal from breaking.

Don’t torpedo yourself!

Watch for the boredom factor.  You may be able to get someone interested, but you can’t keep their interest forever.  And if you leave them wanting more, you’ve created demand.  This is what puts them in control of the buying decision, because no one wants to be sold to. 



As much as we hate to leave you hanging, this is where the AIDA article ended in the Spring 2017 issue of Behind Closed Doors. "Space” was an issue in that issue of our print newsletter! So you’ll have to check out the next issue for the rest of this article, when we’ll share all the details on Desire and Action, the last two phases of the AIDA sales method.  In the meantime, work on improving your first impression!


Anne Mari DeCoster, Executive Director of AZSA, is a management consultant with over 20 years experience spanning many industries, but self-storage is her favorite. Since 2002, she has focused on this industry, including advocacy, investment, development and operations, from concept to exit including sale to REITs.

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