3 min read
It has been a year for everyone, including the multifamily industry. Properties and management companies had to shift in how they operate and communicate in order to meet health guidelines and ensure that they are working towards getting leases signed.
Jamin Harkness, EVP at The Management Group (TMG), sat down with our EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, to look back at 2020 and discuss how to keep moving forward. From diversity and company culture, updated pet and mental health policies, to resident retention, Jamin has a lot of insight on how to help multifamily companies and teams evolve with the times.
Self-Guided Tours Reimagined
Prospects typically want to see the floorplan in person before making a decision. Not everyone is comfortable with an in-person tour still, but a self-guided tour is a great compromise. Jamin has redefined what a self-guided tour can be.
By installing a Ring camera and stocking up the fridge of staged units with snacks, the onsite teams at TMG properties can keep an eye on what prospects are doing inside the unit and offer a more immersive experience.
Jamin explains, “they grab Cheetos and a Coke, take a seat on the couch, and really see themselves living there.” While staging a unit helps prospects picture in their head what it would be like to live in the unit, by offering snacks and the leisure to relax in the unit, Jamin has created an experience that is more impactful to the prospect.
Company Culture and CRM
Jamin and TMG came into this year knowing that diversity and equity within their company is an initiative that needs life past 2020. From shutting down the company early last February to allow everyone the time and space to learn about diverse topics and coming back to discuss them in a more casual setting as a team, these initiatives are great for creating a company culture where everyone feels heard and included. He also began sending employees fun company shirts, branded items, and other fun inexpensive fun gifts every month.
When it comes to the technical aspect, Jamin notes that working from home has really improved performance from the onsite teams. While they only have one, at most two, people in the office for package handling, Jamin expects to always have at least one person working from home when the world opens up again.
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“There’s less distractions and they can focus on the CRM,” he says. Jamin also started implementing multiple weekly meetings to get everyone from onsite teams to board members on the same page and to communicate openly and clearly. Along with work from home, Jamin highlighted many times how important maintenance has been during all of this. While there are more work orders because more people are at home, they are spending more time on preventative work as well to help keep their property up to date and working efficiently.
On top of maintenance work everyday, he makes sure they are provided with and are using personal protective equipment (PPE) and given a monthly bonus to show how much these workers are appreciated and valued by the properties.
Throughout the chat, Jamin provided many resources —from daily logs related to COVID symptoms to internal communication on health guidelines similar to OSHA except for multifamily companies. You can find all the resources that were shared below along with similar articles.
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One of the best things to come out of 2020 was having multiple tour scheduling options. From self-guided to virtual to pre-recorded videos, the ways prospects could tour a unit adapted to a less physical and socially distanced world.
With all of these options, in-person tours still rank as the most popular tour option according to PERQ data. How do we go back to in-person tours in a way that is healthy for both prospects and the leasing team? We’ve got 3 tips to help your leasing team meet prospects expectations with health guidelines and quality of the tour.
Know the Guidelines
It is so important to know what your state’s health guidelines are. While they typically aren’t more than 2 people who show up to tour an apartment, there are states that are hit much harder than others when it comes to COVID cases.
Be sure to stand the recommended 6 feet apart from prospects as they walk around the unit. For a smaller unit where this might not be possible, consider leaving the door open during the tour and standing near it.
Masks and Sanitizer
Requiring prospects to wear a mask during the entire time they are at your property and on the tour is a highly effective way of keeping the leasing agent and the prospects safe. Offer hand sanitizer to them when they first show up and offer it again when they leave.
Some prospects might forget to bring their masks with them. Having some disposable masks on hand to give them is a great way to show how your property is taking safety seriously and allows the prospect to still go on the tour and not have to reschedule.
Clean Common Surfaces
After each tour, be sure to clean the surfaces that prospects touched. Most common surfaces are door handles, cabinet knobs and pulls, and appliances. This seems like it can be a lot of extra work but it keeps the touring unit clean and reduces the chances of spread.
This will make it much safer on days where there are a lot of tours stacked up. Give yourself 10 – 15 minutes between tours to disinfect these common surfaces to ensure that everyone is safe. We have a whole list of resources for multifamily communities centered on COVID-19. You can check them out here.
You can buy anything and everything online. From cars to houses, apartments to furniture, there isn’t much that can only be bought in-store. When a customer comes in to browse, they don’t expect you to know what they are looking for until you ask them but that’s not the case online.
David Kain, founder of Kain, a digital sales training company, has been in the business since the early days of the Internet. He sat down with PERQ’s Co-Founder, Andy Medley, and EVP of Marketing, Muhammid Yasin, on The Bridge Podcast to discuss how he has mastered the art of digital sales.
Know the Journey
One of the most important parts of any sales conversation is knowing where the customer is. That starts by meeting them where they are online. “Knowing the customer’s journey on your website and being able to relay the exact information they are searching for — through email, phone call or text message — is important in winning the initial conversation,” Kain explains.
Using artificial and business intelligence tools will help you understand all the touch points of your customer’s journeys and make for a more prepared and qualified conversation later. What Kain has seen over the years is that the more convenient the conversations online are for the customer, the more likely they will come to your physical store or meet in person. The customer sees it as great customer service and will have an overall positive experience shopping with you but when is it appropriate to reach out for an online lead?
The Open Window
Cold calling is a pretty old sales technique that overtime has become slightly more irritating to customers. Kain explains that the reason is customers aren’t expecting the call and it could come through while they’re with family or busy.
This is where AI and BI tools come in handy. There’s a five minute window of opportunity after the customer shows interest or requests details. “That’s primetime,” according to Kain. The product is fresh on their minds and in that small window sending an email or text, whatever the preference is, with the details of what they are looking for is key. Be sure to let them know when you’re able to call or talk in person. A quick response at the right time will start the process on the right foot.
The main takeaways are to know your customer’s journey and all the exact details that an AI or BI tool can provide and respond quickly with the data you have. Digital sales is an art and it takes practice. Working on these skills and having the tools to do them will help you have more winning conversations and more deals closed.
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This has been a transformative year for multifamily properties and renters. More of the leasing process is becoming automated and the way people tour continues to evolve. This year, what renters use their apartments for has changed a lot. A 1-bedroom apartment is no longer just where a renter sleeps and relaxes after work. It’s their home, classroom, office, gym, vacation destination, and a place to do hobbies or crafts.
Listening to your renter’s individual preferences and tailoring the leasing journey to meet their expectations will help you stand out from your competition. But how do you find out what renters really want?
This year, PERQ’s Multifamily software collected over 6 million consumer responses from renters across the country. Get your copy of our latest Field Guide for over 100 pages of national and regional trends we saw including the most popular alternative tour types, floor plans, top desired features, and more.
Here’s a sneak peak of what the national data shows us.
When asked how to describe their ideal apartment, nearly half of renters wanted something that is comfortable yet economical with simple and budget friendly coming in at second place. Renters typically are not looking for apartments that are high end and luxurious. This doesn’t mean that renters aren’t also looking for modern appliances, in fact modern appliances are one of the top three most important features that renters are looking for.
In addition to how renters described their ideal apartment, we asked if budget or square footage was more important and how many bedrooms they wanted. 72% of renters chose budget and 45% chose 1-bedroom. When building or renovating a property, it’s important to keep in mind that renters want something affordable and don’t necessarily prioritize needing a whole lot of space.
The neighborhood a property is located in also plays a role in a renter’s decision. Social activities, shopping, and outdoor activities rank as the top three activities renters enjoy the most. These can all be incorporated in resident events. Partnering up with local businesses is also a great way to promote the neighborhood and create unique events that a resident could only experience in your community.
Food and Fitness
When it comes to businesses residents want close by, grocery, dining and fitness all come out on top. Prospects want to be able to imagine what life at your property will be like. Mentioning the businesses that are close by on tours or your website is a great way to help create that image for them especially if they are touring virtually or will be signing a lease without visiting the property in person.
Get Access to the Full Guide
PERQ’s latest edition of the Multifamily Field Guide goes into more detail about what residents want when it comes to amenities, specific appliances, pets, and more. The Field Guide breaks it down nationally and regionally so multifamily properties can have the insight on what renters want in their specific area. Along with data about what renters look for there is also data about the state of touring in the multifamily world.
To get access to over a hundred pages of renter data and insights, click on the robot icon on the right corner of the page.
Budget season is coming to a close and we are still in the midst of a pandemic. In March, the world shut down and everything was at a stand still. Many communities had to act quickly in order to survive. This year has been full of surprises and challenges that old budgeting strategies don’t have room for. So what are some ways to help you in creating an annual operating budget for your multifamily property?
1. Invest in what you need
Focus less on what you want and more on what you need. It’s time to invest in tools and products that help you reach your customers where they are – online. More prospects are opting for virtual tours/virtual leasing and ways to schedule viewings from a safer distance. Towards the end of summer, as some properties began allowing for in person tours to happen again, we see that many prospects are still choosing to look virtually instead. Virtual options are still important because it helps out of town prospects tour your property and it keeps the casual online visitor more engaged.
Angie Lombardi, VP of Marketing at The Franklin Johnston Group, said “Video gets more interactions and engagement than a static photo and we have the metrics to show it!” Adding virtual leasing was a must in 2020 in order to have some sort of business. In 2021, virtual leasing is here to stay. Along with virtual touring softwares, leasing AI needs to be considered in your multifamily budget for the upcoming years.
AI Leasing Assistants help save onsite teams time by handling all the leads that come through your website and only handing off qualified prospects who are ready to tour or speak to a leasing specialist. AI Assistants collect better data so the onsite team can be more prepared for that first initial conversation. On top of that, leasing AI automates the follow-up and lead nurture process with branded messaging in your company’s voice and stays on top of all the follow-up no matter how far down the pipeline. AI Leasing Agents make sure that no lead is missed and that all leads are being taken care of.
Collaborating across all departments is key to making sure your budget works for everyone. Pandemic or not, you will get the best ROI when every department is taken into consideration and is part of the strategizing. From property managers to regional managers, having people in the room who work with your tech stack on a day to day basis will have great input on whether or not to keep certain tools or vendors.
They can report on the data and KPI’s that they’ve been seeing for the property and how the tools have contributed or gotten in the way. Having multiple perspectives will make your budgeting mindful of everyone and it will help create a multifamily budget that is working for your property. When people are left out of the conversation, that is when things get overlooked and money either gets cut where it shouldn’t or added where it’s not needed.
3. Expanding Your View
Instead of looking at 2020’s budget up against 2019’s budget, Marcella Eppsteiner, VP of Marketing for Mission Rock Residential, says that it’s important to look at more years to better understand just how out of the norm 2020 is. By looking at a broader viewpoint, you can use the data to your advantage and see what needs to be prioritized and what can take a back seat. It also helps to see if the investments you’ve made have done any good long term or if they produce stagnant results.
When we think about budget property management companies that don’t look at their multifamily operations from the last five or so years are getting a very narrow view of what their multifamily expenses should look like for the coming year. This year has brought a lot of challenges but it has given us the opportunity to adapt and grow. The things we learn from this year will make us better equipped in the years to come.
Budgeting can be a lot. It’s not easy to make everyone happy, but making cuts where cuts don’t need to be made will only hurt your properties and how they perform. Taking advice from marketing teams and onsite teams on where they think the property should invest more or less into will make it a lot easier to enter budget discussions with a concrete idea of what direction to go.
Multifamily Budgeting for 2021
Digital Marketing Budget Must Haves
A few weeks back, Katrina Greene, Senior Regional Property Manager at Sheehan Residential and a certified NALP Trainer, sat down with PERQ EVP, Muhamad Yasin, and spilled all the details on effectively training your leasing teams. This is what we learned.
- Training is a process, not an event.
- Use tools to help your team
- Be knowledgeable.
- Be human, even over the phone or under a mask
- Say yes!
By applying these secrets, any leasing team can be successful and here’s how you do it.
Training is a Process not an Event
Greene explains that training should be viewed as an ongoing process. The initial training day or week should be the introduction, but to be successful, the behaviors learned will have to be continually practiced. To do this, set up regular check-in’s with agents, pair new agent with veterans, or provide tools to aid the agent during their calls.
Use Tools to Help Your Team
Finding the right tools is key for your team’s success. Greene says that she uses tools like Snagit, to help record short clips of phone calls for review sessions. Greene’s team also uses a system that allows leasing agents to listen to each other’s phone calls. No call is off limits and recordings are used to reinforce what’s working and identify opportunities for improvement.
Be Knowledgeable and Earn the Right to Sell
By demonstrating knowledge, the leasing agent will earn the right to sell to the prospective renter. The renter has often done their own research, so the leasing agent needs to be knowledgeable of what is available and provide the renter with the amount of detail needed to make the sale.
Be Human, Even Over the Phone or Under a Mask
Connecting on a personal level can be difficult when you are speaking with a mask covering half of your face or if you are speaking with renters over the phone. Over exaggerate when you are speaking over the phone or simply make a joke when you are wearing your mask and ensure your prospect that you are in fact smiling!
Oftentimes, leasing agents forget to say yes! Don’t be afraid to say yes, listen to the needs of the renter, and say yes when you have options that work for them. Don’t get stuck offering units or amenities you don’t have.
If you want to learn more from Katrina’s lunch and learn, check out our full recap blog HERE.