The Psychology of Leasing

Industry experts shared insights at the NAA conference in New Orleans

New Orleans–When a prospect walks in, does your leasing center resonate with positivity? Are you having fun and enjoying the job? “Energy and enthusiasm are contagious,” said multifamily training and marketing expert Lisa Trosien, founder of ApartmentExpert.com, during her NAA Conference session, “The Science and Psychology of Leasing.” When these two factors are present, you can close a lease for every prospect. According to Trosien, a surprising number of multifamily leasing professionals aren’t conveying energy and enthusiasm.

Another missed opportunity is not taking the time to get to know the prospect’s needs. “Statistics tell us we’re not doing a good job with that,” said Trosien, who suggested focusing on the prospect rather than trying to multi-task. But don’t pounce on prospects the minute they walk in the door; in fact, be aware that they will need a 12-foot decompression zone to acclimate to the new environment. And be cognizant that visuals are ignored in this zone.

“Every single day on the site is like a job interview with your prospects,” Trosien added. Let people talk about themselves. And, as you’re listening to what they’re looking for in an apartment home, say, “You’re right,” not “I know.” Confirm their opinion and keep the focus of attention on the prospect.

Trosien also mentioned that, according to a University of Chicago study, people buy because of the way they anticipate feeling as a result of owning and using your product. So it pays to incorporate emotion into the presentation and ask them how they feel. Generalist sales trainer Brian Tracy stresses that people like to feel smart about their buying decisions. “Give them enough information so they know they’re making an informed decision,” said Trosien.

“The apartment industry is not doing a great job with this,” she added. Have an area in the leasing office where prospects won’t be distracted. Take them to the model apartment if you have to find a quiet place.

Base your presentation on each individual’s needs. “Practice proactive, empathetic listening,” suggested Trosien. “Use head nodding and facial expressions. Say things like, ‘Tell me about that. I’d like to hear about that.’ And employ the power of pause: show respectful and quiet reflection. The prospect will feel complimented.”

One thing prospects might not tell you is that they can do without certain cheesy gifts. “Today’s renters are sophisticated,” observed Trosien. The apartment industry has made great strides in the last 10 years in the areas of online leasing and renewals; real time availability; resident portals; credit card acceptance; LEED-certified buildings.

“We have sophistication going for us—so why do we give prospects a bag of instant popcorn with a card saying ‘thanks for popping in?’” A nice handshake would be preferable, according to Trosien. “And why the sign saying, ‘Now Leasing?’ When do we ever stop leasing?” Pay attention to the details, she suggested. Crooked photocopies of the floorplan can wreck an otherwise good impression.

“Village Green is so smart,” added Trosien. Every new hire receives a pin saying, “Please be patient with me; I’m in training.” This vulnerability lays the groundwork for faster and closer personal connections. So does tapping into the power of similarity. Mirror body language and take a page from the restaurant business, where studies have found that food servers who repeat back the order to the customer can achieve 70 percent higher tips. Remember the rule of reciprocity: people say yes to those they owe. A lovely gift of truffles costs just a few dollars, but makes them feel special (unlike the aforementioned popcorn)—and indebted, observed Trosien.

The overall décor of the community needs to reflect the demographic. Trosien pointed out that Denny’s has a different menu and background music and the servers dress differently after 10:00 pm in order to bond with late-night patrons, which comprise a different demographic than those at other times of the day. Similarly, a model unit decorated with products from Target (with a price list on the coffee table) is a better marketing strategy than outfitting the apartment with the (expensive) furniture of prospects’ dreams.

Trosien also reminded conference attendees about the merits of goal-setting. Only 3 percent of adults use goals, she noted, and these individuals are wildly successful. Imagine what you could accomplish in the leasing office once goals are set and adhered to.

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