Every day we set simple personal targets. What time will we wake up? What time will we arrive at the leasing office? Our goals then cross over into our work life. At the management level, goals are set monthly and annually to achieve budgeted numbers. The leasing team will often set weekly goals which pertain to traffic counts, number of leases, renewals, etc. Interestingly, we can get so good at our jobs and so comfortable that we turn on the cruise control and simply take in the scenery, that is until we get the dreaded call. That call from the corporate office which reinforces what we might already know: we missed the target. Instantly, we hang up the phone, turn off cruise control, turn on the emergency flashers, and launch the quickest solution we can locate because it must be fixed and now! Does this sound familiar?
Over the past several decades, I have been on the giving, receiving, and observing end of this very common cycle in the leasing office. When we aren’t hitting the numbers, we move into “fix it” mode, and we start grasping for any viable commonly used solution. “Send Mary to a leasing class!” “Sign James up for a sales seminar!” “Hire a sales trainer and schedule a full-day training for everyone!” While any one of these solutions can be motivating, broad training solutions are not always the best solution to a leasing performance problem that is often very individual and specific. Our broad training solution might be overkill in some cases and in others it closely resembles the old cooked spaghetti test – throw it against a wall and see what sticks! Are you simply throwing under-performing leasing professionals against a training wall and waiting to see what sticks, or are you targeting their training?
Here are three targeted leasing training approaches that work:
1. Start Small
Sometimes starting small gives you the best chance for success. When a baseball player isn’t performing to their potential at the plate, their coach doesn’t blindly start changing their overall stance, swing, etc. and just see if that fixes the problem. They complete a diagnosis by watching them in action. This allows them to identify and target a problem area, which can be very small, and come up with a customized plan of action.
When was the last time you shadowed your leasing professionals while they were in an apartment with a customer? Before the days of video shopping, I would intentionally go to the apartment that was about to be toured and “conveniently” be making a list of items when the leasing professional walked in with the customer. Seeing and hearing the communication between a leasing professional and the customer allows the manager to diagnose issues, target training, and build on their current strengths. This 30-minute process can replace a broad performance training solution because it readily exposes the root of the problem. Sometimes being on “cruise control” can lead to some extremely sleepy presentations. This is not something that can be seen through the window of a manager’s office. It must be experienced.
I remember working with a leasing professional many years ago who was failing his mystery shopping reports. While he was hitting the major points, mystery shoppers and real customers both were consistently indicating they would not lease the apartment based on his presentation. After spending about an hour listening to his telephone calls and watching his real-life presentations, we knew exactly what the problem was and what he needed to do to improve. Had we not invested the time to start small and break it down, we would have been throwing him against that leasing training wall and waiting to see what might stick!
2. S.M.A.R.T. Goals
When top performers and leasing training managers set a goal, they have something specific to work toward. That something should be achievable. If your leasing professional is in a slump and you send them to a broad solution leasing training class, you have nothing to really measure performance other than numbers that can possibly be attributed to considerations that are not a direct reflection of the person at the leasing desk.
When you target a specific training area, you can set refined goals and the employee can have a vision to work toward to get the best results. There is an old saying that a team is only as strong as their weakest link. If this is true, then your leasing professionals are only as good as their weakest link in their presentation. Here is a quick refresher in setting S.M.A.R.T goals.
The spaghetti method of training is not specific and is not measurable. As a result, it will be difficult to attain a goal, and not quite realistic to expect a complete transformation at the leasing desk when they return from their half-day group sales training class. Plus, putting a timeline on improvement would be also be difficult. Zig Ziglar taught, “You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” If there is no target, there is literally nothing to work toward, and even though your employees may be working hard on improving their numbers, their hard work may not translate into anything. Targeted leasing training is specific and it can be measured. And what gets measured gets improved.
3. Case Study Training
Case studies have long been used in the school and business classrooms. Their power can also be leveraged by managers in the leasing office. Case studies come in many formats, but I prefer the very simple scenario-type approach of “What would you do in this situation?” When you are targeting training, you are building a very specific case study which will eventually include the answers to the question, the plan, and ultimately the improved results.
On the flip side, a manager can use a case study to target training improvement in a particular area. Let me return to the example I used above regarding the leasing professional who was failing one aspect of his mystery shopping reports. What we revealed during our discovery phase was that he was boring. His voice was low and monotone and he sounded as excited as most people do when their dentist tells them they need a root canal. Listening to him was a painful process for me, and I was on his team! We used the case study approach to target his training which in all situations must begin with the employee taking ownership of his or her own performance. It would take both of us working together to achieve the desired goal. I asked him these questions to facilitate building his personal case study:
- If you were the customer, how would you respond to this question on the shopping report?
- What would you tell your employee who was dealing with a similar challenge?
- What steps can you take to improve this specific area of your performance? How can you practice a different approach?
- Where will you begin and how will we measure it?
- What goals can we strive for?
His performance improvement would eventually be developed into a full case study to share in leasing training classes, printed training materials, and with other leasing professionals who demonstrated the same specific opportunity for improvement. I attribute his success to a targeted leasing training approach where we worked as a team to get to the root of the problem by having him participate in developing targeted goals for improvement.
For leasing professionals, much like the person at the gym who isn’t getting the results they would like by using the spaghetti method of trying every machine and hoping something works, a ‘personal’ trainer is helpful because quite often individuals in need of performance improvement:
- Don’t know where to start
- Don’t know what they don’t know
- Need to be challenged
- Need accountability and motivation
- Need a measurable goal
Targeted leasing training hits the areas that need to be improved in a way that cannot be accomplished by throwing random leasing training solutions at the problem. Targeted leasing training changes behaviors which results in improved performance.
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions
Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.