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Making the most of Your Sales Lot

Lot signage can quickly share options available to potential customers, like rent-to-own.
Lot signage can quickly share options available to potential customers, like rent-to-own.

When a potential customer takes their first step onto your sales lot, what do they see? Sales staff ready to answer questions? Brochures they can take home as they consider their buying options? Lots of options to meet a wide variety of buyers’ needs?

If word of mouth is the shed dealer’s best friend in advertising, the sales lot is by far the strongest method of bringing in new customers.

Bobby Eaton, owner of Liberty Storage Solutions, headquartered in Statesville, North Carolina, explains, “We constantly analyze our customers’ motivations for purchasing from us. One question we ask during every sale is ‘How did you hear about us?’ We’ve learned that more than half of our customers consistently find us the old-fashioned way of driving by one of our lots. So, yes, we definitely feel like the display lot is one of our most effective sales strategies.”

But are all of those visits turning into sales? To get the most sales out of the traffic coming to your sales lot, consider the following strategies.

Location, Location, Location

To be effective, a strong sales lot has to be where your prospective customers are.

“As far as shed lots are concerned, it’s always the same rule of thumb: location, location, location,” says Adam Kontis, president of Fox Country Sheds in Lititz, Pennsylvania. He continues, “You have to display your sheds where people can see them. If people are driving by and you’re not in eyesight, they’re going to forget you’re there. You’re going to end up spending more and more money on advertising to let people know where you are.”

Some advertising may be necessary to support rural or out of the way shed dealers, but the lot often acts as the best avenue for attracting traffic.

“We do billboards,” says Rinda Flanery, salesperson at Castle’s Yard Barn Sales’ New Carlisle, Ohio, location. However, Flanery adds, “Just having the buildings there, they sell themselves.”

Because sheds can “sell themselves” it pays to rely on the lot as your billboard.

Visibility is key once the customer steps foot onto the lot as well. The lot must be strategically situated to promote visibility of the product, rather than ease of entering the office to close the sale.

“If you have a lot and you have your office out front and all of your sheds in the back, people won’t see them,” Kontis says.

Options Are Key

These shed dealers agree that to bring in the most amount of customers, the lot needs to display the maximum amount of options.

“What draws customers in is seeing the buildings and the different styles and options, like the window [style and placement] and colors,” Flanery says.

“The more buildings we display the better off we are,” adds Emanuel King, owner of Hill View Mini Barns in Etna, Maine.

Although the number varies on Hill View’s four lots across Maine, King notes, “We might start with 50 buildings on a lot. The more we do the better.”

Based on experience of working with numerous dealers, Kontis advises having at least 20 to 30 sheds onsite.

“We have found, especially with new dealers, it’s the dealers who have four to five sheds on their lots that are the ones that always seem to struggle because they don’t have a variety for customers to choose from—or the consumer doesn’t take them as a serious, viable business. We have found the dealers who have 20 to 30 sheds on their lots are the ones that become more successful because they are able to draw the customer in,” he says.

The reasoning behind this “more is better” attitude is the same reason that custom sheds are hot today. Consumers are increasingly looking for a building that doesn’t just meet their storage needs but also fits the overall style of their home or serves as an aesthetic part of their yard. As a result, customers want to see display buildings that act as a catalog of sorts, showing them the wide range of options available.

“Ninety percent of all our dealer sales are custom sheds,” Kontis points out. “They don’t usually sell [sheds] off the lot. Most people want a special color or size, they want doors and windows in a certain location, etc., because everyone’s yard is different. You might get lucky and sell your stock inventory to a consumer in a hurry, but 90 percent of the time they’re placing an order with you for a custom shed.”

While an effective display lot serves as a walk-through catalog, showcasing the numerous available options, brochures give visitors a tangible reminder of your shed products and serves as gateway to additional options.
While an effective display lot serves as a walk-through catalog, showcasing the numerous available options, brochures give visitors a tangible reminder of your shed products and serves as gateway to additional options.

It’s for this reason that Eaton says Liberty Storage Solutions aims to have a wide variety of sheds available on the lot.

“We carry many of the standard sheds with limited options especially for those customers who want to purchase and have it delivered quickly. We also stock several sheds loaded with special features such as carriage house garage doors, copper cupolas and weathervanes, or workshop packages,” he says. “Being able to see all these wonderful options generates many custom orders and upsells.”

Eaton adds, “While we may not always have the exact item the customer is searching for, we can show them pictures in our catalog or online, then use what is available on the lot to walk through general building features.”

King uses a similar tactic. If the right combination isn’t there on the lot, he says, “We tell them we can build something and make it in the style they’re looking for.”

Flanery adds, “If I don’t have what they need, I take them out and show them what I have close to that and tell them that they can order it however they want it and we build it right there on the paper for them.”

But for dealers who are looking to turn over inventory, it’s important to carefully watch the display lot investment.

“It is very important to consider the turn rates of the inventory,” Eaton says. “It is always a delicate balance of inventory versus sales volume at each lot, and something we consistently evaluate.”

Next Steps

Of course, displaying plentiful options doesn’t guarantee a sale. That takes follow-through, whether in the form of knowledgeable sales staff, brochures and catalogs, or an informative website that customers can visit at home after visiting the lot.

“All of our lots have sales materials to help promote our products,” Eaton says. “Our customers all walk out with a beautiful 40-page color catalog that reflects the high quality of our products. Each lot also has samples of items like paint colors, siding options, metal colors, shingles, and other options so the customers can design their own dream sheds.”

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King advises keeping the sheds as the center of attention outside, and saving additional sales tools for the office.

“We try to keep the paperwork in the buildings for explaining what the building is and pricing and things of that nature,” he says.

But Eaton says that placing simple signage on the lot can give customers added food for thought and subtly drive home the sale.

“We try to have proper signage that may highlight some of our features, like rent-to-own programs,” he says.

A Wise Investment

Because of the important role that the sales lot plays in moving product, shed dealers committed to growing sales will find it necessary to invest the time and money to create an effective display area.

“Our sales lots are definitely money well spent,” King finds. “It takes a little more physical effort than other forms of advertising, but it does work.”

Eaton agrees. “Although it’s a big commitment in terms of real estate, sales staff and inventory to fill the lot, there’s no doubt that the drive by customer is the cornerstone of our business,” he says.

He adds, “Combine it with a terrific sales team, effective marketing and high-quality buildings, adding a retail component to your business should lead to continued success.”


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