With the advent of leasing technology, leasing agents can easily get caught up in the convenience of using touch-screen devices. But it takes a personal touch and some strong training to connect with prospective tenants, especially at new communities where every detail matters.

“And the most important tool is your leasing staff,” says Adrienne Albert, CEO of The Marketing Directors.

The New York-based firm has trained sales and leasing staff for more than 30 years. And as the market grows every bit as competitive as single-family sales, Albert notes that creativity, and simply getting back to the basics, goes a long way.

Train on Features, Not Just Sales
It’s important to train leasing agents to go far beyond simply reciting a sales pitch; the aim is a much more holistic education on design and development, to make them knowledgeable of every notable facet of the property.

“You can’t adequately place value on a product that you don’t fully understand,” Albert says.

Instead of scratching the surface when finessing the details of a staged apartment, agents need to specifically outline how certain features benefit the end-user, or what the real-world application. For example, rather than merely pointing out that a unit has hardwood floors, it's best to describe how easy it is to keep them clean.

Build a Rapport
Involving tenants in the process of showing a unit, instead of just directing them around the apartment, will help establish a relationship immediately. That includes asking their opinion on the design of the show unit, helping to create a visual memory of the space they can leave with–one that’s catered to their own taste.

Agents need to get to know the customer beforehand as well, to figure out what’s important to them in the unit. Not every custom feature of a unit will excite the renter; leasing agents need to know which details to emphasize, in such a way that it’s meaningful.

“You can’t have a planned presentation anymore,” Albert says. “You can’t train your folks in what the features are, and then they stand there and give a litany of every single thing you’ve trained them on.”

Follow Up Intelligently
Failure to follow up with prospective tenants will merely warm up someone else’s deal, Albert notes.

“How many times do you hear, ‘we’re going to stay in touch’,” she says. “My answer is, we’re not the telephone company.

Executing a lease on the first day isn’t far-fetched, but in today's competitive market, renters tend to shop around until they find what speaks to them. So it’s important to follow up with actionable items, using definitive goals to correspond with renters. Instead of just checking in to see if they've decided, leasing agents can instead follow up to offer more floor plans or other types of local info, or directly answer any questions that went unanswered during the showing.

-Linsey Isaacs is an assistant editor with Multifamily Executive magazine. Follow her on twitter @LinseyI  to continue this conversation.