How to diffuse a toxic tenant

In my property manager training classes, inevitably the question arises,

“What’s the best way to deal with toxic tenants?”

You know the ones I’m talking about. They blame everything that goes wrong with their business –and sometimes the world in general – on you! They’re very vocal about their displeasure and engage neighboring tenants, and sometimes even customers, into listening to their rants.

You might be able to ignore these noxious people except for one thing: they play havoc with your leasing program. Should any potential tenant get within feet of these folks, you can be sure no one will be signing on the dotted line anytime soon.

So how do you diffuse the problem?

Even if you’re tired of the tirades you need to go back in one more time for a new conversation that starts -and ends - with just two questions.

Question #1 – What keeps you up at night?
This is a standard sales 101, but in this case, it gives the tenant the opportunity to get off the blame game and discuss his or her real fears. The most obvious things that will come up are fears of losing the business, their life savings, etc. You may find out about issues like a family illness or divorce that are distracting them from business.

But what it all boils down to is fear of failure and inadequacy and this question allows them to focus on fears rather than blame. More importantly, it will help you create a more personal and emotional connection with the tenant.

Question #2 – What’s your sales conversion rate?
Once you create rapport with your tenant using Question #1, you’re going to play a bit of hardball by saying, “I’m sorry things aren’t going well for you. Tell me, what’s your sales conversion rate?”


Remember, this tenant has been talking nonstop about how bad the center is, citing example after example of what’s wrong, from the inadequate traffic in the center to the tree you obviously planted in an effort to block their signage and make them fail. And now, with just 5 words, you can totally diffuse them by asking a question about business they should know and probably don’t. It’s not mean. It just never really occurs to them that they should have to prove there really is a problem. In order to know your sales conversion rate, you need to know how much traffic you have. If you don’t know how much traffic you have, how do you know you don’t have enough?

Here’s how the conversation will go:

            You: What’s your sales conversion rate?
            Tenant: I don’t know.
            You: How many units of traffic do you get each month?
            Tenant: Not enough!
            You: Yes, but are you actually successful at selling to the traffic you have?   

Next step
Suggest they track their traffic for 30 days, calculate their sales conversion rate and then get back to you to continue the discussion.  

That’s it. Say nothing else.
No technique is fool proof but this one is pretty close. 

If you’d like a copy of our traffic recording form,
just email programs@tenantmentorship.comand we’ll send you one.

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