Two Simple Strategies for Rent-to-Own Success

There are two simple strategies that will help rent-to-own managers succeed. Both strategies feed off each other and work offline and online.

As a rent-to-own collection specialist, salesman, store manager and district manager for more than 13 years of the highest profiting stores in a 4,000 store company, I know a thing or two about how to succeed in the industry.

Rent-to-own success strategies

These strategies are super simple to try. Once explained, I’m sure you will see the sense that it makes and follow my suggestions.

Hire and develop your best sales people to work collections.

What? Just listen. When someone walks into your store or visits your online showroom, chances are they already know what they want – they just don’t know if you are going to give it to them. That’s because they either have no credit or horrible credit – and they’ve been turned down before. They don’t need a salesman at this point.

But fast-forward six or nine months. An emergency comes up and the customer decides to return her merchandise. This, my friends, is when you need a sales person. The best sales people will listen to the customer intently and then work out what is best for the company and for the customer. Sometimes that means temporarily returning the product. But in many, many cases, that can be avoided. Can the customer pay in a couple of weeks? If so, can they send someone your way as a referral? Referrals are awesome because the customer isn’t behind in payments when she gets paid next – and referrals make for some of the most loyal of customers. If you’re online, make sure your customer support agents are your best sales people.

A solid collection specialist in this situation would immediately pick up the product. No questions asked. If your store is focused on having the lowest past-due accounts in the company, that works. However, if you are interested in customer loyalty, referrals, and improving the amount of monthly profit, get your best sales people to work collections for you. I averaged less than 6% in past due payments and more than 20% profit over my 13-year career. You can get both. But to get less than 6% in past-due payments week in and week out, you’ve got to pay attention to the next strategy.

Hire and develop your best collection specialists to sell your products.

See, I told you that my two strategies feed off each other. Unlike other retail industries, the rent-to-own industry is unique in the way customers are welcomed into the store’s family, almost without exception, and in the way that store personnel can claim a personal, real relationship with customers through weekly or biweekly interactions.

In RTO, when a customer chooses a product to take home, that is merely the beginning of the sale. The collection specialist must make sure that the new customers understand when to pay, that they can pay, that they understand every payment and return option, how to care for their product so it lasts as long as possible, and that they are willing to abide by the rules. If you have a sales person doing this job, he or she is likely to write up the sale then skip through or at most skim through the most important part of the RTO sales process.

A collection specialist will get the customer what he can afford, will get him on the right due date, and will make sure he understands how to care for the product and what the total investment will be. The specialist will also contact every referral, landlord, and boss(es) religiously before any product leaves the store – just in case there is an attempt at fraud. If a customer is ever late on making a payment, it’s easy for the sales-oriented collection specialist to follow-up because of the collection-oriented salesman’s initial efforts.


I once had a customer come to my store, tell me he needed to talk in my office. Once inside, with the door closed, he proceeded to tell me how he came home early from a business meeting in Vegas to surprise his wife and found her in bed with another man. I was the first person he told. Another man offered to “off” my ex-wife, stating that he knew people in low places. These are just a few of the relationships built over the years.

There were many weddings I attended, many local games I promoted, and many tears shed and tons of laughs. I taught English to native Hispanics, let an elderly Samoan lady stay in the store late with me while she watched a Spanish telenovela that she loved, but didn’t have access to at home. One customer drove past 10 RTO stores more than 20 miles to get to my store every other Saturday morning. Needless to say, eighteen years after first meeting, Louis Clampett and I are still close friends.

Solid, honest relationships are the cornerstone of a successful rent-to-own organization. Having the right people doing the right jobs, whether you are a brick-and-mortar or e-commerce business, will help build a multitude of loyal, paying customers and life-long friends.

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