By its very nature, the timeshare resort industry is all about sales. If we’re working in a resort or related business, we’re all involved in making sales to new owners/members. That goes for everyone, whether they’re handling marketing, cleaning rooms, booking reservations, making collection calls or speaking directly with prospects.
ARDA planners took this tenet to heart and hosted a forum during the recent ARDA World convention to brainstorm new ideas to answer the industry’s ever changing challenge to remaining relevant. As Chief Marketing Officer of Vacatia Mike James verbalized it, we need to continually innovate our processes as the old methods and markets are being disrupted. “Innovation means better solving the ‘why.’” By way of illustration, he mentioned several side-on competitors which disrupted formerly solid businesses: Consumers are selecting Amazon over malls; UBER over taxis and Netflix over Blockbuster.
Now we are dealing with a new paradigm: Rather than baby boomers, new potential buyers (or vacation renters) are millennials. One-quarter of 2017 buyers were single and one-quarter were Hispanic. The Worldwide Shared Vacation Ownership Report, 2016 Edition, published by the ARDA International Foundation (AIF), has shown that more than 50 percent of current timeshare owners own more than three weeks; buyers typically prefer multi-bedroom units and 70 percent of the surveyed owners said they were definitely planning to use their timeshare. You may wish to purchase the report for yourself at www.ARDA.org/ResearchLibrary. There’s much to be learned from the study, but James said he drew five top messages from the report: Consumers are looking for 1) quality, 2) luxury, 3) flexibility, 4) future cost savings and 5) more destination choices in the future.
We still have a viable product and there is a growing group of potential buyers. So, how are we changing the sales processes to accommodate them? One thing that isn’t changing anytime soon is the fact that purchasing a timeshare is an emotional decision. Welk Resorts Group Area VP of Sales Trina Miller, RRP, says results depend 100 percent on the relationship with the sales agent. “There are no be-backs,” she exclaimed. She reviewed each step of the sales process:
- Greeting – Several companies are doing ‘soft’ credit checks at the very first welcome stage.
- Statement of Intent – “We’re going to tell them what to expect,” said Miller.
- Discovery – Miller cautioned against using a transactional approach. This is the stage at which your sales agent learns about the guest and can demonstrate an interest in their well-being.
- Explanation of the Product – The growing trend is to use electronics to display the benefits. “Keep it simple though,” Miller advised. “We don’t want to overwhelm them with details.”
- Recap/Info and Confirm – At this stage, the sales agent will tie in the earlier needs analysis with the product benefit points.
- Pricing and Terms – Many are providing greater pricing transparency earlier, some even giving pricing at the Statement of Intent stage and restating this information now.
- VLO and Contracts – More and more sales rooms are video-recording this final process.
Following up after the sale is every bit as important as any of the above-mentioned steps. It’s helpful to find ways to memorialize the buying decision with take-home photo journals and New Owner kits. And, once they return home, your new owner/member will appreciate a follow-up call to ensure they understand their purchase and the booking/exchange processes.
Maria Ruiz Margenot, Sr. VP of sales development, recruiting & training for Wyndham Vacation Ownership, mentioned that her team looks for naturally curious people when hiring sales people. “You can’t train someone to have that natural instinct,” she said. “They either have it or they don’t. You know the type: they can’t leave a restaurant without knowing the server’s name and something about them.”
What an apt description for the type of personality this industry attracts! And that applies to people at every level; in every discipline. It’s part of what makes the timeshare world entirely exceptional.