June 7, 2013 — There are several reasons why sales centers everywhere in the timeshare universe produce less than a 30% net closing ratio but the mammoth cause – the Mother Of All (MOA) – that has plagued the industry for the past five decades is the sales line. That process was inadequate back in the 1960’s, it will be tomorrow – forever – and I’ll prove it here today!
So here’s the scoop: ‘Oh, those darn kids today – I just don’t understand them!’ That would be what many parents would say about teens today in reference to the music they listen to, the style of clothing they embellish and the seemingly never-ending body piercing and tattoos many proudly display on all parts of their bodies.
Indeed, ‘grownups’ have been having that two-way “I just don’t understand” clash with the ‘youngsters’ for centuries and that struggle has been and is occurring within the timeshare industry between the generations: The New Silent Generation, or Generation Z, (born 2000/2001 to present) – The Millennials or Generation Y (born 1980 – 2000); Generation X (born 1965 – 1979) and the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946 – 1964).
Most of us know it as “The Generation Gap”, when one generation has a different set of values or perspectives from another generation ranging from politics to social behavior/views, religion to life and death, getting married, raising families or just general philosophies and, believe it or not, even when it comes to vacationing lifestyles.
For our purpose, we’ll just talk shop – the process of selling travel & vacations – you know, timeshares; but first, a brief look at how we arrived at the crisis that affects us all.
There was, for example, a time right after World War II when the first Baby Boomers came onto the scene (1946) and the typical family vacation was limited to traveling out of town by car and perhaps staying with relatives or friends.
Other families of course went camping in a State park, near or at the beach or along a river bank somewhere and yet other vacationers crammed the entire clan into a 200-300 square foot motel room while they visited (e.g.) Disneyland, etc.
By the time the Generation ‘X’ crew started showing up (1965) the vacation/travel options hadn’t changed much except for jet travel. And after a brisk 20-year post WW II period and a booming U.S. economy some of the more fortunate families began buying that dream vacation home and instead of camping they would head off to their home at a lake for the summer vacation (or weekend ‘getaways’).
Those families, by the way, were often perceived by their peers to be very successful and when the children of those families were told they could bring along a friend or two for the summer retreat there was never a shortage of their little playmates pleading or at least hoping and praying: Pick Me – Pick Me – Pick Me!
It was during the time of Generation ‘X’ that the Timeshare industry also began to form as the developers of the era provided an alternative to camping, staying with friends or relatives while on vacation or being cramped in a tiny, unattractive – no frills – dreary motel room with two small uncomfortable beds for Mom, Dad and the kids.
For a lot of these families who couldn’t afford a second (vacation) home, Timesharing accommodations was a huge hit and like the Pacman game of the era they – and other budget conscious families – cobbled up their slices of paradise and soon began vacationing in style, as they do to this day.
By the 1980’s when The Millennials or Generation Y were being born the now global timeshare industry was exploding and continued to prosper over the next three (3) decades and millions of vacationers were enjoying a travel and vacation lifestyle that was once been reserved for the more affluent holiday merry makers.
And when the New Silent Generation or Generation Z started popping out (2000) for their first look-see of what life had in store for them and if their family were already owners/members they would, in time, realize there was a plethora of timesharing accommodations at their disposal darn near everywhere in the world where they wanted to vacation.
Since the timeshare industry’s humble beginnings the success of the developers around the globe literally forced the hospitality industry to change the types of accommodations they, too, would offer travelers because timeshare developers and their marketing/sales staffs proved, conclusively, consumers were willing to pay for all the amenities that timeshare accommodations provided during their vacations.
That leads me to ‘The Great Timeshare Generation Crisis’ which is the actual selling process of timeshare plans to current buyers and there is no better place to understand the predicament than to look at the developers – and the lion’s share of those consumers who are, based on the raw data, ‘the buyers’.
I would submit most developers fall into being born during the Baby Boomer generation and that the majority of their sales guests who actually purchase a timeshare plan (that ‘sticks’) are also from their generation as well as the first few years or so from Generation X; and in the overall mix there aren’t too many ‘Z’ or ‘Y’ Generation buyers.
From a selling perspective each generation shares commonalities with other generations – and indeed a 25-year-old Generation Y sales rep born in 1988 – with a 30 year ‘gap’ – can surely sell a timeshare interest to a 55 year old Baby Boomer born in 1958.
And, for the record, a 20 year old perky Generation Y sales rep can also sell across the great-divide – a 45 year ‘gap’ – to a retired 66 year old Baby Boomer and their spouse.
However, generally speaking people are herd animals and because they are they tend to be more at ease grazing, so to speak, among their own kind. For example, older folks, including developers and buyers, don’t ‘hang’ with much younger folks and vice-versa!
From a professional sales perspective the evidence is overwhelming that a prospective buyer attending a timeshare sales presentation who is 45, 55 or 65 will be more comfortable discussing lifestyles, financial matters, etc. and then purchasing from someone nearer their age group, background and life experiences. And again, vice-versa!
But that holds true out the chute precisely at those very important ‘first impression’ moments when a front end sales rep such as the voluptuous and ever so popular 21-year-old hottie ‘Bubbly Barbie” or the ever so impressive 26 year old ‘Dashing Ken’ meets and welcomes Mr. and Mrs. 59-year-old college educated anal retentive business professionals – and off on ‘tour’ they venture.
And it is those type of ‘match-ups’ that have failed this industry since the beginning and significantly contributes to low closing ratios because the sales line is mostly based on nonsense such as (e.g.) “get a deal today and you’re on the top of the line tomorrow”; regardless of what type, age, profession, etc. sales guest(s) shows up first (second, third, etc.)
Few sales professionals, regardless of their age or experience, have the ability to match their personality and backgrounds to every sales guests they meet who are, for example, much older or younger than they are. There are those precious exceptional Pros who can do just that and that is one of the reasons for their success and high performance (closing ratios, etc.).
That is why, excluding the aforementioned exception & before a prospect ever meets their rep(s) those sales folks must be ‘matched’ – as best as possible – to the prospects’ age, marital status, educational achievements, blue collar Vs white collar status, and the region they hail from, etc.
It is a simple process indeed by having a few key questions on a (e.g.) registration card that is turned back in by the sales guests at the reception desk and then before the ‘Meet & Greet’ phase begins someone, perhaps a sales manager, can ‘match’ up the contestants, so to speak – before they are off and running.
The one thing that should be absolutely crystal clear & obvious to every developer, every marketing and sales rep everywhere in the world is this: The best way to ‘love the one you are with’ is ‘to be the one you are with’!
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