One thing most all vacation rental sales agents have in common these days is that they are handling a sometimes overwhelming flood of inquiries.
This is caused by the ability of guests to inquire about multiple properties by visiting websites such as VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey and others, and by their ability to quickly identify and inquire with numerous local rental copies with a simple Google search.
The flood of leads results from it being so easy to click over multiple inquires at these websites, or for those who search on a mobile device, from it being so easy to inquire by phone by simply clicking to call.
Therefore most vacation rental sales agents are experiencing what I call “sales lead fatigue.”
Rental managers I know estimate that it takes as many as three or four calls or email exchanges before a typical guest commits to booking. As a result, it is a great time to retrain your vacation planners to stop all of this shopping around and to start closing more sales.
Traditionally, reservations sales trainers – and sales trainers in general - present closing the sale as if it were a separate technique pulled out of the magic hat at the end of a conversation. Yet now more than ever, closing the sale starts with a positive first impression.
Because in this era of “feature copy-catting,” relationship selling is a major point of differentiation.
When it comes to vacation rental properties within the same classification and geographic market, whenever one company adds a nifty new feature, technology or amenity, it is not long thereafter until all the others follow suit.
While interior designers and property managers can all buy from the same vendors, the power of sales relationships must be nurtured like a well-tended garden. You can select the right seeds, but you must plant those seeds in fertile soil, water them regularly, and tend to them as they grow.
Traditional sales training has presented nifty techniques such as the “forced choice close” (“Which of those can I secure for you?”) and the “assumptive sale close” (“What email address shall I use for the confirmation?”) Yet today’s sales prospects are far too savvy to be tricked into buying.
To stand out from the competition these days it is important that vacation rental reservations salespeople differentiate themselves from the very first opportunities.
Here are some training tips:
For email inquiries:
- Respond promptly – as in within hours not just within one day – to all email inquiries, even if the requested property is sold out.
- Notify senders if more time is needed to respond in full detail to specific questions about a rental home. When appropriate, send digital photos taken just for them in response to their question.
- Especially when the inquiries are for longer stays, for higher-rated properties, or for multiple accommodations, respond by telephone instead of just emailing back a response like other companies are doing. If vacation planners truly did not want to be called they would not have put down their correct phone number, and they can dodge your calls if they do not want to pick-up. Even a polite and personalized voicemail makes an impression.
- Personalize email correspondence rather than sending out templated responses. Greet the sender and paraphrase and restate key details from their original inquiry.
- Send selected relevant photos and floor plans.
- Include your rental agent’s pictures on your email auto-signatures; encourage encouraging them to call.
- Use a positive opening greeting delivered with enthusiasm.
- Let the caller speak first, then ask for and use their name conversationally, rather than asking for it in your opening sentence.
- Understanding that most callers have researched extensively online, start by asking the single most important question before launching into feature list or so-called benefits. “Ask I’m checking those dates, what questions can I answer for you about the location or amenities and services?”
- Use a “just for you” sales approach to grab the attention of today’s multi-tasking callers. Lead with “You can enjoy…” instead of always saying “We have…” or “We offer...”
- Use “re-engagement questions” to check-in with the caller and to keep it interactive. “How does that sound so far?”
Having used these methods and approaches, your salespeople will be differentiating themselves from the competition from the very onset of the sales correspondence and conversations.
That being said, it is still important for all vacation rental reservations salespeople to directly ask for the business. For one, this shows confidence. It also plays to the fact that people like to give their business to the salesperson who really wants it. Train them to ask for the sale in a way that expresses interest such as:
- “What else can we do to secure the opportunity to host your family vacation?”
- “Is there something else you’re looking for that I’ve not mentioned yet?”
- “Can I secure this home for you while it is still available?”
- “May we lock-in those vacation plans for you?”