Have you ever stopped to think about how many decisions you make in a given day?
Regardless of our position at a rental company, chances are you make dozens or more each shift. Think also about how many choices you have to make in your personal life as a consumer.
One easy example is the choice of which toothpaste to buy. When I was a kid it was an easy decision; you just had to pick between a few brands such as Crest or Colgate, Close-Up or Aim. Nowadays when you walk into your local drugstore you find yourself looking at a whole section of “oral hygiene” options; even if you are brand loyal you still have to choice between fluoride, whitening, breath freshening or tartar control options, and then of course which type of dispenser!
Sheena Lyengar, who is a professor at Stanford University, calls this the “choice overload problem.” She has spent years researching the impact of giving consumers too many choices. (Watch now: Sheena Lyengar TED Talk.)
Barry Schwartz has written a book on this subject aptly named The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less.” (Barry also has a great TED Talk.)
These and other researchers have found that having too many options makes consumers confused, stressed, and causes them to “choose not to choose.”
How do these consumer trends actualize in the vacation rental space? Stop for a moment and think about all of the choices consumers make before finding their way to your website. Many first start by contemplating what type of vacation at they want to have. Do they want to go on a cruise? Visit Disney? See mountains and streams or visit the beach?
Then they start searching options online. Many start out at websites such as VRBO, Homeaway or an online travel agency.
By the time they find their way to your rental company’s website they have already made many choices. Then stop to think about how many choices they face once they hit your landing page. These are some of the reasons why vacation rental company websites tend to have such high abandonment rates.
Then some of those entering our sales “funnel” decide to do the old fashioned thing and place a phone call. (Smart rental companies encourage this by having their phone number posted prominently in a call-out button saying “Call us directly…”)
What happens next?
Based on the telephone mystery shopping and third party call monitoring of real-world calls that KTN does for the vacation rental industry, more often than not an agent finds out a few logistical facts about what they are looking for such as how many bedrooms and what amenities are needed, then clicks enter and reads off a list of the open units that meet that criteria. When I call companies that have invested in call / lead tracking systems, I too often hear the agent say, “Give me your email and I will send you out a list of the available properties, then follow-up with you in a few days…”
Neither of these options helps the caller advance their decision. Instead, they keep calling back (or emailing) again and again, creating unnecessary talk time and making themselves even more confused. When an agent calls to follow-up a few days later the caller might have booked elsewhere or decided to go for that cruise deal they saw on Expedia.
This leads to Doug’s Mantra of the Month: IT IS NOT OUR JOB TO HELP THEM FIND WHAT’S AVAILABLE; IT IS OUR JOB TO HELP THEM DECIDE RIGHT NOW!
How can we train our staff to use this consultative selling approach? First, by asking more and better investigative questions; this not only helps the sales agent “unmask” the caller’s story, but it also shows interest and builds rapport. Our newest vacation rental reservations training workshop and webinar series is called Reservations Sales QUEST because sales today is all about asking the right QUESTions. The most important question of all is “As I’m checking those dates, what questions can I answer for you such as about the location or the amenities?”
Next, having understood what the caller is looking for, train your reservations sales agents to use needs-based recommendations, suggestions and endorsements.
As I learned long ago when I first started working with the vacation rental niche of lodging, we do have to be careful not to recommend one owner’s unit over another when they are both in the same category. However, we can start by recommending a location, a building, development, or an area. Further, once we narrow it down, we can recommend all of the units that come up in a search. Just be sure to train the team not to give out more than three at a time. When a caller starts to bite on one that is mentioned, it is definitely okay to then recommend or endorse that choice.
Often times the callers start out asking about a particular unit they have been looking at online. Assuming it is open for their dates and also a good fit for them, recommendations and endorsements help them to commit.
Here are some examples:
- “If you are looking for the very best, this home (the one you are calling about) would be perfect because…”
- “Since you mentioned you want the best value, this would be a great choice…”
- “This one would be perfect for you; it’s one of our more popular condos…”
- “I’m actually surprised this home is still open as it has the perfect location…”
- “When it comes to families, I always recommend this (building/development/area.)”
- “For a group such as yours I can suggest a few options; all of which would be great.”
And when you do decide to order it they reinforce the decision by exclaiming “Excellent choice!”
In summary, today’s consumers are facing an overwhelming number of decisions. By asking more and better questions to uncover their vacation “story,” we can then help them decide what to select and not just help them find what is open.