Sales Lessons from Surviving a Timeshare Presentation

7 Mar 16

David Jacoby, managing director at SRG, reflects about sales best practices after surviving a timeshare presentation during a family vacation.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I work at a sales training company, but I have a soft spot for salespeople. Whether it is a pushy door-to-door salesperson trying to sell copying machines to our office, or a telemarketer droning on and on about his or her product, I always try to give salespeople my full attention and let them sell.

As a result of this permissive attitude, I have sat through hundreds of sales calls over the past few years. I’m always astonished at the number of salespeople I hear who still use pushy, aggressive sales tactics. This type of selling is almost always counter-productive. The more a pushy salesperson talks, the less I want to listen. The more that salesperson tries to close, the less I trust him or her. And so on.

So why don’t these pushy selling techniques work?  I thought about this question after experiencing an extreme form of aggressive selling on my recent family vacation to Mexico, the timeshare sales presentation.

Timeshare Sales Presentation

For those of you who have no experience with timeshare sales presentations, the process is straightforward: a friendly person (in this case working right in the lobby of our hotel) offered us a few hundred dollars worth of free dinners and other discounts if we attended a 90 minute sales presentation. So with the promise of a few freebies, I dragged my wife to the sales presentation.

Timeshares are ultimately an impulse purchase, after all, who goes on vacation with a goal of buying a timeshare?  After the prospect walks out the door and collects their gifts, in all likelihood they’re not coming back. So it came as no surprise when our salesperson was overly focused on closing.

The first hint of this came after the rapport building free breakfast. Our salesperson started out by stating that we were under no obligation to buy anything. He then added that he only wanted us to buy if we “absolutely loved what you’re about to see.”  Sounded fair and reasonable. But then he asked us a series of highly manipulative questions, including “Do you like taking vacations?”  “Why do you like taking vacations?” “Are taking family vacations important to you?”, “If I could show you how to save money on your vacations, would you be interested?”

Of course these questions weren’t being asked to help us understand our own needs better, or enable the salesperson develop valuable insights into our problems. These questions were obviously designed to trap buyers into agreeing that they should take more vacations, taking vacations is something that’s good for their family, and that being a timeshare owner could save them money.

After briefly showing us the timeshare property, the conversation shifted to closing. For the next hour, we were trapped in a conference room while our salesperson tried his best to close us. First, he used a few trial closes, such as “Have I presented you with enough information to make a decision?”  Despite my negative responses, our salesperson nevertheless kept pushing forward, trying to close us on the expensive timeshare option. When that didn’t work, he offered us progressively cheaper options. I stood my ground, firmly rejecting each option. At this point, the salesperson berated me for not taking advantage of such a great opportunity to lock up a lifetime of quality family vacations and tried to close again.

Our salesperson next called over his supervisor purportedly to officially end the sales presentation so that we could receive our gifts. However, in a classic bait and switch the supervisor promptly tried to overcome our objections and close us. After a few more attempts by both the supervisor and the salesperson to close (now engaging in team selling), we were finally escorted out of the conference room to collect our gifts. But in yet another bait and switch, our escort was in fact a salesperson who sat us down in a different room and tried to close us on an even lower priced timeshare option.

When the timeshare sales presentation ended, my wife and I grabbed our discount coupons and breathed a big sigh of relief that are ordeal was finally over. We were both mentally exhausted and swore we would never try surviving a timeshare presentation again.

Effective Selling: It’s All About the Buyer, Not You

What should be abundantly clear from my timeshare experience is that our salesperson was solely focused on his problem of needing to close the sale. He had no genuine interest in our problems and needs. No matter what we said, he was going to keep trying to close us on buying a timeshare.

Unlike timeshare prospects who may endure these aggressive tactics to get gifts, today’s business-to-business buyers are sophisticated, armed with information, and have many choices. They hate being sold to because they recognize that pushy salespeople are more concerned with closing (i.e., solving their own problem) than in helping solve the buyer’s problem.

Great salespeople understand that there are two sides to every sale: the buyer’s purchase process and the salesperson’s sales process. They understand that their role is to help the buyer make a good decision based on their own purchase process, not to manipulate or push the buyer. By focusing on the buyer’s needs, not your own, you are better positioned to ask great questions, develop insights, and help the buyer solve problems that may not be obvious. This is the essence of effective selling.


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