Group Presentations, Free Travel Lure More Prospective Buyers To Sales Presentations

MIAMI? The timeshare sales process is actually a more pleasant experience than one might expect, according to results of a landmark survey of adults interested in purchasing vacation ownership. Called Vacation Ownership 2000, the nationally projectable survey of adults interested in purchasing vacation ownership was conducted during the first quarter of 1999. A total of 502 adults participated in the survey which was sponsored by Interval International. According to the Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/ Yankelovich Partners 1999 National Leisure Travel MONITOR, interest in the purchase of timesharing/vacation ownership continues to rise, with 15% of the adult population now favorably predisposed. This represents roughly the same percentage of adults interested in playing golf while on vacation. Respondents in the VO 2000 study were well-qualified to express their opinions about the timeshare sales process, as fully six out of 10 had taken at least one timeshare tour (the average number of tours was just under three). Among those who did, eight out of 10 were aware that the presentation was for the purpose of soliciting the sale of a timeshare. Approximately three out of four respondents received their invitations to tour prior to arrival at their vacation destination They were twice as likely to receive the invitation by mail (52%) than via the telephone (25%). Only 15% of respondents said they received the invitation to tour while on vacation, and only one out of 20 (six percent) said the invitation came through a family member and/or friend. Given the generally superior quality of tour participants generated by the latter, these data suggest there is considerable upside potential for the development of referral programs that center on existing owners. Various incentives are used to entice prospective buyers to tour, yet the most compelling offer appears to be a tried and true technique adopted by the industry years ago: a complimentary stay at the home resort. The second most compelling incentive is cash, followed by a discounted vacation at the host resort and certificates for free or discounted travel services. Free merchandise or retail gift certificates appear to be the least compelling. Perhaps not surprisingly, respondents also indicated there was ?comfort? in numbers when it came to participating in a sales presentation. Specifically, fully six out of 10 stated a preference for a ?group? presentation attended by their spouse or another adult. Only three out of 10 preferred a personalized sales presentation. Contrary to popular belief, consumer reactions to the timeshare sales process are generally positive. In fact, fully twice as many respondents characterized the outcome in a positive way as reflected in the Impression of Sales table. This is surprising given that the industry-wide closing rate for such presentations is less than 10%. Furthermore, it clearly underscores the wisdom of re-contacting prospects who have already toured, as there appears to be a positive ?halo effect? among four out of every 10 prospects who don?t buy the first time around. In summary, the survey results suggest that timeshare developers and marketers should devote additional attention to both the ?front? and ?back? end of the sales process (e.g., pre-qualifying tours, then recontacting ?tour, no buys? to drive incremental sales). The actual sales process itself gets high marks from participants, suggesting that better-qualified leads will undoubtedly improve the closing ratio.