Microsoft word - execq moving from timeshare to fractional sales.docx
Moving from Timeshare to Fractional Sales: Can You Master the “Soft Sell”?
There are many similarities between timeshare and fractional sales. Both forms of
ownership are subject to the same laws in most countries in the world. They have even been
subsumed under the catchall phrase “shared ownership.” Most timeshare sales people would
feel comfortable with the sales procedures and techniques common in fractional sales offices.
Yet, despite apparent similarities, there are significant differences in selling these two
ownership types. In view of exploding international demand for fractional ownership—and
therefore demand for fractional sales agents—timeshare-trained agents considering a move up
to fractional sales would do well to recognize these differences when evaluating if they feel
One important difference is suggested in Fractional Life’s predictions for 2011, which
advises, “Understand the fractional buyer - the 'hard sell' is over forever. With excess property
and information available to shrewd buyers, the developer sales team needs to truly understand
This advice is right on. A skill that timeshare sales agents need to acquire—or further
develop—is the “soft sell,” also known as “relationship selling,” being practiced increasingly, I
Relationship selling involves opening a relationship of trust with customers prior to
attempting to close the sale. This is accomplished initially by establishing rapport with clients
during the Greeting, and continues with the agent’s Competency Statement and Statement of
During the entire appointment, the primary method of cultivating trust is through
empathetic listening to everything customers say and highly skilled questioning techniques
The sales appointment must center exclusively on the customers and on their needs for
information and guidance—not on the agents’ needs to make a sale. When people feel heard
and understood—be it in a business or a personal relationship—they feel they are cared for,
and, after time, come to trust the person with whom they are dealing.
In a customer-centered appointment, the agent discovers the customers’ vacation needs
and assists them in acknowledging and expressing these needs. Then, by seeing the property
through the eyes of the customers and placing themselves in their shoes, agents guide the
customers, via artful questions, toward making good ownership decisions for themselves.
Skillful agents don’t tell. They ask. Agents know they have two ears and one mouth. They
must listen at least twice as much as they speak.
And what about Closing? Closing occurs throughout the sales appointment when the
agent asks questions (minor closes, also known as tie-downs) that solicit the customers’
agreement that the features and benefits of the property fulfill the needs they have expressed.
Each property Presentation (or “Tour”) is customized to highlight only the benefits most relevant
to the wants and needs of the customer. (This contrasts sharply with the mindless “brain dump”
that often characterize less skillful property Presentations.) During the Tour, agents point out not
what the property is but what it will do for the customers—meaning, not just reciting phrases like
beachfront or ski-on/ski-off (features) but asking customers to agree that they would enjoy the
convenience of the access (benefit) and to estimate how much time it would save the family to
Highly skilled agents are able to ask many different and natural-sounding tie-down
questions that help customers imagine the visual, auditory, kinesthetic and even olfactory
experience they will enjoy at the property— inspiring mountain views; waves crashing against
the shore; gentle island breezes; smell of salt air; total peace and quiet. (This is much harder
than it appears at first glance and must be scripted and practiced—out loud.)
Once the agent has presented the property and gauged the customers’ level of
emotional involvement with it, s/hemoves toward closing. An effective transition to closing could
be, “How do you feel about everything we have seen?” As appropriate, the agent can write
down some of the desired items—such as a particular unit with a certain view or a penthouse—
on an order blank, kept handy on a clipboard that the agent carries at all times (so there’s no
need to go back to the office, as that could provoke fear and resistance). Top agents come
prepared to close any time and in any place.
An effective phrase for an agent to use while writing is: “Let me make a note of that.”
(Customers should become accustomed to the agent writing notes so the appearance of an
agreement does not provoke unnecessary resistance.)
When asking for the sale, it is normal to encounter objections. After all, acquiring a
luxury fractional vacation home is a major purchase, and the decision is not an easy one.
People are understandably afraid of making a mistake and want to be sure that all decision
makers are in agreement. They may object, saying, “But we didn’t say we wanted buy
anything.” The agent can then respond, soothingly, “Of course not. I’ll do whatever you want. I
just want to set out what we have discussed on the paperwork (not on the “contract,” which is
too intimidating a word), so I can remember everything that is of particular interest to you” or “so
you can evaluate all the important facts information for yourselves.” Then, the agent keeps on
Well-trained sales agents welcome objections. They know people wouldn’t take the
trouble to raise objections if they were not seriously interested in buying. Concrete objections
are desirable because agents can handle them by clarifying miscommunications or adding
important information, testimonials, evidence or documentation, as needed. The best way to
raise the objections necessary to making a sale is asking customers to buy.
In Responding to Issues (softer than the classic, more combative, “Overcoming
Objections”), agents must never argue with customers. Rather, they must soften their response
by complimenting the customers on having made a good point (called supporting) and then offer
an alternative way of thinking about the issue. After each issue is addressed, agents must
Verify that the customers are satisfied with the response, then they move on to another,
There are actually very few valid objections to owning: lack of commitment to or
familiarity with the resort or urban area; unsuitability of the property to the customers’ needs;
and, most important, the customers’ lack of financial capacity. These factors should be clearly
determined early in the appointment during Discovery and the people ruled out before closing
begins. (If in doubt, start closing, and let the people disqualify themselves.)
Any other objection is probably just a stall—an excuse or delaying tactic people use to
escape from an agent’s request to “move forward with an ownership decision.’” (Doesn’t that
sound nicer and less threatening than “buy”?) Common stalls are, “I need to discuss it with….”
“We want to shop around” and “I want to think it over.”
Top-producing sales agents memorize scripted answers to these objections and
rehearse them so that they can deliver their responses spontaneously and naturally. They
practice, drill and rehearse their scripts out loud in front of a mirror or in role play with a team
member. They don’t use real customers “for practice” since that would be very costly.
These top agents mentally select the property they feel is right for the customers, then
pose guiding questions to lead them toward discovering the suitable property for themselves. (If
customers make a statement, it’s true. If agents express the same idea, it’s suspect.)
Relationship selling isn’t “pushy.” It’s “pull-y.”
Statistics show that agents need to ask for the sale five or even six times before they
succeed in obtaining the customers’ agreement to “okay the paperwork”—much less threatening
than asking customers to sign the contract. Traditional sales wisdom has it that if agents know
more closes than customers know stalls and objections, then the agents will make the sale.
Common closes include: “Let me make a note of that” Close, Reflex Question, Order
Blank, Alternate of Choice, Closing in a Minor Issue, Ben Franklin (updated to Weighing
Alternatives), Puppy Dog, Porcupine, Sharp Angle, Closing on the Objection, Testimonial, “I
want to think it over” Close, Take-Away or Negative Close, Turnover (also known as Take-
Over), Lost Sale Close (or the Detective Columbo) and many, many more. With experience,
agents usually develop their favorites to suit their individual style, but all should be mastered.
This discussion of closes presupposes, of course, that agents, in their heart of hearts,
truly believe in the quality and value of the property they represent and in its suitability for their
customers. Telling the truth is a most powerful ally of sales agents. It gives them the
confidence and courage to persist in asking customers “to move ahead with the opportunity,”
continue asking for the sale in different ways and finally say, “So, let’s get started.”
Belief that the property is right for the customers and purchasing it is in their best
interests cannot be faked. Customers will sense it, will distrust the agents and will not close.
Misrepresentations have no place in the sales office.
What has been sketched very briefly above is probably familiar to experienced timeshare
agents. What is different in relationship sales to fractional purchasers is that a fractional
clientele is very affluent. Persuasion through fear of loss—such as talk of imminent price rises;
stories about people who didn’t decide and regretted missing the opportunity; tales of market
demand so intense that the property the customers favor will soon be gone if they don’t act right
now—are not very effective, if effective at all.
Fractional customers must qualify at household incomes that are two or more times that
of timeshare purchasers. This significantly more affluent clientele enjoys lots of discretionary
income and has many alternatives, including not purchasing at all. They do not tolerate high
pressure and withdraw easily at the merest hint of aggressive salesmanship. After all, they are
not given an incentive to sit through a ninety-minute tour.
Also, timeshare’s techniques of “negative sell” or “take-away” (such as, “This may not be
for you”), suggesting that the person may not be qualified, especially when used at the start of
an appointment in response to an objection is not advisable. Affluent customers will tune out,
turn off or head for the door. They can’t be “roughed up” or “pushed around” by negativity. I
believe that these days, timeshare purchasers, as well, need to be treated with “velvet gloves.”
Customers rule today—at all income levels. There are simply too few customers and too many
properties competing for their attention via numerous kinds of instantly available digital media.
All customers must be treated with tender loving care.
Some more effective ways to motivate fractional buyers are via positive means—
appealing to their desire to gain something. This could include: special privileges, prices, or
recognition to Founding Members; or offers of valuable gifts for those making their decision to
move forward within, let’s say, two weeks of their appointment. Gifts could consist of certificates
for a shopping spree at the resort or in local shops or restaurants, or the latest cool technology
(especially something that will appeal to children).
In my opinion, price cuts, are not advisable because they need to be steep—20% to
40%— to be effective and are inconsistent with the image of a luxury property. I also believe
that free maintenance for a specified time period is not advisable. (If the developer wants to
contribute to the maintenance budget for a period of time, that’s a different issue, but such
support would need to be disclosed in the documentation.)
As a sales incentive, items of value can be included in the price of the property, so
buyers can boast of the great deal they got. As the Fractional Life article advises, commit
“random acts of kindness” to create word of mouth about your property and generate referrals.
Agents need to make acquiring the property fun. Vacations, after all, are meant to be
happy experiences. They should lighten up in the sales office, display a sense of humor and
not be overly serious. They ought to relax and not act as if their financial well-being depends on
the sale—even if it does. When agents relax, their customers relax as well and lower their
defenses to what the agent says to them. High-pressure salesmanship results from too few
prospects. Therefore, agents need to have a steady pipeline of qualified prospects.
In addition to the differences in household income and motivators, timeshare and
fractional sales differ in the amount of time elapsed between first appointment and signing on
the dotted line. Since fractional property is usually significantly more expensive than
timeshares, it is unlikely that a fractional customer will close in one appointment of ninety or one
hundred-twenty minutes—especially if the person has not been to the resort previously and
does not have friends or family owning there.
Ideally, if a fractional agent can schedule two appointments during a customer’s stay,
that could raise the likelihood of a commitment, or at least a refundable reservation deposit on
the first visit. In some cases, however, the customer will insist on taking the paper work home
“to think about it.” If customers resist numerous and varied gently phrased suggestions to leave
a reservation deposit, they should not be pushed beyond their tolerance, as this would be
counter-productive. This is where the art of salesmanship comes in—sensing instinctively and
intuitively when to move forward and when to back off.
If necessary, agents must let these customers go home without committing, yet assuring
them that s/he believes they will make “a good ownership decision for themselves.” Then,
agents should find creative ways of keeping in touch with serious prospects once they are back
home, even sending small gifts to remind them of the property and the area and how much they
If agents have succeeded in establishing a strong, trusting relationship with customers; if
customers have been treated with courtesy, sensitivity, competence, good manners and
respect; if they understand how the property truly does fulfill their vacation desires and wishes;
and if they feel that the agent is competent, has listened to them, understands their needs and
cares about them and is acting in their best interests, then they will mail or wire their checks or
offer their credit card numbers. I have witnessed this many times (Testimonial). Customers
purchase, not only the property, but the agent who represents the property. People as a rule
don’t like to “buy” or be “sold,” but they love to own. Agents need to dedicate themselves to
helping customers enjoy the benefits of ownership.
Successful timeshare-trained sales agents will also succeed in fractional sales if they
adopt low-pressure relationship sales techniques and understand that each and every fractional
sale may not close after the first visit to the resort. That does not necessarily mean, however,
that the sale is lost. What counts most is the bond of trust that the agent establishes with
his/her customers. After these customers have left the “ether” of their vacation experiences,
agents can still maintain these strong relationships, communicate with customers and support
them in their decision to become “happily involved” with the property.
David M. Disick, Esq. is a recognized pioneer in the fractional industry. He developed
the Franz Klammer Lodge, the property that coined and first used the term, Private Residence
For a more detailed discussion of the ideas sketched out very briefly above, order his
new book, Fractional Vacation Homes: Marketing and Sales in Challenging Times. It is
available through the banner ad on the fractional page of this website.
Mr. Disick was honored by being named to Fractional Life’s List of the Top 21 Fractional
He consults with developers wishing to secure fractional financing from the institutional
source he has cultivated expressly for this purpose.
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