Forms of Control
The 40 or so people gathered at the hotel for the presentation are mostly couples. Everyone’s awkward, nervous. We mill around drinking coffee, eating stale Danish.
Chris bounds up to me and introduces himself. He’s early 30s and all handshake.
The room’s full of tables. We sit. At each table, I notice there’s a salesperson on one side, prospects on the other. Déjà vu. Music comes on. It’s just loud enough that I can hear Chris but no one else. Chris asks me a lot of questions.
“Mike,” he says, “I want to get to know you a little bit so I can figure out how to best help you.”
We run through a list that begins with whether or not I’m married. He finds out there’s a significant other and a son named Jake.
“Where’s Maureen?” Chris asks.
Upstairs, I say.
“Jake would like to go to Florida, wouldn’t he?”
Soon every question is a tie-down. Wouldn’t you? Couldn’t you? Don’t you agree? Maureen is mentioned 50 times, Jake 40. I know the strategy.
An hour later, we’re into a different kind of question: How often do you go on vacation? Do you stay at a hotel? What would you say your average cost is when you book a room? Anywhere from 90 to 200 dollars, is that right? Umhmmm?
Chris jots it all down.
“How much would you expect to pay for a stay at a vacation ownership facility?” he then asks.
A what? Of course it sounds a lot better than “timeshare.”
Chris sells exactly the way we used to sell windows. We’d have the prospects retrieve their utility bills, then show them logically, mathematically, just how fast the new windows would “pay for themselves.”
By this time, Chris is addressing me as the “New Owner of a Vacation Home” or (alternatively) as “One of My Newest Owners.” It’s the assumptive close. And though we’ve flipped through the book of company properties, the Vacation Home that Chris has in mind for me happens to be right around the corner. Should we have a look?
So we look. It’s a suite with a balcony and a kitchenette. As we step out onto the balcony, I tell him that Atlantic City isn’t all that appealing to me. Well, Chris says, there’s a water park coming and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Would all these people be investing if they didn’t see a future? Not only that, but the company has a reciprocating arrangement. Do I know how easy it is to switch my Vacation Home stay with someone else’s? They have a 95 percent success rate booking other places. Here, he says, are some of the other places. He touches a screen. On the wall-mounted TV, a video begins to play.
Later, back at the table, Chris launches into the pre-close. “Mike, we used to give people our business card and wait for them to get back to us,” he says.
“But you know what people usually did with those business cards, Mike?”
Let me guess. Nail them to a tree?
“They’d put them on the fridge,” Chris says. “But out of sight is out of mind. That’s when the owner decided we needed to come up with something that really gives people an incentive to get involved with us today.”
“Mike, I just want to welcome you aboard as one of our newest owners. Tell me where you want to stay on your first vacation. I’ve got the papers right here. They just need your initials.”
I ask him how much.
Twenty-one grand, he says, "And you can finance it at the low-low rate of 17.9 percent.”
Wow, I say, there’s a deal.
A bell dings. Manager Bob strolls to the center of the room and the music quiets.
“Folks,” he says, “can I get your attention? Please welcome Juan and Maria Perez as the newest Vacation Club owners. For their first week, they’re going to stay right here in Atlantic City!”
Half-hearted claps can be heard.
Then Chris asks, “What did you think it was going to cost?”
I tell him I have no idea.
“Well, you had to have some idea. What did you think it was going to cost?”
Not 21 grand, I say.
He drops the price to 19 grand, and I shake my head. Now manager Bob joins us. He’s older. He asks questions, desperately seeking commonality.
“Mike, that’s a really nice watch.” Pause. “I’m kind of a watch guy.” He wants to know where I’m from. I tell him Sussex County.
“We’re looking to get more people from that market,” Bob says.
The price drops to $13,000.
When I fail to immediately crumble, they’re perplexed. Someone lowers the music.
“So Mike, is it the price, or the payment?” Bob asks. “What if we make the down payment just 10 percent? That’d be $1,300.”
I tell him I don’t do monthly payments.
“Well, let me ask you something … You do have cable TV, right? You pay every month for that?”
This is like the Ghost of Home Improvement Sales Past. I don’t bite.
“I really want to see you get involved,” Bob says. “Chris tells me you were really interested.”
I shake my head.
Another guy sits down. He’s 6 foot 5 and 200-plus pounds. He scans the paperwork, looks at me—not a friendly look. “You gotta really good discount,” he says. “What’s the hang-up?”
Guys, I say, looking around the table, this is no and it’s not going to change.
They shake their heads in disgust.
Smooth as Silk
Whoever trains these people does it well. They don’t get flustered, they overcome all objections, and they stay on point. Five years ago, I would’ve recruited Chris on the spot. The problem is that all the home improvement prospect has to do is go on the Internet and find out what the neighbors have to say. Why put up with it?
That’s why the new way to sell is to:
1) Deliver the data
2) Provide great service
3) Show why you believe in the product, and
4) Show why you’re a company that the prospect would want to do business with.
That’s where the energy goes, rather than into constructing some verbal labyrinth from which the prospect can only escape by getting angry. If you’re interested, I tell people, here’s the proposal. And guess what? My close rate is up.