Blog post -
Timeshare manipulation tactics. How people are influenced to buy on the day.
Timeshare industry insider reveals the powerful, psychological techniques used to coerce prospects into joining their clubs.
14 million families annually holiday in timeshare resorts. 550,000 of those families are British.
Timeshare salespeople have become byword for high pressure and have rarely enjoyed a savoury reputation, so why do people still keep signing up on the day?
The sales presentation is usually in a foreign country, with possibly less legal protection than we would expect at home. Yet buyers spend tens of thousands of pounds with a person they just met, based on a sales presentation that began a couple of hours ago.
Even stranger, many new owners had no intention to attend a sales presentation that day. They were on their way to the beach, or supermarket; they were approached by a tout with an offer of free tickets to a theme park or similar incentive if they will attend a '90 minute presentation.'
Hours later champagne is popping and new owners welcomed to the timeshare club, many thousands of pounds lighter.
The Timeshare Consumer Association was given a revealing insight into the sophisticated sales techniques used to hack their prospects' decision making processes and leave them vulnerable to paying out for expensive memberships.
Ex timeshare powerhouse Stuart Sylvester was a sales legend at ANFI Del Mar in Gran Canaria; a resort that held every worldwide revenue record in the industry during Stuart´s time there. In no small part due to Sylvester himself.
A consistent top ten mainstay in an elite team of over two hundred of the world's most successful closers; Stuart acknowledges that his ability to internalise the ANFI sales process powered his rise to the top.
This jealously guarded method was shaped and refined by the most sought after sales trainers in the world, including the industry´s leading trainers Shari Levitin and Dan King.
The presentation consisted of a series of phenomenally effective steps; steps which Sylvester has today agreed to reveal to the Timeshare Consumer Association.
Stuart Sylvester: Slick closer.
"The sun, sea and beautiful apartments help of course," Stuart admits, "but people don´t collectively spend €120 million Euros a year because ANFI is pretty. The psychology behind the sales presentation will sound predatory to outsiders, but I believe all timeshare operations use elements of this. ANFI was just the best in the business.
"The sales process is designed to take the UP (Unsold Prospect) from a state of mind where they are determined not to part with any money, to being comfortable making a significant buying decision that very same day.
"This is done cynically and purposefully from the moment the UP enters the resort. The sale is built from the ground up, one brick at a time.
Step 1. Meet & Greet:
"We know that when an UP arrives by taxi, they have generally made an agreement not to spend any money today. They may have also agreed that on the stroke of 90 minutes they will give an excuse and get the heck out of there. The sales person knows this and we call this agreement 'The Pact' .
"After the UP has given their details to the reception the sales person (rep) is called to tour them. Then it´s game on.
"During the Meet & Greet, the rep has one goal, to create a great first impression. A smart closer knows to be well groomed, conservatively dressed and have an open smile, but more than that they will consciously avoid any behaviour that is 'salesy'. The UP will form a lot of their opinion about the sales person in this first few seconds. If the UP accepts the sales person as non-threatening, they will be more susceptible to the techniques that follow
A skilful Meet & Greet will open the door for relationship building in the next stage of the tour, the Warm Up.
Step 2. Warm Up:
"The rep will take the UP for a coffee or snack." Stuart smiles, clearly remembering. "Sales talk will be avoided, sales questions will be deflected as though unimportant to the closer. Instead he will be looking to find bonds in common with the UP. Are they from the same part of the UK? What football team do they support? Do they maybe have kids the same age as the sales person?
"By the end of the Warm Up the prospects should feel like the rep is 'one of their own', a new friend even. Their guard is lowered having had none of the sales attempts they were expecting, but are nowhere near ready to make a buying decision.
"All the sales person needs them to be ready for right now is the next step. The Intent Statement.
Step 3. Intent (Or E.A.S.T.E.R.) Statement:
"As pleasant as the rep has been until now, soon the UP is going to wonder what they are doing there. They're on holiday and, nice as this meeting is, they haven´t got time to waste. The sales person must judge when the UP is relaxed and 'warmed up' but before they get bored, and in this window he must make his Intent Statement.
This is a tool by which the rep will take control of the tour, and change proceedings (non confrontationally) from fun to business.
The Intent Statement will also help break The Pact.
The UP is happy for the rep to take control, provided they find the rep is likeable and knows what he is doing.
The ANFI Intent statement follows a carefully designed framework, covering the following points:
- Empathy: If you're like most people I show around, you're probably wondering what today is all about. Is it going to be high pressure sales? How long will it take? Most people I see have made a secret agreement not to join our club, and that´s fine too.
- Agenda: Let me put you in the picture about today. All we're going to do is have a look around, see how membership works and if you tell me you like what you see, we will show you how to join.
- Set Up Discovery: So as not to waste anyone´s time, before showing you around I´d like to sit and ask you a few questions about how you holiday. I only want to show you the aspects of membership that would benefit you, and these questions will help me to narrow that down.
- Take Away: This kind of membership really isn't for everyone, and if we figure out between us that it wouldn't give you the kind of holidays you want, we won´t waste your time or ours by trying to make it fit your needs. All you will get offered today is a choice. You can choose to leave here and carry on holidaying as you are right now, or you can choose to move forward and holiday with us.
- Expectation: If you're like most people I show around, I think you'll love what you see. You make your own minds up about that though.
- Request to begin: So does all that sound good to you? Are you happy to for us to get started?
Step 4. Discovery:
"The E.A.S.T.E.R Statement marks the turning point in the tour. Now, it´s time for business. The client doesn't have all day to chat, much as they like the rep. Because of the rapport built in the Warm Up, the rep can look forward to honest answers in the Discovery. In giving these answers, the UP is literally handing the rep an instruction manual on how to sell them the membership.
"The Discovery entails the sales person asks skilful open ended questions based on 'The Rule of 3'.
"The rep will establish firstly what the UP´s True Emotional Motivators (TEMs) are. What is most important to them in life. is it luxury? Health? Status? Something else? Whatever it is, the rep needs to know so that he can sell aspects of the membership that will appeal to their TEMs.
"Secondly the rep needs to uncover Holiday Challenges, eg how could their current holidays be improved. The rep needs to find ways the membership can address those problems.
"Lastly the rep has to uncover what the UP currently believes, if anything about both timeshare, and ANFI itself. If they have positive impressions, the rep will later build on those. If they have negative impressions, the rep will know to address them later.
"During the Discovery, the rep will NOT use any of the information the UP gives them. Instead a smart closer will instead save it to use later, during the Pencil Pitch and Walking Tour.
Step 5. Information Confirmation:
"Something a lot of closers don´t take advantage of, is a well executed Info Confo. Done properly this is key to setting up the rest of the tour," Stuart explains.
"The rep will have been noting the information the UP gives him during the Discovery, either on paper or mentally. After getting what he needs, he will impress the UP with an Information Confirmation. Basically repeating the information back to them in a way that shows he took on board what was important to the UP. He will use their own words wherever possible, and in doing so he gains permission to present what the UP now expects to be a membership personally suited to them.
"For example: 'Ok John and Mary, if I'm hearing you right, the most important thing in life for you guys is family. I believe what you told me was that you know your teen daughters are growing up and soon they will be holidaying with their friends. Every extra year you get with them is a gift.
"You also told me that with regular package tours you have been disappointed with the small space in a one bedroom that sleeps the four of you, or if you have sprung for a two bedroom it has been too expensive. Again if I can use your words, you said that you don´t see why you save up all year for your holiday only to stay in a lower standard than your own home in the UK, and that if anything it should be nicer.
"Lastly You guys explained you don´t know too much about timeshare, but you have read negative stuff in the papers.
"Is that a fair summary of what you told me? '
"If this Information Confirmation is done well, the UP is impressed at being heard, and will agree. This allows the Rep to say something like: 'Whether you choose to join or not is up to you and I´m not going to give you a hard time either way. I just want us to have a pleasant morning, but from what you´ve told me here, I´m willing to bet you´ll love what I´m going to show you. Shall we go and have a look?'
"With the UP´s agreement, the rep now has permission to begin the Pencil Pitch and Walking Tour.
Step 6. Pencil Pitch and walking Tour:
"How the club works needs to be explained and some resorts do this by computer demo. At ANFI we used a one page pitch with pen and paper and we did it on the sales deck. This is the UP´s first introduction to the business environment of the sales deck and they need to be in and out in a short time.
"The timeshare system has to sound straightforward. As easy as how they currently holiday, or easier. The couple needs to agree with the rep that it makes more sense than they way they do things at the moment. The credibility of the resort needs to be established too, so that if the couple do like the idea, they'll trust ANFI enough to hand over their credit cards.
"As quickly as possible the rep will get the UP out of the 'logical' environment of the sales deck and out into the emotional environment of the resort itself. The UPs need to fall in love with the beauty of their surroundings as the rep encourages them to visualise themselves holidaying in this standard in the future.
"During the Pencil Pitch and Walking Tour the rep will be showing the membership system and resort in the light of what is important to the UP. He will be using 3rd party stories to demonstrate how people with similar desires and concerns solved their problems by joining. He will be gaining agreement from the UP at every opportunity that, yes, this would give them what they want and deserve.
"After presenting the beauty and superiority of the show apartment, he will sit the UP down somewhere pleasant, like the apartment balcony and do the Final Close.
Step 7. Final Close:
"This step is terrifying for new reps," Stuart confides. "It is the culmination of perhaps a 4 hour tour and the rep really has to get commitment from the UP that they love what they have seen and would love to holiday like this in the future, cost permitting.
"A typical final close might be: 'Well John and Mary I´ve had a lovely time with you today. Have you liked what you have seen?´
"What the rep needs here is a confirmation that, yes it was lovely. This is straightforward. Of course they love what they saw. This is not yet a commitment to joining.
"Now come the vital follow up questions: 'Do you have any questions about what we´ve seen today, or is it all straightforward?' Ideally the couple will ask: 'Only how much does it cost?' That question is music to a rep´s ears because if it comes down to money alone, they can go straight to pricing. Very rarely will a deal be lost if the only objection is money.
"More likely the UP will ask some questions about how things work, and the rep will clarify.
"Now comes the big one: 'So now you know who we are and how everything works, is there anything besides price that would stop you from becoming members today?' The couple can commit safely, knowing that affordability is their 'get out' should they want one, but hopefully by now they would love this way of holidaying if it was in their budget.
"If there are any objections at this point, the rep needs to close them down and get a commitment that the couple would love to join if it was affordable. Really every UP should agree here that they would like to join. If they don´t, the rep has failed one of the previous steps. So, all being well, it's back to the sales deck for Pricing
Step 8. Pricing (T/O)
"Here comes the crunch. The couple are ready to see the figures.
"Pricing is done by a T/O, or TakeOver. A senior manager with a track record of sales excellence will join the rep and UP. The T/O will look to the rep for a strong handover, something along the lines of: 'I've had a lovely time with John and Mary today. They love what they have seen and would love to holiday like this in the future if it turns out to be in their budget.'
"This is the last time the rep is allowed to speak until the UP either buys, or the T/O finishes trying to sign them up.
"A rep who can´t stop interrupting will often receive a sharp boot in the leg under the table from the T/O who needs total control of the proceedings at this point.
"The T/O has several negotiating tools at his disposal, including drop products, flight vouchers and the ability to move the couple into the resort for the rest of their holiday.
"At ANFI, one in 5 couples would buy at the end of the presentation. Day in, day out. And this is generally only the start of their timeshare journey. They will be targeted every year that they return for their holidays by the 'In House' team and will, on average spend a further 5 times what they spent that first day in the years that follow."
Stuart left the timeshare industry several years ago and is now in the logistics business. He also contributes heavily to and works with Irish charities like Temple Street Children's Hospital Foundation. Despite his previous high earnings in the timeshare business, he far prefers his current, more laid back life in Ireland.
What advice can Stuart offer to people who agree to a timeshare presentation? How should they guard against being manipulated by a well designed psychological process, and being swept towards a decision that might not be in their best interests?
"Remember that the rep is not the 'new best friend' they seem to be," counsels Stuart. "Their friendliness is crafted cynically and for the sole purpose of steering you towards a decision that benefits them, whether it is good for you or not. If you could hear them discussing you in the bar with their colleagues after the presentation finishes, you would quickly realise that their 'likeability' is no more than tools of the trade.
"If you find yourselves on a timeshare presentation and can remember the steps of the process I have explained here you will actually recognise them as they happen. This will take away a lot of the power of the presentation and allow you to stay focused on the real value of what you are looking at."
Never buy timeshare on the day
Stuart also advocates that you never buy a timeshare on the day of the presentation.
"It´s an emotional sale," says Stuart, "and that´s no accident. People make big timeshare decisions more easily when they are feeling good. But if you insist on thinking about it overnight you will give yourself time to get back into a more logical mental state. The cold light of day, as it is otherwise known, will tell you more clearly if you still want to join the club.
"The timeshare companies know this and will try many tactics to stop you going away and weighing up the decision. They may offer discounts only available on the day, or tell you that you can only join on the initial visit. Ignore this. No timeshare company in the world will refuse you the same buying terms if you turn up the next day ready to join. Insist on getting all the same incentives you were offered the previous day too. They will give it rather than lose the deal."
It's never too late to get out
For those members who did buy and regretted the decision later, all is not lost.
Jamie Andrew from European Consumer Claims is a timeshare contract specialist based in the Canary Islands. Jamie gives the following advice: "If you do join up on the day, you have 14 days to change your mind. It doesn't matter whether you are a new member or an existing member upgrading onsite. Legally resorts are no longer able to take a deposit on the day, but many do. You will get anything you paid refunded if you give notice of cancellation inside the 14 day period.
"Most of the time, an email is enough to cancel the sale, but if you have any doubts at all about who you are dealing with, a registered post letter will rarely be ignored.
"For those people who joined a while ago and are outside the 14 day cooling off period, there is still help at hand. Due to a series of protective legal developments since 1999, the large majority of timeshare contracts written have illegal terms in them which mean that the member can cancel their membership and sometimes even claim compensation reaching into the tens of thousands of pounds.
"If you want to know how to go about relinquishing your timeshare contract safely, or find out about possible compensation entitlement, contact the Timeshare Consumer Association for free impartial advice before seeking any kind of legal help. They´ll point you in the right direction."
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TCA provides a central resource of consumer information on timeshare matters for the media and other organisations – We work towards encouraging responsible, honest, timeshare operators. We also publicly expose negative consumer practices and organisations which operate in a manner detrimental to timeshare buyers and owners.
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