By Doug Kennedy — As marketing professionals across all industries know, the concept of storytelling is an integral component for success in today’s environment. You can see this approach playing out across all mediums from print to web to radio and television. Car ads are no longer about the features and benefits of the car, but rather about all of the places that car can take you. Soda ads are not so much about the taste, but about how happy you will be by sharing it with friends and family, showing bottles labeled with real names or “dad” and “grad.”
Maybe the best example is the new Liberty Mutual Insurance advertising campaign where various spokespersons speak to you directly to tell a story about what happens when “you” have your first accident and the rates go up or when your current company says they will only replace ¾ of your car. Smart marketers know that storytelling is a great way to grab the attention of multi-tasking viewers, readers or listeners.
Similarly, vacation rental reservations sales agents should also incorporate storytelling into their toolbox of both written and verbal presentation techniques. As the reservations rate inquiry process has become increasingly automated, it is more important than ever to connect with the callers and email senders when there is an opportunity to do so.
Being in the telephone mystery shopping business, I often hear recordings of reservations agents speaking with our KTN callers. Too many agents sound as if they think of their job as being a “technical support” role of simply helping the caller find out what rentals are available.
As addressed in a previous article, it is important for agents to use a more conversational and less transactional sales approach.
These days many reservations inquiries are coming in via email. Likewise, more often than not, today’s agents simply respond by sending back a list of links to the properties that are available that fit the sender’s dates and specifications. If anything, the response includes a template of standard copy, such as:
“Thank you for your inquiry regarding (insert name of property and/or dates requested.) Below are links to the properties that are currently available. You can book these online or call us directly…”
If your vacation rental sales team responds in the same way as everyone else does, they are ensured only of getting their “fair share” of the business in the market. As I often say in my workshops, “If you want to get the same results as everyone else gets, just do the same things everyone else does.” If your goal is to get more than your fair share of results, you have to find ways to stand out from the competition.
Providing a laundry list of what is available and sending the inquirer back online to continue their research will not help you increase conversions. Instead, make sure your agents are using an investigative sales process to engage the caller and “unmask” their story whether asking during phone conversations or when responding via email. Train them to ask the single most important question circa 2016: “As I’m checking availability, are there any questions I can answer for you such as about the location or amenities?”
Thereafter, make sure your agents respond to the caller’s questions and that they sell to any comments, remarks and “clues” to what they are looking for by using a storytelling approach to selling the overall vacation experience and to not just be a “unit renter.” Here are five training tips:
1. Engage callers (and senders) by beginning benefit statements with wording such as “Imagine sitting out on your balcony in the evenings and seeing…” Or “Imagine your family/participants enjoying…” thus grabbing their attention as you take them along for the ride.
2. Lead sentences with “you” as in “you will enjoy…” or “your family will experience…” instead of the normal tendency to lead with “we have” or “we offer” or worse yet – “it offers.” (Vacation rental homes should never be referred to as “it.”)
3. Use these techniques to highlight the most relevant offerings. Of course it is easier to focus on relevant benefits if you have taken time to connect with the caller or email sender and to investigate and discover their needs and preferences.
4. Tell real-world stories about the past experiences of similar guests you have hosted such as “This is one of our most popular homes/locations for families like yours because…” Or “Our romance couples always comment about the (privacy, view, etc…)”
5. Paraphrase and restate in writing what you have discovered about their needs to lead into the stories of personalized benefits. “Since you had mentioned… your (family or party) will find this convenient because…”
Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training writers. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly. firstname.lastname@example.org