Surviving The Time-Share Pitch
Many of you have probably sat through a time-share presentation. Some of you may have bought a time-share. I imagine a lot of you who bought one are perfectly happy with it. But I’ve mostly heard about those of you who aren’t happy. And who want to get out of their time-share, but can’t. There are even time-share resale brokers out there.
So, we weren’t in the market for a time-share, but we agreed to listen to the pitch in exchange for a three-night stay at a two-bedroom condo in Williamsburg, Virginia, for $189 plus tax. A nice deal for roomy comfortable accommodations in that historic area.
We had seen this ‘vacation’ offer at a home show in Raleigh. Of course, the pitch at the home show and the reality we found at the actual resort site diverged a bit. To get us to buy the vacation package, we were assured that we would just be given a golf-cart tour around the property to familiarize us with it so we could recommend it to others in our sphere of influence. We were assured that it certainly wasn’t a time-share pitch. Nosirree.
Well, since we hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck, we knew going in that we would be getting a sales pitch. And, probably some pressure. So, on the first morning of our stay, when we walked into the main building at the resort, we had our loins girded and our defenses up. Oh yeah, bring it on…
Right away, I got p****d off by the blunt attitude of the receptionist who unsmilingly informed us we needed to provide two forms of identification. WTF for!? In case we might be impersonating someone else? It was as though she worked at DMV instead of a resort. It was obvious that the up-front personnel weren’t in on the uber-friendly mindset of the rest of the cast of players. That attitude, plus the music blasting in the place set my teeth on edge.
Shortly after, instead of getting one of the attractive non-threatening young ladies we had seen cruising through the foyer, we got this big, over-friendly stereotypical salesman type who immediately made me start to hate my own first name. One of my pet peeves is perfect strangers using my first name as though we’re long time pals. It gets my back up, and definitely doesn’t put me in a receptive mood. I remember from my road-repping days the common sales wisdom that we all ‘love to hear our own names.’ But I have learned that a respectful “Mr. Jones” will go a lot farther than the immediate presumptuous use of a first name. Especially if the person being addressed so familiarly has a decade or two on the user.
We were led back to the boiler room where various couples were seated around small tables with sales reps. Ellen noticed that all of the prospects were seated so that their backs were to the room. Probably so they couldn’t make eye contact with another victim and exchange eye rolls.
Our representative began talking and scribbling boxes and numbers and arrows on sheets of paper, spinning them around periodically so that we could briefly see them. It was immediately obvious that he’d been through this presentation many, many times. He was almost like a performer on stage, with practiced mannerisms and gestures. Except, he rarely made eye contact. He was mostly looking up at the ceiling or off to the side. And occasionally making crude gestures I thought inappropriate in front of Ellen. Turns out, she didn’t notice them but I sure did.
I paid attention to my own body language, working not to cross my arms or look away, but instead to assume an open posture and look at him head on. Ellen and I were both careful about our answers to discovery questions – we would look at each other as if to mentally confer about our responses.
I knew that any information we provided would be incorporated into the pitch to try to build a chain of logic, with the inevitable conclusion that we just HAD to buy this thing. And we were determined NOT to buy this thing.
Finally, after an hour or so of this, he suggested we go look at a model unit, and so we headed out the door for a short walk to a two-level ‘cottage.’ It was pleasant enough, but we still weren’t tempted. And around this time, the rep started to get the idea that we weren’t going to be buying today.
We walked back to the main building where he quickly scribbled some numbers on one of those sheets of paper of his with more circles and arrows and other confusing stuff. What jumped off the paper at me this time, though, was a figure – $48,000 – which floored me. But then he quickly deducted something like thirty percent off of that, which didn’t help at all. I was done and just waiting for the bell.
He knew we were done and pretty much skated through the last couple of minutes and then showed us where to go for our free ‘gift’ for listening. The gift, and the reason we’d agreed to listen, was four tickets to Colonial Williamsburg. We had to talk to one more guy whom I thought would be batting cleanup to give the sale one more try, but he only asked questions about our treatment and our salesman’s performance.
He then walked us over to the receptionist where he produced an envelope with our names on it, placed it in my hand, and before I could even say “thank you,” abruptly turned his back to us and began speaking to another prospect. Obviously, our value had expired and he couldn’t be bothered with any further interaction.
What did I learn? In high-ticket sales situations, if you don’t buy, you are merely in the way. Suddenly, you are no longer their bestest, long-lost friend and the syrupy friendliness is exposed as the sham it really is.
Shortly after this, we had a brief encounter with a man also staying in our building who walked up to us and asked if we’d bought. We replied ‘no’ and he, in a thick southern accent, said that he hadn’t either, but that his wife and her friend were upstairs in the condo ‘weeping’ because they had wanted it so badly. I didn’t envy him the ride home…
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