I love vacation rentals. I love that we deliver twice the living space for half the price of hotels. I love being part of something that makes people happy. I love being involved in a growing market with expanding opportunities for everyone. I love sharing it with, well, just about everyone. Sales is simply about convincing others of your point of view, right? So by that definition, we’re all in sales.
For more than four decades of selling everything from butter toffee peanuts and Christmas trees for the YMCA to mainframe computers for IBM and selling my wife on marrying me thirty-one years ago—the greatest sale of my life—I’ve known many successes and failures. I’ve seen dreams achieved and nightmares unleashed. I’ve explored what works and what doesn’t and participated in thousands of sales calls. I’ve met folks who could sell ice to Eskimos, and others who couldn’t sell water to a fish. And through it all, the differences always came down to one thing: the great salespeople have great habits. I call them the Seven Habits of Super Successful Salespeople.
Super Sales Habit #1: Study Sales
Remarkably few business people actually study sales. Most believe they already know everything about it. After all, it’s simply about making people like you because people buy from people they like, right? Perhaps that attitude is why most business people don’t study sales, even though it’s one of the most critical parts of their business. The best property managers (PMs) I know are insatiable students of sales, constantly seeking new ways to generate more sales. They are experts at networking with other smart and successful PMs and applying what they learn to their own businesses. They understand that the art of sales is as dynamic as changes in technology and the human condition. Be curious. Have fun. Learn sales.
Super Sales Habit #2: Be a Hero
Being a hero is something that happens millions of times a day, usually with simple acts of kindness that make you a hero to those you serve and with whom you come into contact. In sales, I call it the Golden Rule Plus: treat others better than you wish to be treated. In my humble opinion, this is especially easy to do in our business. Why? Because we’re all in the business of vacations and making people happy! The best PMs are constantly trying to figure out how to delight every guest. Beachfront Only asks its guests to paint a picture of their perfect vacation. They then document the answers in their lead management systems and get busy being a hero to their guests throughout the entire guest experience that, in many ways, can last a lifetime. The good news is that being a hero doesn’t have to be hard—you just have to care enough to be one.
Super Sales Habit #3: Leverage New Tools and Technology
Moore’s Law suggests that technology doubles every year. Over the last twelve years, I’ve personally been involved with introducing “new” technologies to the vacation rental industry, including web-based software, online bookings, yield management, guest reviews, and integrated third-party bookings. Every step was met with varying degrees of resistance, but today almost every PM I know uses those tools or is thinking about using them. Because our industry is now online and technology driven, it is important to stay current with your own company’s technology for your direct business. Companies like HomeAway and Expedia continue to develop tools that are unprecedented in our industry. I believe PMs who embrace the tools of the future will experience unprecedented success. At minimum, I would suggest staying current with the kinds of things we’re doing on our web sites. After all, we spend millions of research dollars on behalf of our clients to help everyone make more money. So if something makes sense to you, use it. But remember that technology is like a fast-moving train: you can get on and ride it, or it can run you over.
Super Sales Habit #4: Deserve Every Penny
Amazingly, the best PMs I know never focus on the money. They know that as long as they focus on delivering fantastic experiences and value to their guests, the rewards will follow. They constantly look for ways to reinvest their success to improve value to their clients. Conversely, when you focus on the money—and not on earning it—it evades you. Why? Because most people are smart enough to run away when they smell a skunk. The really cool part of all this is that when done right, we all have the opportunity to receive tremendous rewards by adding value and creating lifetime memories one vacation at a time. Don’t chase the money. Focus on value, and the money will find you.
Super Sales Habit #5: If It Ain’t Broke, Improve It
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” My personal update is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result.” Why? Because it’s not only about changing ourselves anymore; it’s about the world changing around us. Remember printed catalogs? Even though they never “broke,” I bet you wouldn’t get the same results today that you did ten years ago. Our industry has changed more over the last ten years than during any prior ten-year period. It’s Moore’s Law again; with technology doubling every year, change happens all the time. PMs with the best sales not only understand that, they embrace it. For example, it used to be that the way to grow revenue was to increase inventory. Today, companies are using revenue management tools to manage rates better and increase the revenue per home, and that enables them to grow revenue even if their inventory shrinks. Companies like HomeAway continue to drive change in our industry by bringing vacation rentals into the travel mainstream. So today, change is constant. Stay current and updated and get used to the idea of updating something all the time.
Super Sales Habit #6: Lose Sleep
Remember this: they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Ever notice how nice people are when they want to sell you something and how quickly they forget you once you’ve bought it? Don’t be one of them! Consider this: the only communication guests often receive from the time they book to the time they check in is about when a payment is due. Worse, with the wide acceptance of keyless locks, some PMs prefer to avoid contact with their guests altogether. PMs who feel that way clearly do not understand a client’s lifetime value. Otherwise, they’d lose sleep realizing that every client could represent ten or more bookings over a lifetime, not to mention the social networking multiplier. The best PMs I know bend over backward to serve and delight their guests from the day they book to the day they come back as a returning guest. That’s why the top companies in our industry are the top companies: they constantly think about how to do better and improve their clients’ experiences, even when they sleep.
Super Sales Habit #7: Love Your Guests
One of the lines in an old favorite song of mine says, “When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” It’s so true. I’ve also learned that when you truly love those you serve, they will love you back. The best salespeople truly believe in the goodness of people, and they work hard to delight each and every one of them. So check this out: When I was seven, I saw a bumper sticker that I remember to this day: “SMILE! It’s not going to break your face!” Over the years I’ve realized that smiling is much more fun than all other options combined, so I smile all the time. And you know what? I’ve also learned that smiling can be contagious. Try it sometime on someone who seems like they can use some love—even on the phone. (You do know that your smile can be heard over the phone, right?) You may be pleasantly surprised when they smile back. And that’s when the love connection can happen! You know the best part? We’re in an industry that pays us for loving people.
About John J. Suzuki
As HomeAway’s evangelist, John shares the big picture on industry trends, addresses what HomeAway is doing to benefit property managers, and provides feedback to enhance HomeAway’s products and services. John is known for his broad understanding of technology in the vacation rental industry and his strong moral compass. He has been a trusted advocate for vacation rental property managers for over a decade.