According to a just-published review of NAVIS hotel & resort clients, guests who reserve over the telephone result in 27% higher average daily rate (ADR) than online travel agency reservations. These same guests also represent a 37.8% increase in total spend for their stay.
Here’s the chart that shows phone bookings compared to the online travel agencies as well as hotels’ independent websites:
Source: NAVIS Hotel & Resort Clients
If the vacation rental industry is even remotely similar (which I think it is), this data could be telling.
It means that getting your potential guest on the phone (as opposed to emailing them or hoping they book through your website) could increase your bottom line significantly.
I love data like this because it allows owners and managers to do more with what they already have. In other words, you don’t need to go about generating more inquiries if you can simply convert more of the ones you already have.
If you want to act on this information, below are 21 amazing tips I gleaned from one of the best phone salesmen in the world last year when he was here in Panama.
21 Clever Ways To Close More Bookings Over The Phone
My buddy (and the world’s greatest vacation salesman) Justin Deboom was in Casco Viejo this past week and I kidnapped him for 1 hour.
Justin sells luxury vacation packages in Costa Rica. And he does so exclusively over the telephone.
Literally, if Justin can’t get a potential guest on the phone, he considers it a near-dead lead.
So after months of plotting, I tricked him into coming to town with a free rental for the week at Los Cuatro Tulipanes (tip: barter your rentals for marketing help whenever possible).
And over coffee Justin told me he was in the midst of 3 consecutive lifetime record-setting sales months and I said:
“Alright, enough is enough!!! Tell me exactly what you are doing on the phone so I can share with my blog followers.”
What you have below is precisely what he said over the course of the next 60 minutes, which I then proceeded to share immediately with our Vacation Rental Inner Circle for some amazing results:
- Do your research: it’s important to know who you’re about to talk to. If their name is unique, look them up on Google or Facebook. If not, use a tool like Rapportive to glean public information tied to their email address. Going in blind is a last default and he always gets best results when he’s primed.
- Always check the area code: if the inquiry has been sitting in your inbox for more than an hour, look up the area code of the phone number and make sure it’s an appropriate time zone to call in. You can also use this intelligence in the context of your chat (for example: “I noticed you’re area code is Denver…I got married in Denver!!!”)
- Eight to eight is the courtesy timeframe: Justin uses the 8am – 8pm rule to determine an OK time to call. Of course he prefers to call immediately. But if your not calling immediately (under 10 minutes) after the inquiry arrives, be sure to stick between this courtesy time frame so not to surprise anyone or interrupt anything.
- Beware of “the Googlers”: Justin refers to anyone who’s just poking around as a “Googler.” These are folks who will use you like Google to ask every question under the sun. Be aware that Googlers are likely in the very preliminary planning stages and unlike to book your vacation rental at the moment. Googlers often try to avoid the phone call. So if they don’t provide a phone number at first, you’ve got a good first indicator.
- Have an alternate in mind: Lots of times Justin doesn’t have the ideal availability in mind, which is unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean he abandons the call. Justin still recommends prepping for a phone chat, this time with an alternate friend’s property or an alternate dates proposition in mind.
- Here’s what to do when they don’t provide a phone number: Justin aims to get every potential guest on the phone. It’s his rule. But for those who don’t provide a phone number, he’s got a remedy: email them with a small set of essential questions (right out of This Questions Playbook): How many people are traveling in your group? Do you have any children under age of 12? Etc. And as you may have guessed, the last question is always “Is there a phone number where I can reach you for a quick chat?”
- Woah, Sparky!!!: This may seem obvious but I wanted to share it anyways: in all this pushing for the phone call, keep an eye out for those who simply prefer email. Justin says they come along here and there and you’ve gotta respect their preference.
- Call as fast as you possibly can: If you’ve got a phone number to work with, your goal is to hear the client say, “Wow, that was fast!” Justin believes that if you can call them while they’re still inquiring about other properties, you have a huge leg up on every single other competitor. Why? Because you’ve got the convenience factor…the ability to answer any of their other questions live and in real time. Obviously this is ideal and most owners carry their smart phones everywhere. But if you cannot call super quick, fear not…the game is not totally lost.
- Use the perfect introduction: Too many people aren’t specific enough in their introductions. They may say, “Hi, you just inquired about our rental” but what they should be saying is “Hi, you just inquired about our 3 bedroom beachfront rental in San Diego.” Justin always follows this specific intro with “…and I’m curious if now’s a good time to chat?” He says that the success percentage here (to carry on the conversation) is about 50/50. If they say that now is NOT a good time to chat…
- Always follow up the first chat with video email: Justin said that email follow-ups are huge in the telephone sales game. But I actually turned him on to video messaging here a few months back. So instead of following up an intimate medium (telephone) with a non-intimate medium (pure text email), Justin uses video email with Will Franco’s JiveSYSTEMS to really hammer home his bookings.
- Shhhhhh!: The best thing about phone calls is that they allow your client to spill the beans on precisely what they’re looking for. So Justin said he’s always sure to ask smart questions and then to just be silent and take notes. He says he gleans a massive amount of information when he’s not the one talking (and he has a big mouth in real life).
- Identify “buy questions”: Whenever he hears a question about deposits, prices, or cancellation policies, Justin said his ears perk up and he gets super attuned to what’s about to happen. As for buy questions/statements, here are a few that came right to his mind. Whenever he hears any of these comments, it is like blood in the water. These are things that only someone seriously thinking about reserving would be asking me. Many times they are trying to throw up subconscious road blocks because of doubt or concern. First, Justin lists subtle ones many people miss, and then direct ones that sometimes people miss as well.
: Do you offer travel insurance? What is your cancellation policy? Do I have to pay for the whole trip up front or can I make payments? What if I need to change something down the road? I love the hotels, but I am not sure about the activities? Package looks great, but now I need to work on flights? Can you get me any upgrades?
Direct (but sometimes overlooked): If I want to book, how do I reserve the trip? Will I need to pay by credit card or check? When do I need to reserve by?
- Learn to sniff out the “non-buy statements”: It’s all about understanding where the client is in their buying process and the closer to the “buy,” the better. But just because a client is exhibiting non-buy behavior doesn’t mean Justin will hang up the phone. Recognizing statements like “we’re kinda just looking around at this point” and “we’re in the early stages of planning” make him alert to implement the following acronym…
- Always. Be. Closing. (ABC): Justin uses secret weapons in his ABC arsenal to counteract all types of non-buy statements. Whenever he senses a hurdle or obstacle, he uses a phrase to try to delineate between a serious client and a tire-kicker. For instance, he’ll respectfully say, “with us you can cancel at any time up until 30 days before arrival” or “since 80% of rentals here have less than 3 bedrooms, just wanted to let you know that this property fills up pretty fast.”
- Fire your Call To Action: It can be easy to have a great phone call and forget to ask for the sale at the end. Justin says it’s best…if you’re feeling good…to offer the guest the ability to reserve the nights NOW via a credit card over the phone. This mini-commitment is how Justin closes a sizable chunk of his sales. And if they’re ready to book (but not at that moment), he gives them specific instructions on how to do so ASAP. And whatever you do…
- Never end with “Lemme know if you have any other questions”: Justin calls this the worst way to end a sales phone call ever. He says you need to be asking them to do something specific. The longer you wait, the less chance you have at the booking. He says he’s not pushy. But he isn’t open ended either.
- Ask the difficult questions: There are some hard questions that most people feel uncomfortable about asking. Things like “what’s your budget?” and “when do you see yourself making the reservation?” If everything looks great but they’re not booking, ask them straight up, “If everything looks great, is there something that we’re missing in order to seal up your reservation?
- The 24-hour holding pattern: Assuming you don’t actually seal the booking on the phone, your next 24 hours are critical. Justin says that most of his leads wither away if they don’t book in 24 hours. So he really focuses on urgency and deadlines. “As mentioned in our call, I’d be happy to hold these nights for you for 24 hours” or “as mentioned in our call, I’m happy to honor this special rate for 24 hours.” Using this holding pattern, Justin says he usually closes those on the fence.
- In the case that no one answered, leave a voicemail: Justin’s not a huge voicemail fan, but he says that leaving a polite message asking for a call-back is your best bet if no one answers. “I just got your inquiry for our X vacation rental in Y town and I’ve got a few questions about your visit. Please shoot me a call at your soonest convenience!”
- Don’t get discouraged: Justin is a genius salesman but even he (nor Zig Ziglar) can close every booking. For every 1 door that opens, 5 get slammed in his face. So he reminds us to set some realistic conversion goals and be persistent in knowing that phone is the best way to close sales.
*NOW FOR THE BEST TIP OF ALL*
So after our chat, I handpicked the best tip that he gave me and I removed it from the list. I then asked him to announce it as #21 on video. Here’s Justin’s biggest phone sales call tip on the planet:
Brilliant advice, Justin!
Have you ever had any odd requests over the phone for your vacation rental? Please share in the comments section below…