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Mis-$elling a Generation

It wasn’t too long ago (sometime in 2020) in the fog of COVID that I received a mailing that presented the offer to stay at a Marriott Residence Club for three nights. Price tag: $299. Obviously, there was a catch. That catch was the quintessential time-share presentation. A 60-90 minute time-suck from our days of sipping Coronas at the pool and floating on the lazy river. As expected, they want us to come in on the last day of our trip, at the perfect time to be sold on a ‘too good to be real’ ownership stake in a vacation property.

After all the years of companies and folks selling and buying time-share properties, they are still one heck of a product on paper. That product being a key to a sliver of paradise anywhere in the world. Sure beats trying to sell a used car or a mattress! In many ways (and with a little honesty and transparency) it could sell itself to the modern consumer.

As seasoned travelers, my wife and I thought, ‘what the heck,’ and went for the $299 offer, thinking that at the very least this would be a research mission on the time-share industry. Being self-proclaimed ‘points junkies,’ getting a look under the hood of the time-share game certainly seemed enticing.

I’ll spare you all of the sunshine, massive hotel residence, cold drinks and nachos details and jump right into the final day/sales pitch. Once we were past the big greeting and had been ushered into a big room to be alone with our thoughts, the hard sell began. Large pictures of the best resorts adorned the walls in an attempt to show you what could be.

The sales approach was very ‘Hunger Games’-esque. Interrogation-type questions on income, professions and our dreams. These directed mostly to me, not my wife (she loved that, let me tell you). The only thing missing from this was the mirrored glass hiding onlookers from behind. Oddly enough, there was no cell phone signal even though we were sitting next to the window. This made sense though. We were told there was to be no picture taking or phones to be seen. Yeah, that tactic sure builds trust!

After taking 90 minutes to barrage us with pictures and examples of how all of our travel dreams could come true, we were not surprised when our pointed questions regarding additional ongoing costs, re- selling and resort maintenance fees to the salesperson simply got deflected. Like a bad first date, we all knew we weren’t making it to dessert. We were ushered out. To put the icing on the cake, we were ghosted once in the lobby. Not even a handshake. Connection burned.

All in all, the presentation was shallow, salesy and over before it started. But, this went from ‘sales pitch 101’ to ‘a way to kill an opportunity in three minutes.' But, it got me thinking about how the sales mindset of yesterday doesn’t stand a chance to consumers of today. Many are simply mis-selling a generation. Those who aren’t listening will become dinosaurs before too long.

Each generation—Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z are all consumers. But what once worked for Boomers won’t necessarily work for Millennials or Gen Z. Whether it is time shares, financial services or luxuries—corporate America is way behind in understanding how modern consumers think.

Let’s look at car sales for example. We are seeing a shift in the sales tactics of many dealerships. Lexus calls their salespeople ‘presenters.’ They know that the majority of customers have already done everything but sit in the car by the time they visit the dealer. They have read reviews, researched the vehicles flaws, strengths and local inventory. Dealerships are also realizing that consumers are inherently skeptical and haggling on price for 3 hours just builds frustration and decreases trust. Luckily, many dealerships are addressing the change. There is nowhere to hide. If the auto sales industry can figure this out, why can’t the timeshare business?

As the millennial and Gen Z generations are coming into their mainstream consuming years, businesses must face the facts of what makes today and tomorrow’s consumers tick. They aren’t just looking for the best deal. Many purchase products and services with their heart or passion. Some purchase goods from a company that shares their philosophy on everything from the environment to human rights. Others may buy only from those who stand by their word and make sure they right any wrongs in the future. Simply put, it all comes down to trust and integrity.

I never planned on buying a timeshare package before the presentation. But I can’t say that I wouldn’t have, either. Some transparency, honesty and offering to follow up (none of which happened) would have certainly given the salesperson a chance to make me a customer and others in our travel network, as well. Instead, their medieval and empty approach eliminated a potential customer forever and a negative spokesperson for their product. They didn’t fail at the job of trying to sell. They did, however, succeed at mis-selling.


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