Ahhh……at last….January is finally here. Isn’t it true that as vacation home owners we count down the days until January? Just as retailers eagerly wait for the holiday selling season, vacation home owners eagerly await the flood of inquiries that follow the holiday season.
The most successful retailers plan for their selling season because they know if they are on their A-game during those 30-45 days it can be the difference between a good year and a great year. Are you and your vacation home business on your A-game during our prime selling season?
Below are some ideas to help you make the most of OUR Selling Season in 2012. These may be refreshers, but no need to reinvent the wheel.
Respond Promptly – This is nothing new. Our friends at HomeAway preach this constantly, but only because it works. HomeAway studies consistently show a direct correlation between response time and likelihood for the inquiry to book. If you can’t always respond immediately, set up an auto-response with some detailed information that an inquirer might find useful and tell them when you will be getting back to them. The longer you wait, the longer someone else has to take your booking.
*Best Practice – If you are away from your calendar and receive a call or email notification, answer it to let them know you have received their inquiry and you aren’t at your calendar. Then set the expectation that you will be getting back to them by a specific time and follow up.
Get On the Phone - This is one that Angela and I often struggle to find time for, but it works and we are always more successful when we can manage to do it. We have found that most inquirers appreciate talking to a live person and it’s easier for you to establish common ground with them over the phone than over email. If you aren’t comfortable responding with a call to an initial inquiry, or if they don’t leave a phone number, then give them yours in your email response and encourage them to call you. Like it or not, if you are responding to inquiries you are in sales, and it is usually easier to “close the deal” over the phone than over email.
*Best Practice – Offer to help them “plan their trip” by asking what they are most looking forward to doing while they are in your area, then offer suggestions related to their response.
Follow Up – After you have answered all their questions over the phone, follow the conversation up with an email that states:
- The 3 main selling points of your property – remind them why they should book with you.
- The Rate quote for the dates, number of guests and total costs you discussed.
- That you book on a first come, first served basis.
*Best Practice – Don’t come across as pushy, rather as concerned that their ideal home (yours) might book if they wait too much longer so let’s figure out what it will take to get them to book now. Are they asking for a DISCOUNT?
Keep It Fresh – Be sure to keep your headline, rates, photos and calendar updated on a regular basis. Resist the temptation to keep your calendar blank and not post your rates. After experimenting with this concept over the last 5 years in this business we can say with confidence that travelers want to see calendars and rates, and most will inquire first on those properties they know are available within their timeframe and their budget.
*Best Practice – Differentiate your listing headline to stand out from the crowd. Call out specific date ranges you need to book or include a special offer for your two slowest months.
The Bottom Line: Practically every booking begins with an inquiry so we ought to treat our inquiries, each one of them, as if our business depends on them. Because you know what? Our business does depend on them. One of the best ways we can maximize ROI is to create more opportunities to turn inquiries into bookings. By responding promptly and professionally, following up and keeping our listings fresh we increase our opportunities and our occupancy, and maximize our revenue!
Michael and his wife Angela happened into vacation home ownership in April 2007 when a relocation nudged them toward the idea of short-term renting. Within months of establishing Ultimate SoCal Vacation Homes, they began making plans to expand their business. Having combined backgrounds in sales, marketing, business development and hospitality helps them to create guest experiences that exceed expectations. Today, more than 3,500 guests later, Michael and Angela are operating three profitable vacation homes in Anaheim.