How To Close A Vacation Rental Deal Like A Pro - Part 1 by:Michael CansonIn previous article, The Art and Science of Responding to Inquiries, we discussed how to instruct your computer to automatically respond to a prospective renter's first email request, how to handle your next communication with him using the "fast-and-dirty response", how to build a FAQ to save time and energy, and when to communicate by email or phone.
Now that you've carefully and enthusiastically provided your prospective renters with clear, honest and comprehensive details about your wonderful property and region, how can you make sure that all that investment of time and effort will translate into firm bookings? In other words, as the sales specialists put it, how do you "close the deal"?
In this article, I will also provide some tips on how to screen your guests before firming up your bookings.
Benchmark and track
Let's begin this discussion by taking one step back. Start keeping statistics now so that you'll have a clear picture of where you stand. Benchmark how you are doing today, and over the coming months, track your progress - number of inquiries vs. number of bookings - as you integrate the communication techniques laid out here. Every time you lose a booking, try to figure out why and what you could do better.
Target the right clientele for your property
If you're losing bookings today, the problem may simply be that you are not aiming at the right renters for your particular property. Have you taken the time to thoughtfully reflect about what profile of renter your property would naturally attract? Have you stood back to look at your property objectively, in conjunction with your region, through the eyes of a renter?
You cannot hope to have a high ratio of bookings vs. inquiries if you're shooting too wide, as with a bee-bee gun - you may hit a few birds but because there is nothing strategic about your approach, you're wasting precious ammunition (your time and energy). It's well worth it to take some time to position and brand your property, so that you can attract the right renters through fine-tuning your communications.
Here is an exercise to guide you through this process:
1. Start by studying the profile of your past guests - describe that group, in writing. What do they have in common? Review what they told you they appreciated about your property - these elements may prove to be points you'll want to highlight in your communications.
2. What type of traveler normally visits your region? You should be able to obtain statistics and a visitor profile from your local tourist office. Visit regional tourism Web sites and inventory the type of activities available in your region - are they aimed at families, sports-minded couples, culture freaks?
3. To whom would you really prefer to be renting? For instance, you may decide you prefer to rent to couples with no children, or to small groups even though your home can accommodate a larger number.
4. Examine all the features of your property - to whom are they best suited? A "romantic spa" and a "high-tech gourmet kitchen" might not send the same message as a "kid-friendly swimming pool in a large, safe, fenced-in back yard".
5. Your rental rates help position your property within your particular vacation rental market. How do your rates compare to those of other properties in your region? Inflated rates limit the pool of interested renters while rates that are too low, compared to similar properties in your area, can create suspicion (what's wrong with this house?) and attract bargain-hunters. Investigate regional rates and make sure that yours are appropriate for your target clientele and region.
6. Have you thought about growing your renter pool by rethinking some of your policies - to include pets, for example?
Revamp your communications to fit that target clientele
Now that you've done this important positioning work, you're ready for the next step: Examine your current communications with your renters - ads, FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), email and verbal communications - and make the necessary adjustments to content and language. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Is my content and specific choice of words working to attract my target clientele?
- Are any of my claims confusing or contradictory for this target group?
- How can I present my offer so as to discourage renters whom I have excluded from my target group?
- This is a work-in-progress, so you'll need to review your communications on a regular basis and keep making adjustments. You'll discover that it is more profitable to cut back on the number of undesirable inquiries in order to make more time to invest in potentially agreeable, profitable business relationships.
Play an active role in your renter's decision-making process
Don't just wait passively for a renter to take his decision. There are several ways you can influence that decision in your favor. When a renter is faced with two or three equally interesting options, it's often going this "extra mile" that can swing the situation in your direction.
- Respect best practices: Remember that you are competing with other property owners who take their rentals as seriously as you do. So handle all inquiries in a timely and professional manner - review our compilation of best practices in our April issue. Your renter's comfort level will be affected by your overall approach and your personality.
- Like a good scout, Be Prepared! Always be ready for that call - which of course will come in at the most inconvenient moment! Keep your FAQ and booking calendar up to date and handy - near your home phone, with you in the car, in your briefcase at work - so you can quickly say whether the week requested is available or not. Be prepared to propose other dates.
- Always follow up: So many property owners don't take the trouble to follow up on inquiries. If they don't hear back from the renter, they assume she has chosen another property - which may not be the case.
Take a moment to reflect on how you yourself react to a renter's silence Isn't it possible that the renter may simply be overwhelmed at the office, preoccupied by a child's illness, or is waiting for her procrastinating husband to give feedback on a short list of properties? Your timely, thoughtful call could tilt the balance in your favor because it will bring you and your property back top-of-mind and give you another opportunity to remind the renter of all the advantages of renting with you. In short, your call might just save the day by making it much easier for your renter to take her decision. If you can create a comfortable, trusting relationship with her during that call, your chances of closing the deal within a few hours are multiplied.
- Provide your guest with a decision-making tool: Now that you've spoken with your prospective renter and have listened to her carefully, especially her subtle in-between-the-lines messages, you have a much better understanding of where her hesitations lie. You might want to try a homemade decision-making tool such as the one below. Send this chart along with a note: "Hello, Jane. Following our conversation, I gave some thought to the concerns you expressed and have prepared this little chart for you, in the hopes that it might help you take your decision more comfortably. Let me know if I can be of any more help."
Continued in "How To Close A Vacation Rental Deal Like A Pro - Part 2"
1. Christine Hrib Karpinski, How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition (Kinney Press Pollack, 2008)
2. Bridget McCrea & Stephen Spignesi, Second Homes for Dummies (Indiannapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2007)
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