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Improve Sales Success with Storytelling Processes

By October 14, 2009August 10th, 2020No Comments
beautiful orange-red sky as sun sets over the ocean, view from the beach - resort trade, hospitality, hotel, travel, vacation - improves sales with better storytelling

Article Summary:  I met Alan Schlaifer several years ago during a Wharton Alumni event in the Washington, DC area. A few months ago, we found ourselves sitting at the same table during an evening event. Later in the night, we got caught up on each other’s respective lives. I learned that he writes a column for The Resort Trades. Resort Trades “established in 1986, is a super-tabloid news and information source publication targeted specifically at the Resort and Timeshare sales industry” (from the website). One of his upcoming articles was helping organizations be more effective in sales after some challenging economic years. He asked me to co-author.

Alan wrote a total of 12 strategies. And I contributed 12. Where Do I Sign? Three Suggestions for Improving Your Sales Success. My three suggestions were (a) Develop and follow a consistent messaging process; (b) Create a story inventory; and (c) Fill in your story gaps. Find below the 13 strategies.

Are You Prepared for Recovery?

13 Strategies to Get on Track, Engage Customers & Employees, & Gain Market Share

by Alan N. Schlaifer
Principal, Law Offices of Alan N. Schlaifer, P.C.


What Happened to the Depression?” – Headline of recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by Dr. Allan H. Meltzer, Carnegie-Mellon Economics Professor

Unlike the situation earlier in the year, U.S. and world business news is focusing on fewer negatives and even occasional positive developments. American housing prices and sales no longer seem to be in free fall across the country. In some markets, a recovery seems to be occurring.

More public companies are beating Wall Street earnings and sales estimates. One result has been that, as of this writing, major stock market indexes in the U.S. and foreign nations are up 10 to 50% or more from the lows just a few months ago.

Recent Wall Street Journal stories had headlines such as, “Car Makers Upbeat as Sales Rebound,” and “Big-Ticket Orders Surge 4.9% Amid Rising New Home Sales.” The latter story noted that “orders for big-ticket items from airplanes to appliances surged in July at their fastest pace in two years, reflecting improvement in the manufacturing sector.” Indeed, total U.S. manufacturing was up for the first time in 18 months.

These gains may not hold or continue at a regular pace – recall old master Bernard Baruch’s comments about the future, “Stocks will fluctuate.” So does the economy. Yet, the worst seems to be over for now.

Travel – albeit with many shorter trips, more often by car than plane – has been responsive to great deals in most lodging markets. Consumers continued to make tens of millions of trips throughout the summer and on long holiday weekends.

With the new Ken Burns six-part series, “The National Park:  American’s Best Idea,” airing this Fall, and numerous enticing promotions from public and private sources, a vast audience is finding its wanderlust ignited. Real experiences and values – such as the vacations people need to share with their loved ones, and which vacation ownership offers in so many magnificent ways – can convert them from the “staycation” to a “vacation” perspective.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset:  See the Light

Consider the positive side of this situation, from an article by senior Fortune writer Geoff Colvin earlier this year:

It’s hard to be upbeat in a recession, but it truly is an opportunity. Marathoners and Tour de France racers will tell you that a race’s hardest parts, the uphill stages, are where the lead changes hands. That’s where we are. When this recession ends, when the road levels off and the world seems full of promise once more, your position in the competitive pack will depend on how skillfully you manage right now.

2. Use the Recession’s Silver Lining to Innovate Strategically

Further examples from the business world are in Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times, a new book by Scott Anthony, President of Innosight, Cambridge, Mass.

He cites great companies – Hewlett-Packard, United Technologies, and Revlon – all of which started in the Great Depression. Microsoft, Genentech, and The Limited were all founded during recessions. And lest you need a reminder, vacation ownership began and started to grow dramatically during tough times in the resort real estate market.

On Anthony’s website, go now, he cites three rules to innovate strategically in lean times:

  1. Stop low-potential innovation initiatives through judicious pruning of your portfolio — then rechannel freed-up resources into your most promising initiatives.
  2. Change key innovation processes. For example, target your most value-conscious customer segments and reconfigure your offerings to not only reduce costs but also deliver new benefits customers are eager to pay for.
  3. Start the personal reinvention required to remain flexible in the face of constant change. For instance, get comfortable with the paradoxes inherent in downturns — such as having to run your company’s operations with laser-like precision while also fostering creativity.

He says, “In any bust time, you need to pare costs to the bone while also planting and nurturing the seeds needed for tomorrow’s growth.”

3. Balance Optimism with Realism, to Prepare Your Recovery Plan

Industry veteran John Sweeney, RRP, President, Global Resorts, Inc., Las Vegas (“GRI”), says,

“Sure, it has been a harrowing storm. And now is no time to discount the dangers that still exist. But opening your mind to optimism can help you seize the opportunities ahead.”

He continues, “There has been considerable scaling down in personnel, with departments in a frenzy to get expenses more under control as sales revenues decline in light of the lack of receivables financing and general consumer malaise about discretionary spending.”

“This has been an efficacious process for many and has staved off more disastrous results. But,” he says, “I am not sure how many companies have a Recovery Plan in place or even in mind to reset the clock organizationally when the economy finally does turn around. This would include assessing the restart of formerly effective marketing and sales programs that are now relegated primarily to owner referrals and in-house.”

4. Bring in an Objective Experienced Outside Team for Fresh Ideas

Could you and your executive team benefit from a new vision or approach to surmount the challenges you face? Given the millions, or tens of millions of dollars at stake, you may gain by having a talented group of outsiders take a look and give you what may be extremely valuable input.

These same points are relevant to others, such as lenders or banks, with a substantial stake in a project. Sometimes, those who are too close to a given situation may be overly tied in emotionally, or obsess over details and not see options that others may envision.

5. Schedule a “Recovery Plan Work Session Program”

In that regard, creating a team with broad experience is the approach GRI’s two principals, Sweeney and Chairman/CEO Jim Beckham, RRP, have followed. To help challenged properties weather the current storms and prepare for better days ahead, they have linked resources with resort market research leader, Dr. Richard Ragatz, RRP, Ragatz Associates, Inc. (RAI), Eugene, Oregon (, to build a team that has set up a Recovery Plan Work Session Program.

This is a one-day, confidential assessment of where a developer is now organizationally. It spells out what actions should be considered to survive and even move along a path to profitable recovery.

The three principals are well equipped to make this productive for resort developers and marketers. With more than 100 years of experience among them, they have a full range of capabilities in all aspects of resort real estate, including each form of vacation ownership, mixed use, condos, and more. In addition, between the two firms, they have had key responsibilities on over 3,000 projects in a total of 48 states and 70 other countries.

They are prepared to help a developer create a recovery plan, even considering elements of . If the company already has such a plan, they could assess it to help prevent the launch of a failed one, or make it more viable. By working with a team such as this, dealings with current or prospective investors or lenders are likely to be more fruitful.

This approach is designed specifically to serve developers and those funding them. With apt modifications, it could be helpful to any business in the resort industry that wishes to survive and thrive these challenging times.

6. Tempt Vacationers to Savor Their Own Personal Recovery Time

This is what ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, is recommending based on the latest research. A recent release summed this approach up as follows:

Your Prescription for Good Health: Take Two Weeks & Call Me in the Morning

ARDA recommends a three-part recovery regimen:

  1. The U.S. as a nation needs to promote wellness by taking more breaks to help physical and mental health
  2. Follow research demonstrating that long-term benefits associated with taking regular vacations contribute to better health, relationships and job performance.
  3. Make your vacation the best experience you can have by partaking of the various quality accommodations and amenities at ARDA member vacation ownership resorts

7. Seize the Day and Your Moments of Truth

Nigel Lobo, Vice President of Resort Operations, Grand Pacific Resorts (“GPR””), Carlsbad, California, cites the lessons that every business – vacation ownership or not – can learn from Jan Carlzon’s book, Moments of Truth.

Carlzon said a business has moment of truth “anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, [and it] is an opportunity to form an impression.” He then pointed out that the first 15 seconds that a customers spends with a company representatives set the tone for company in the customer’s mind.

With this as his foundation, Lobo says Carlzon began in 1986 to turn around his then failing airline, Scandinavian (SAS), and made it one of the world’s most respected carriers. Lobo says Carlzon’s moments of truth included every major contact point from making a reservation and arrival at the airport, to your greeting at the gate and on the plane, to your handling at your final destination.

With his extensive hospitality experience before being recruited to join GPR, Lobo has applied this same sterling principle to his work with Grand Pacific’s 45,000 owners and hundreds of associates.

He says, “This gives us over 4.5 million moments of truth – opportunities to consistently showcase our service culture and Star Treatment to each owner and guest!”

He notes, “Every interaction with our customers counts, because it impacts the customer’s perception about the specific resort (GPR now has 14) and the company. Every moment of truth, even the smallest ones, is part of your customer’s total experience and level of satisfaction.”

8. Consistently Create Moments of Magic

Lobo points out, “You should constantly look for opportunities to serve your guests. All levels of moments of truth, from the smallest to the major ones, combine in your customer’s mind in their assessment of their overall satisfaction.”

As to different types of moments, he says, “Jan Carlzon put them into three categories: good – moments of magic, bad – moments of misery, and average.”

In training his staff, Lobo says, “Our goal should be to consistently create all moments of magic, even if they start out as moments of misery.”

What if a moment of misery is because a customer has a legitimate complaint, such as check-in taking too long? Or, a guest is just having a bad day from delayed flights, lost luggage, or a cranky child?

Whether or not your resort is the reason for the complaint, “You need to fix problems and complaints. But you also need to give your guests reasons to return and do business with you again and again, and maybe even refer or bring along their friends.”

9. Set High Standards

To raise performance, Lobo says GPR sets standards higher than RCI mandates for its Gold Crown Resorts.

10. Share Best Practices Throughout Your Company

This is done both within resorts and, through monthly conferences, having each “resort general manager share what’s going well and making a positive impact on their service culture and owners.” They follow similar procedures with front office managers, activity leaders, engineers, and executive housekeepers at their resorts.

Lobo says he participates in the various conference calls, making clear it is for the benefit of each caller, to “share best practices. If you’re struggling with something, put it out there to get ideas from your colleagues. That’s how we all become stronger.”

11. Do Unit Maintenance Quarterly, Not Annually

When an owner checks out early, GPR uses their “Court Green” program to do preventive maintenance. That “keeps the unit looking the way it should at all times.”

Lobo and his team are even willing to expand the zone of GPR magic to more resorts in the Western and Southwestern U.S. If your resort is in that region and could benefit from lower delinquencies (they’ve lowered theirs sharply by focusing on the vacation value), higher satisfaction, and more.

12. Where Do I Sign? Three Suggestions for Improving Your Sales Success

Be deliberate. Use deliberate words and messages—business stories—that you share verbally, in print and online. Unlike personal stories, all business stories have a specific message to convey.

Here are three business storytelling suggestions to improve your sales success.

  1. Develop and follow a consistent messaging process. We all have a sales process. Few have a deliberate messaging process of what business stories you share in each respective sales step. With a structured messaging approach, you can measure success at any point to determine what stories are working well and what stories need tweaking.
  2. Conduct a story inventory. Identify your current business stories and identify where they best fit in your sales process. Examples include personal stories of past vacationers/time share owners; upcoming or ongoing renovations; and interesting information about local culture. Get your prospects to feel like they are already enjoying your property and are already a part of your “resort family.”
  3. Fill in your story gaps. As you look at your inventory, identify what stories you need across your sales process. Do you need a story for people coming from a certain country or region? One for those who enjoy a particular activity, such as swimming, tennis, hiking or family get-togethers? One customized for those that love antiquing, looking for shells on a local beach, or any unique feature of your area? Or a success story for families that prefer pool and beach activities?

With your messaging process and story inventory, you now have new tools to add to your sales toolbox. Used well, they will help increase your sales.

13. Use Telework Strategically

When a transmissible epidemic or pandemic – such as the swine flu threatens, it makes perfect sense for organizations to keep their ill employees apart from others. To keep sick employees from coming in to the office sending them home or having them work from is usually the most logical decision.

For employers who have already trained and equipped their people to work from home – doing “telework” – the consequences of the health threat to their business recovery are totally minimized. Employees say that working at home eliminates stress and better allows them to concentrate on meeting the needs of the customers who call them.

Companies such as HP and Sun Systems are very strong on telework. An article in the September Harvard Business Review, “Why Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation,” points out that telework “leads to reductions in travel time, travel costs, and energy use.” At AT&T;, telecommuting produces an estimated $550 million in annual savings, together with higher job satisfaction and 10-20% better productivity. These companies have resolved the technical requirements for this type of work setting and method.

Another major issue to the spreading of telework is managers’ objections. At a Sept 2, 2009 conference on telework, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who calls himself the strongest proponent of telework in the US Congress, said that if they could resolve the issue of managers’ objections, it would be possible to have twice as many people telework.

But solutions are already being proposed for this issue. Dr. Jean-François Orsini, through his company,, offers training that helps managers acquire a sense of ownership of their company’s telework program. Dr. Orsini’s training with a course used by companies of all sizes, including Fortune 500s, helps people in various locations collaborate more effectively and efficiently as a team. In any economy, but particularly a challenging one, more effective teamwork – through telework and other avenues – is more important than ever.

Improve (dramatically) your storytelling, public speaking, and communication skills


  • Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story  (Part 1)
  • Everyone has a Story to Tell, and You Need One Too  (read)
  • It’s Simple, Actually – Just Use a Metaphor  (read)
  • My Uncle Henry Taught Me A Valuable Lesson  (read)
  • All Sales-related posts  (go)
  • All Networking/Relationship building posts  (go)
  • All Storytelling for Sales posts  (go)

Photography Source Updated:  Unsplash
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Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.