This post comes from Kit Steen-Verhoeven, Vacasa’s Director of Sales, and was originally posted on the VRMA blog.
In the vacation rental industry, guest bookings drive the bottom line and are an essential part of running a successful business. As the Director of Sales at Vacasa, it’s my job to oversee our team of 25 reservationists and ensure our inbound sales process is contributing to our company’s financial success.
My sales career began when I was just 16 years old, and grew into more than 20 years of experience managing sales teams in the design, home automation, and horticulture industries. Despite my extensive experience, I decided my next career move would need to be something I was passionate about, and when I heard about Vacasa, I knew I had found just that. I told our founder and CEO, Eric Breon, that I would take any job he offered me, and I ended up starting out as a reservationist and guest services agent.
When I joined Vacasa, our conversion rate for inbound calls was 27% – significantly lower than the industry standard of 30-50% (according to Salesforce). To remedy the issue, I devoted three years to cultivating our reservations team and boosting sales. As a result, our conversion rate has doubled, now averaging between 54 and 60%.
The secret to our success? It starts with building a strong, talented team and providing them with the tools and support needed to close sales.
Hire the right people and build a strong team.
Sales is something that comes naturally, and it’s nearly impossible to teach. That’s why it’s so important to hire employees who have strong people and communication skills. Beyond that, we also look for people who share our values and enjoy a sense of camaraderie at work.
Although 90% of my team works remotely, we’ve had the highest retention and satisfaction ratings in the entire company for the last three years – something we’re especially proud of. To preserve that achievement, I sit in on every single interview and share our satisfaction rating with all potential employees to let them know we’re looking for an engaged, loyal team player. It takes a little extra work to stay connected as a remote team, but we make it a priority with initiatives like a weekly internal newsletter and employee of the month recognition.
Implement a thorough training program.
At Vacasa, the entrepreneurial, do-it-yourself spirit permeates our company culture, which often results in some really innovative ideas. But I believe a sales team needs training to deliver a consistent experience to customers, so I created a structured program.
Each new reservationist at Vacasa goes through 80 hours of training — first learning our systems, then partnering with another agent to listen in on guest conversations. For their last few days of training, they’re making their own calls with some coaching. Once training is complete, they spend another 45 days on a training team for extra support.
Before this official training program, it would take 60 to 90 days for new agents to earn commissions. Now, it usually happens during the first two weeks!
Develop your sales philosophy.
When speaking with guests, we aim to build a relationship with the person, gain their trust, and then try to find them a solution. I train my team to do this by being 100% present with every single guest – treating each call as if it’s the first and only call of the day.
Our team doesn’t have to make cold calls. Every call we get is from someone who wants our help. We take as much time as needed to convince them that Vacasa is the answer to their vacation needs and finish by asking for the sale: “Why don’t we book that for you?” We get to be the hero who solves their problem for the day.
Make it fun.
At the end of the day, we’re selling vacations. This is a purchase people are excited to make, so our sales calls should be fun. We try to take things a step further by setting sales goals and encouraging a little friendly competition among ourselves. I believe that if you’re not having fun, then you’re not in the right job.
With connected teams, a supportive training process, and united philosophy, we’ve found what works for us – and our numbers speak for themselves!