New angle on an old game?

To Louis Stone, ''time sharing is just a new angle on an old game.''

Today Dr. Stone teaches marketing and salesmanship at Clemson University in South Carolina. But he made an earlier career selling land and occasionally ''straying off the straight and narrow.''

Dr. Stone sees the roots of today's time-sharing selling techniques in earlier recreational property selling ''back to the Florida land boom of the 1920s or even before. The method is to get the 'ups' (potential buyers enticed to come 'up' for a look) on the property and then close the sale.

''We used to figure that we could get 1 out of every 3 to sign up. We'd spend , say, $300 each to get them 'up,' meaning that marketing costs would average about $900 per sale.'' He says the offering of incentives is an old technique. ''I once read a study on how a carny (carnival operator) works. It's the same thing. He always gives you something first.''

According to Dr. Stone, who has worked with time-sharing developers, the key to sales is to quickly sell out the first one or two buildings. ''Once you get the core sold, the first 12 or 24 units bought out, you ought to be able to sell the rest either to your owners or to their friends.''

Although time-sharing customers may think the pressure is on them, it's really on the salesperson, adds marketing professor Robert F. Young of Northeastern University in Boston. The seller must close the deal quickly before his potential buyer has a chance to go home and think about it. ''It's very much a discretionary purchase,'' says Professor Young. ''It's easy to say 'no' because you really don't need it. The salesman must sell while the customer is standing there enjoying the scenery, looking at the Gulf of Mexico, or whatever.''

Professor Young says that a sales person who is ''aggressive but pleasant is one thing; aggressive but pushy and nasty is another.'' He says his students are not taught ''boiler-room selling'' - pushing quickly through the sales presentation and then concentrating on a hard close. ''We tell our students their reason for being is to be of service to the consumer - they're a service agent.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.