"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

Views & Interviews

Q&A: Talking to Shaun Donovan, author of TIMESHARE - A JOURNEY INTO THE UNKNOWN

February 2013

Shaun was part of the value chain in timeshare marketing, when the industry went through its most difficult times. Based in Cyprus, Shaun worked his way up the hard way – which meant learning the trade and understanding its nuances, from a customer’s point of you. Shaun’s learnings will be very useful to young marketing people in India, who are basically faced with the same difficult proposition. Selling a dream, with a product you can only describe at a sales presentation.

Shaun has a website called Taffy’s Travels and we thought that would be a good place to start our story.

Q: Shaun, what is Taffy’s Travels all about?

A: Taffy’s Travels is a world of outlandish adventures and exciting voyages of discovery. Visitors to my website are welcome to travel with me as I traverse this planet in a way that no ordinary mortal would ever dream of –unless like me they are crazy of course! With the release of my latest two books, you too can enjoy reading about my unbelievable exploits and encounters, along with my never-ending list of trials and tribulations.

Taffy’s Travels also gives you updates on my books. The one relevant to you is “TIMESHARE – A JOURNEY INTO THE UNKNOWN”. It’s a story of my ten years working and living in Tenerife as a sales representative and also my time spent in Cyprus, working as a sales manager in the timeshare industry. I knew very little about the industry at the time, apart from the fact that they had posh resorts and that it cost a small fortune to buy a share in one of them!

Q: What was the turning point for you?

A: As a salesman, it was my turn to learn how to ‘create the dream’ and ‘sell’ the concept to prospective buyers. I would learn all about ‘open-ended’ and ‘closed’ questions, ‘tie-downs’ and ‘buying signals’, and a host of other fact-finding questions to ‘test the water’ throughout my four-hour presentation. At the ‘front-end’ and ‘back-end’ of my tour I would sit quietly and listen patiently while my manager presented an array of ‘trial closes’, ‘silent closes’, ‘alternative closes’- and even a ‘porcupine close’, which would hopefully assist me in getting a sale at the end of the day.

In time I would learn all of these things and as the months progressed my confidence increased, as I learned more and more about the industry and its resorts, not only from my mentors, but also from the members themselves, most of whom, I have to say, were not only enthralled with their holidays, but also ‘proud’ of their ownership – and invariably on the lookout to buy some more! Timeshare had progressed over many years, from the original concept of ‘quarter-shares’, (13 weeks) which began in 1966 (I believe), to ‘single week’ ownership which thrived throughout the seventies and eighties – and now in the nineties, holiday ‘points’ were all the rage it seemed – and that is what I sold to my clients.

Q: What according to you is the most important aspect in promoting timeshare?

A: Getting to know the people who sit in front of you is the most important factor of the whole game and listening very carefully to their wants and needs is paramount - otherwise you would be wasting your time. Because if you did not want to listen to what they were saying – then why should they listen to you? “Telling, not selling” is the phrase we used when a sales rep was found guilty of spurting-off at the mouth, bawling about what he had to sell – without first asking the people what they might want to buy. The old adage of ‘two ears, one mouth’ was often said to me by my manager in the early days, because I found it so difficult in learning how to ‘shut my gob’ for five minutes, sit gently back in my chair and hear what the customer had to say!

Q: So, how would you go about getting someone’s attention?

A: To draw attention, you must first ‘warm-up’ the client, by talking to them as if they were already your friends - and always offer to help them in any way that you can. As soon as you have their attention, you must then gain their interest, so share a few ‘third-party’ stories with them, about you, your life, your travels – and anything else which is both interesting -and also funny wherever possible, but don’t bore them - and never turn a ‘friendly chat’ into a one-sided conversation. The ‘desire’ must be created by you –and this is where your selling skills come into practice. We call it ‘sizzling’, because now that they are warm, you will need to get them ‘on the boil’ and the only way that you are going to do that is by finding-out their ‘hot-spots’, in other words where they would literally ‘die for’ to visit –and then it is up to you to put them in their own little ‘paradise’.

You must also conjure up the ‘magic’, to make them feel as if they were already experiencing that dream holiday – and then all that is left is to show them how it works – and if you have done your job properly, and the people can afford it, of course you will have your ‘sale’.

Q: Isn’t product knowledge the first step to making a sale?

A: To learn all the ‘tricks of the trade’ and to know how to use the system to the owner’s best advantage, you need a brain like a Philadelphia lawyer, I was told in the early stages of my career and so I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about exchanges, points values, hotel ratings, saving and borrowing of points, cancellations, rentals and anything else I could muster about this industry. I then passed this information onto my clients, because I soon learned that the biggest problem in our particular field of ownership was actually the member’s lack of knowledge on how to use their points correctly.

With regard to the other systems, salesmen and companies out there, well I am sure that they will have their own stories to tell, but this is my story, a simple tale about the characters I met at work, the many clients who became great friends of mine. And that’s when you feel you’ve done a good job.

While I continue working on my latest books (along with planning the South American journey of course), please take time out to follow the link below if you wish to learn more about the adventures I have briefly discussed here –and feel free to drop me an e-mail at shaun@taffys-travels.com or shaun.donovan77@yahoo.co.uk, with your comments (be they good or bad) on any –or indeed ‘all’ of my books - once you have read them of course!

Virtual Tours

Welcome to AIRDA's virtual tours gallery - an initiative to provide an enhanced visual experience of our member properties.

If you would like to see how 360-degree panorama can work for you and give your customers an enhanced visual experience, please get in touch. Write to us at info@airda.org for more information.


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What does an AIRDA membership mean to resort owners and developers? AIRDA comes in as your industry partner, conscience keeper and business catalyst - with a wide portfolio of support services.

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What does AIRDA mean to holiday seekers and prospective customers? AIRDA comes in to provide information and offer guidelines on making the right timeshare decisions.

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