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A Conversation With ... Jeanna Callahan

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What is your role at Wyndham Vacation Ownership in Branson?
I’m responsible for staffing our three sales departments. We have about 150 representatives across our site when we’re at the maximum. We are one of the company’s three megasites, behind Las Vegas and Orlando. We’ll do about $80 million net this year in sales. … We’re on the timeshare side – vacation ownership – (with) a points package. (Owners) have access to more than 150 resorts and can use their ownership toward cruises, car rental, airfare, Disney and hotels.

Describe your desired job candidates.
People do not have to have timeshare experience. We actually prefer that they don’t. They don’t even have to have sales experience. We’d prefer it, but … the main things we look for are drive, mental toughness – because you’re going to hear “no” a lot –  and are you coachable, are you excited, and are you passionate about what you do? ... Typically, I hire (nearly) 18 percent of people who I talk to.

What are your interview pet peeves?
You’d be surprised, some of the horror stories I could tell you about what people do during interviews. Turn your cell phone off, and then when it rings, to take a call in the middle of an interview blows my mind. … Do your homework (and) remember what you apply for, and when a recruiter calls, don’t act like you don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. One thing that will immediately turn me off … is the desperation factor. Someone might be desperate, but you don’t want to share that with an employer.

What is your turnover rate?

We lose the most people in the first 90 days. … I can tell them a million times, but it doesn’t really register, that for the first three to six months, you’re going to struggle and you’re going to be humbled. … We have a saying that if you feel you’re at your breaking point, you are –you’re at your breaking-through point. We lose a lot of good people because they just can’t wait to break through, and they give up. … About 60 percent leave. … There’s never a demand for what we do, because we’re bribing (potential buyers to visit for sales tours) with show tickets or free gifts, so our sales reps walk into the same thing every day. (They) might hear “no” 10, 15 or 20 times in one hour, two hours, and then that 21st time, (someone) says “yes.”

Your company has touted a sales earnings average of $193,885. Is that for Branson?
That’s a Branson number, and for the Top 20 of our sales leaders, it’s the average. … My approach to hiring is, I’m going to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly, and if it’s still a good fit, great. I always tell people that for a first-year representative, someone who’s never done this before – which we actually prefer – $60,000 to $80,000 is very realistic. If they’re not making at least $60,000, they probably won’t be there, based on our expectations. On the high end, we’ve got representatives who will clear $300,000 to $400,000 this year.

Beyond the money, how do you entice new hires?
We have full medical, dental and vision benefits that start the first of the month after they’re hired. We also have travel discounts, tuition reimbursement and things like that. For work-life balance, we cap our reps at 40 hours a week … so they’re not getting burned out.

What are some of your recruiting methods?

In my position, people don’t come to me, so it’s more of doing different contests or promotions with our representatives, or meet-and-greets and networking. We do use CareerBuilder, but I maybe get seven résumés a week. We did a pink slip party a couple years ago. … Three years ago, we did a Sandler Institute seminar, but didn’t tell anybody we were doing it, and we had a bunch of salespeople come for the seminar. We got their contact information and back-door recruited. I have (an informal) recruiting group that I started about two years ago, and there are about 20 companies and we meet once a month and we share candidates a lot. … The normal stuff doesn’t work for us, because nobody grows up saying, “I want to be a timeshare salesman when I get older.”
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