Many travel agents dislike the word “sales”- our vision of sales and the sales process is jaded and we see it as less than authentic. In fact, many view sales as nothing other than manipulation. As a result, sales is often neglected as a part of the basic training that travel agents take on in their practice. Yet it is possible to understand sales in another context, one of helpful assistance. The best sales people are involved in an effort to meet needs and achieve dreams. Travel consultants who view sales this way approach their clients from a perspective of passion and enthusiasm. The quality of their effort begins on the inside, but it shows outwardly.
For a sale to happen, both you and your client must:
• Believe in your product;
• See the interests of the client at the centre of the transaction
• Trust in the integrity of the sales process
The 1st rule of sales is, in order to do it well, you have to believe in your product. You have to believe travel is more than a discretionary spend and it is important to the enrichment and well-being of your clients. But before everything else, you have to believe in yourself, because as a travel consultant, you truly are the product. Believe in your willingness to go the extra mile for your clients, your willingness to research for the client in a thorough and professional manner using all of the tools at your disposal. You must be committed to spending the extra time it takes to better know your client, to research the supplier and to plan the vacation. You have to believe in your capacity for earnest study and native intelligence. If you are willing to do what it takes to do an insanely great job for your clients, then you have the right to believe that there is no better travel consultant than you, and you will be on the way to building a 1st rate travel planning practice. You start the journey of believing in yourself by studying the basic principles of travel, business and marketing. Make it a part of your mission to every day enhance your knowledge base. Belief in yourself is not a matter of faith – it’s a matter of hard work and diligence.
It is also true that sales presentations are easier to accomplish when you put the client at the absolute centre of every travel planning effort. In every instance, start with the client, not the travel product. Go to extraordinary lengths to dress the client in exactly the right travel plan. Make sure the tour operator, the accommodations, the airline seat, the transfers and the extra activities fit the client. This requires a most intimate knowledge of the client not just in general, but with regard to this trip in particular. Each travel planning effort deserves its own special few minutes spent with the client discussing the “why” of the trip: “Why are you taking this trip?” What does the client want to achieve? Family time? Relaxation? Exploration? Cultural awareness? The answers to these questions allow you as a travel consultant to more closely match the product to the client.
Finally, understand that the best sales approach is like the eastern concept of Zen: it is the art of selling without selling. Think of yourself as a facilitator. Sales is not selfish manipulation. You are assisting your client in achieving what they most desire out of travel. You are not selling your client a cruise – you are assisting your client in the conception, planning and execution of a cruise vacation using the resources you have at hand and are trained to use. When you view yourself as a facilitator of the client’s desires rather than as selling a product, you move to the client’s side of the table in the process. It is your task as a professional to assist the client in the removal of any or all of the obstacles to travel. You are not selling anything; you are helping your clients buy wisely.
Believe in yourself, put your client at the centre of every planning effort and view sales as something helpful. Your care and craftsmanship will show. With these fundamentals in place, the sales process is more natural and authentic, and you will find your client with bags packed and one foot out the door!
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.