How Low Will You Go?

Richard Earls, Travel Research Online
We are a “deal” obsessed culture and the “lowest price” mentality seems to be predominant everywhere. As business people, however, it behooves us to think cautiously about any business strategy focusing on price as a way of attracting attention to our services. Not only are we training our clients to hone in on exactly the wrong issues, we also deeply damage the integrity of our own brands in the process.

Here’s the problem. At its best, travel planning has an enormous emotional component. But when price becomes the centerpiece of the exercise, the emotional keystones take a back seat to logic and math.

Our clients really want value, but they instinctively think in terms of “price.” As the professional in the relationship, you must watch for this dangerous shift in perspective and guide the client back to thinking in terms of value.

The rational approach to any purchasing decision slows the momentum and devalues many of the most important rationales for travel. Memories, quality time and new experiences are suddenly reduced to an attempt to attach price tags to the logistics of travel rather than to its emotional resonance.

Worse yet, when price is the key differentiator, you inherently detract from your own brand. The transaction, the “product” becomes more important than your relationship with the client. You instantly commoditize the travel planning exercise by reducing it to a price comparison and thereby inviting a shopping exercise to find the “lowest price.” Once you interact in this manner with a client, it is nearly impossible to regain any footing with the next encounter.

The fact is most people realize a low price also equals a lower quality. The client may say they want a “deal” or something “really cheap”, but those are the words they use to hide their fear of making a bad purchasing decision.

This is exactly where a good travel professional can make all of the difference. Slow the conversation down. Get the client to spend some time describing what they really want in terms of an experience. Help the client re-engage their emotional involvement in travel planning. This is not manipulation; it’s insuring years from now the client remembers the trip for all of the right reasons.

The best travel consultants know how to handle the clients who absolutely insist on cheap, the ones who always invite you to play the “lowest price” game. The best travel consultants decline the business. Your brand is a matter of consistency and integrity. Look for business worthy of your expertise. Chances are you will be better off for the effort with more time to spend with your most productive clients.

Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.

(will not be published)