Using the Power of Suggestion to Build Your Cruise Business

by Ming Tappin

Brand yourself as the cruise expert
in everything that you do.

Attend cruise industry events such as trade show and training to learn all you can.

Sending a post card or note to clients and prospects keeps you in mind.

Posting photos of your cruise vacation on social media associates you to cruising.

Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald delivered a keynote address at Cruise3Sixty last week which included an ingenious use of a movie clip. Donald reminded the audience that agents should constantly be conditioning clients to want to cruise, and he also showed us how to win the business.

The clip was from the 2015 film Focus starring Will Smith who played a con-man and Margot Robbie as his protege. The pair made a series of bets with a gambler during the Super Bowl, culminating with the gambler choosing a jersey number of any player on the field (he picked 55) and Will Smith's character successfully guessing his choice to win the pot. Turned out that #55 had been subliminally flashed in front of the gambler throughout his entire day, and when the time came, he naturally picked the number he had been subconsciously looking at all day, without knowing it. (See clip here.)

That terrific demonstration of the power of suggestion is a creative way to win a bet, but the same idea can be applied to winning customers, and you don't have to use it as covertly as the movie characters did. Here is how you can adapt it to building your cruise business.

First of all, brand yourself as a cruise expert. Learn all that you can about cruising. Attend training, ship tours, seminars at sea, cruise for your own personal vacation. Next, spread the word to your family, friends, acquaintances and anyone you come into contact with in your daily life. An agent once told me he was afraid to tell people what he did for a living because he was worried that he would sound like a salesperson. Dispel that fear and be yourself. You should be proud of your profession, and talk about it passionately. But don't talk about the prices or deals you can offer. Rather, talk about the merits of cruising, the exciting industry, your own cruise experience, etc. If it piques your listener's interest, the conversation will move forward naturally, and almost always, will lead to an opening toward a sales opportunity. If it doesn't, leave it be, but know that you have made your 1st impression.

For existing clients, it's important to keep in touch and keep building that relationship and trust. Advertising, direct mail, social media, website, e-mails and the old-fashioned phone call, all send a message that you can help clients with their next cruise vacation, and you should keep in touch on a regular basis. How often will depend on each individual client, which you can gauge once you know them better. But your touch points should not always be about selling them something. A note to say hello, photos from your ship inspection or cruise vacation, industry news, hot destinations, up and coming trends - all are great ways to keep your customers engaged with you, without any hard sell. Your clients will come to think of you as a thoughtful person who cares about their interests, instead of being a salesperson.

And what about those who didn't book with you this time? Still stay in touch with those who show the potential. Keep the information you learned about them and reach out periodically. But don't send them any deals, only send useful and relevant information that applies to their interest and circumstances, and of course keep in line with the CASL regulations. The idea is to keep them aware of your presence, reinforce the message that you are available, and perhaps they may consider you again in the future. 

If done properly, regularly and unobtrusively, this subtle sales technique is extremely powerful, without being obvious or aggressive. It influences your clients' and prospects' mindset, and they will come to associate you with cruising, you as a cruise expert, and you as a trusted advisor. And most of all, when they are ready for that cruise, or when their family and friends ask them about cruising, the only person they will think of booking with, or recommending - is you, because you have been in their subconscious all along. And that's your magic #55. 

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of

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