The following is one of several letters I have received on the theme, namely “How to handle a client”.
Dear Travel Coach
My late winter-sun and early Summer ’17 booking season was quite good, especially with the specials. Many clients saw the e-mail offers and just booked them. I am still busy with people contacting me but now they are not booking. Some are even showing me deals they have collected from competitors and are simply trying to beat down the price. Do you have any suggestions?
Pat B, Birmingham
My first thought is that you are allowing the price of the holidays to dictate whether people book or not. Without doubt price is very important and customers are ever more conscious of the choices in front of them, but there is more to booking a holiday than cost alone.
If as you say people are actually making the effort to contact you then you and your colleagues are missing out on more business. When someone pushes open your door, walks over the threshold and sit opposite you, they are giving a very strong buying signal. It is up to you guys to read that signal and make a sale. The same applies to phone calls and email requests.
When you meet a customer face to face you have a great advantage over on-line systems and telephone sales operations; you have the chance to build a one-to-one relationship with another person. The old saying “People buy people first” still applies. Try using this four-stage “Random Romance” model:
When you meet a potential customer why not go to the door and open it for them? Sit them down and ask how they are. Even if the shop is busy a few old fashioned courtesies will not go amiss and the client will be struck by your friendliness. Most importantly, remember to smile! Engaging with the customer also means making it clear to them that you are prepared to listen. Nod your head as they talk and make eye contact.
Being a travel agent can be a bit like being a detective. People seldom say exactly what they want as they frequently don’t know it. The Discover phase is the chance to actively listen to them. Start with open questions like “What kind of holiday do you fancy” or “Which kind of city would you prefer”? This will help you continue to give a good impression while simultaneously getting important information. Take notes as they talk, it looks professional (like a doctor) and enables you to capture vital data such as their names and contact details.
Only when you have reached this point do you demonstrate your product knowledge. By this stage you will know a lot about the client and can match them to the best trip for them. I would suggest making a maximum of three alternatives. While describing each one inform them how this will benefit them. For example, if they enjoy eating local food tell them that “this hotel is near typical restaurants where many locals eat-this means that you will be able to have a true gastronomic experience of Rome”.
Once you have presented your three options ask the client which is their preference. If you have done sales training you will recall that this has the effect of saying “So, which one shall we go for” rather than fatal “Do you want to book then”? In reaching this stage you have put in a lot of work so you don’t want to blow it all away with one clumsy question. Likewise, you cannot afford to let the client leave with all your great ideas.
Good luck with using these four stages.
FOOT NOTE. Thinking of joining a networking group? If so, take time to pick the right one. My first tip is to find one with a florist, gift seller or stationer as they are the people the sell the lowest ticket products. These groups feed off the guilt felt by people that don’t have a referral and because they are so desperate to be seen to be referring, they will always come up with a low-value lead. If a florist is present, he/she will pick up the dregs and you’ll be spared the wasted time. I have nothing against florists, but they are used to £10 here and £15 there. As a travel professional you need to hold out for much better than that.