The matter of pricing drives everyone, travel consultant and consumer alike, a bit crazy. Low lead-in pricing, quotes in ads sans taxes and fees, the obsessive fixation on saving a few dollars at the expense of real value – is there any single issue that is more vexing or damaging to the industry’s credibility? Often, travel consultants begin their presentations with something that approaches an apology for the costs involved and so move right to the “least expensive” option. This is too often done not out of a genuine assessment of the client’s needs, but out of a fear of a higher priced alternative being rejected. Because clients will so often insist on hearing the “bottom line” first, travel agents often feel anxious about the issue of price.
Yet, there is a better way, more fair to your client and more productive in terms of the sales process.
Your clients are afraid of paying too much for their vacation. Your task is to assist them to better understand the value of their vacation travel and how in every well planned instance it is worth far more than the price paid. Top travel agents understand that value and cost are two very different things. Cost is only a component of value. Too often, however, travel agents let the cost of a travel package become the centerpiece of their presentation. Recognize that clients will always attempt to drive immediately to the “bottom line.” Don’t let them take you there. If the value is present, cost is always a secondary consideration. Years after the client returns home from a journey, it is the experience of the travel, not the cost, that they will remember. Top travel agents will not deprive their clients of the best travel experience the client can afford.
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It is also true that a “good value” means different things to different people. A top of the line luxury product is a good value to some clients regardless of the price. For others, a good value means a clean, well-located budget property. An experienced travel consultant will spend a great deal of their time matching the personality and preferences of the individual client to exactly the right property and program. But this exercise is focused on value, not price.
The conversion from a concern over price to a focus on value can only be made in a relationship built on confidence and trust, the same values to which you aspire in your practice. A skilled travel counselor will ask questions about the upcoming trip: how the destination was chosen, who will be traveling, what the goals of the trip might be, what type and quality of accommodations are desired. Leave the concept of price and budget until the very end. Instead, draw from the client their every desire. Help the client paint the picture of the perfect trip. If they are like most people, clients will continually interject pricing concerns during the initial planning interview. Let the client know the planning fee they have paid you is their assurance that you are going to search high and low for the best value for them – a trip that meets all of their expectations and desires. From that trip you will determine a price and together you will evaluate the value.
Begin by presenting the most appropriate option for the client first regardless of price. Base your recommendation in the context of the client’s needs and the benefits to the client. But in so doing, leave the cost to the last item of discussion. First, describe the beaches, the accommodations, the food, the scenery and the romance. You owe this type of presentation to the client, and to yourself, because both of you want the best possible experience for the client and that seldom comes wrapped in the least expensive package. Once the client understands the great features and benefits of your recommendations, the price will seem a reasonable exchange for the recommended trip. If it is still too high for the client’s budget, you can then begin to work downwards, removing features until the value/cost ratio is more comfortable.
The old advice to “up sell” is a sales person’s trick and has no place in a client-centric travel practice. Tactics such as this are transparent and will hurt your credibility. Instead, consult with the client starting with the best possible option that is reasonably within their price range and work down from there. You and your client will derive the benefit from making your presentation in this way.
When a client says “I want to think about it” there is usually a hidden objection. Perhaps they think the trip can be purchased more cheaply elsewhere for example. Address the subject by asking the client directly: “What is your concern? Did we hit your budget? Let’s look at any aspect of the recommendation that you might not be comfortable with and we will see what can be done.” In this way you get any problems out into the open where you can best deal with the real issue at hand. A direct approach is honest and authentic.
If the issue is money, and it often is, ask the client what amount would make them more comfortable. Work down from a package at the edge of their comfort level. You want to recommend the best possible experience for the client, and that will very often be the most expensive. That is reality. Naturally, you must be in the realm of a realistically affordable program, a range that you develop during your initial interviews with the client. When the client expresses discomfort, determine what can be subtracted from the package to bring it more into line with expectations. Help the client understand the difference by looking at it from a new perspective. A $400 difference is only $58 a day for a seven day vacation. The reality is that most clients are not eager to sacrifice quality for a few dollars a day.
Make sure that your marketing reflects a credible position about the matter of pricing. Pre-condition your sales efforts by explaining your value emphasis at every opportunity in your marketing efforts. Eliminate pricing tactics from your advertising that consumers might view as deceptive. Pricing that reflects only the base fare without the additional fees and taxes are insulting to many clients and induce sticker-shock in everyone. Shift your marketing away from product toward the service and client-centric nature of your travel practice.