Let’s properly understand the difference between marketing and sales. Marketing refers to the efforts you undertake to make potential clients aware of you and your travel practice. You advertise, you write articles. You network in your community and publish a newsletter. All of these are marketing efforts. Marketing gives you the opportunity to engage in a sales transaction with a client – an actual purchase of a travel product through your agency. In classic marketing and sales training, marketing sets the expectations of the client and conditions the sales environment. “Sales” refers to the actual transaction – the exchange of your services for a sum of money.
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While we can analytically separate marketing from sales, in the reality of a personality driven business like travel consulting the two are forever intertwined. You are always marketing, even during the sales process. While you are marketing, you are creating an appropriate environment for sales to occur. It is during those critical moments of personal contact, however, that the client decides to purchase through you or not. It is on those few moments that we want to focus for the next few weeks. Your marketing will have conditioned the sales circumstance and now we will confine our observations to those moments between the time the client approaches you with a sales opportunity to the moment they embark on their travels. Everything before and after is marketing. We will be looking at the sales process.
Note a particular emphasis in the definition of sales that we use here that will color our discussion. From the perspective of this column, you should never think of yourself as “selling travel”. Don’t lapse into a retail mentality. The moment you do so, you will be competing solely on price. We are taught, rightly so, to shop around for the “best deal” when it comes to retailers. If two retailers have the same, identical product, you will naturally choose the one offering it at the lowest price. The retail environment is not a happy place.
Instead, you are going to be selling your services. You will be selling your experience, your resources and your affiliations. You will be selling your ability to advise your client, to recommend exactly the right vacation package for them. You are going to be selling your relationships with suppliers, consortia and industry associations. You are selling yourself as an advocate if things don’t turn out well. All of these qualities are uniquely tied up in your particular travel practice. No other travel agent, no internet site can offer this unique set of features and, therefore, benefits. Naturally, you must believe in what you are selling. Between the confines of your two ears you must believe that you can do a better job for your client than any other agent. By virtue of your experience, your passion, your willingness to go the extra mile. That is the confidence you will need to sell well. With the client’s best interest at heart, your sales approach is firmly authentic and will be to your credit resulting in a long lasting relationship with your client.