Step seven – contact past customers and cultivate current ones | TravelResearchOnline

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Step seven – contact past customers and cultivate current ones

This is part 7 of a 7 part series by Terry Denton.

Part 1: Ask for a credit card on the first call

Part 2: Ask for referrals on every sale

Part 3: Master the art of upselling

Part 4: Always recommend insurance

Part 5: Substitute ‘best experience’ for ‘least expensive’

Part 6: Stand out with special touches

This step, like Tiger Woods and his now well-chronicled secret life, really needs no introduction.  One of the most important things we can do is to stay close to our customers.  What is the single greatest source of newbusiness?  Yep, old customers.

The simple rule of thumb is the more personal the form of communication, the more powerful.  Think of it as concentric circles surrounding your customer with the object being to get as close to their heart as possible.  The real object of customer contact is not so much to fill their heads with information as to tug a little on their heartstrings.   

The outermost circle is email.  Certainly sending them an occasional email is much better than not contacting them at all.  Perish that thought.  But email, while immediate, has come to have a couple of severe limitations.  For one thing, most people get tons of work related legitimate emails and veritable mountains of unwanted spam.  Also, unless you are a gifted wordsmith, tone is difficult to convey (and easily misconstrued) in an email.  What you fancy as humor, can sometimes be interpreted as impertinence.

The next concentric circle is a written note.  In this digital age, a note written by hand, provided it is legible, can have a rather profound effect. If I were selling, instead of managing, I would keep a nice set of embossed note cards in my desk and every day I would write two or three notes to my customers.  Through your CRM, if you use it properly, you can keep track of special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.  If you capture information about their likes and dislikes, things you see in the news will trigger such responses as, “I should send X a card and ask her how Gina is doing in soccer this year or ask Y if Matt ever got accepted to Yale.”

The next circle is a telephone call.  A lot more of your personality can be conveyed by the inflection in your voice.  The problem here is that it is hard to reach people during the day.  However, if you give it some real thought, even a voice mail (which most people have) can communicate a lot.  Be sure to sprinkle it with personal references.

The great advantage of telephone communication is that, unlike the first two circles (unless they write you back), it is bi-directional.  If you ask a few well-thought-out questions, you can learn a lot from their responses.  It is vitally important to really listen.

The final circle is person-to-person contact.  Of course, many of your customers never come in, but when they do, what a golden opportunity.   A retail store I frequent (Editor’s note, I’m guessing Nordstrom) allows you to handle the product and take it to a register to finalize the transaction. It would be easy enough to end the transaction there. But, I started to notice that once the transaction is complete, the sales person invariably walks around the counter (never reaches across it), hands you your bagged item, shakes your hand and thanks you for the business.  It is a great touch and I promise it is not coincidental.  It is planned and very effective.

When someone comes in to your office, stand up and acknowledge their presence.  Immediately speak to them even if it is to tell them you will be with them in a moment.  When they approach your desk, ask them if they would care for a coffee, water or soft drink and pray they say yes.  Why?  Because there is something innate about the simple act of accepting a beverage that breaks down social barriers.  Think of it as a mini version of breaking bread together.

Closely related is one of the single most important things you should do:  Follow up! One of my mentors (we all need mentors), had a great process for following up daily.

  • Follow up on quotes–3 times (more if you know the client’s procrastination patterns)
  • Follow up on leads and referrals from existing clients
  • Follow up with customers post-travel
  • Follow up with vendors to resolve or discuss any issues

She followed that up by telling me that after three follow ups, she came into the office on Monday with an email saying to book 2 staterooms on the Freedom of the Seas.

Simple practices work well ….. and make money!

We live in an increasingly impersonal world.  There is a hunger among most people to be treated with respect and importance.  If you learn how to reach out to your customers in any, or better yet, all of the ways above, you will have laid the groundwork for a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

Post Script

Well, this is the seventh and final step in our Seven Steps to Super Sales. Don’t think for a moment this is the last you have heard of these.   Please plan to work these into your daily work life.   I am convinced that if every agent practiced all seven steps on a consistent basis it would revolutionize agency sales performance and increase the almighty close ratio.

Unfortunately old habits die hard; and new ones are just as difficult to form.  Therefore, think of the past seven weeks as an introduction to the seven steps.  For the rest of the year, let’s all agree to live them!  Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!

Terry Denton is co-owner of Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel of Fort Worth, Rowlett and Tyler, Texas.  He is an inveterate traveler, proficient writer, avid golfer and, by his own reckoning, a fairly unremarkable person.   Terry claims to have more degrees than a thermometer and less native talent than a first round American Idol reject.  He and his business partner, Vince Ashwill,  have managed over the past twenty-seven years to build a reasonably successful chain of Travel Leaders agencies spread across North Texas.  As you can probably tell, he doesn’t take himself too seriously but he takes the challenge of building a team of successful travel agents very seriously. And last but not least, he writes an entertaining travel blog calledTravelByTerry.com.

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