The goal in a consulting relationship is to clarify the client’s thinking. By obtaining commitments from the client each step of the way, there is far less pressure to “Close” the sale. Completion of the buying process becomes the logical conclusion to everything which the client has previously requested and to which they have committed. By spreading the client’s commitments throughout the buying process, pressure is taken off of a single attempt to “close” and both the client and the travel consultant will feel more confident about the decision making process.
The first step to an appropriate close of the buying process is to firmly establish a professional relationship based on a clear understanding of the respective roles of travel consultant and client. Once the client has agreed to work within the travel counselor’s framework, it is time to begin exploring the client’s needs. In a highly skilled manner, the travel planner will ask questions about the trip at hand. It is during this conversation that the travel agent seeks to understand and clarify the client’s needs and to also ascertain the client’s commitment to this particular travel plan. Firmly establishing all of the criteria at this early stage of the buying process brings the client closer to a buying decision and can save the travel consultant hours of research.
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Recall that in the classic retail paradigm, the consumer controls the relationship. In the consultant paradigm, however, the travel professional directs the course of the relationship. While maintaining an empathy for the needs of the client, the travel counselor expertly assists the client to think about the right issues. Some clients will present a definitive understanding of what they want. Others will be very unstructured in their desires, knowing only that they want to “get away” on a vacation. The task of the travel professional is to guide the client into a more clear understanding of what they desire and need. If details are left ambiguous or unclear, it is an almost certainty these same undefined criteria will become obstacles to completing the buying process.
When conducting client interviews, seek to obtain clarity and commitment to detail. If the client is unable to choose definitively between a cruise, a beach vacation or a trip to London, it is far too early to begin intensive research on their behalf. In such instance it is best to direct the client’s thinking to more basic needs inherent in their desire to travel. Is this trip an opportunity to do something the client has always wanted to do? To see someplace new or to return to a familiar destination? To rest and relax or to be actively engaged in a new culture? There is literally a world of possibility and options and a client can lose themselves, and you, in it. Direct their thinking before committing to any serious research.
Likewise, the matter of budget must be discussed, analyzed and the client should be directed to make a commitment. Without a very solid understanding of budget prior to research, the odds of completing the buying process on the first go-round diminish significantly. Ask the client about their previous trips and what they spent. Is the trip they are now planning more or less equivalent or do they want to change up their level of accommodation? Remember that clients need an empathetic ear at this juncture. Many will be threatened by the issue of budgets, so couch your questioning in terms of value, desire and past experiences. However, seek to get a commitment.
Each detail of the research request is important to a successful research effort. Sum up your meeting by reviewing each commitment the client has made and gently obtaining a final affirmation of the client’s requests of you. If the skillful travel counselor can get the client to affirm and commit all along the initial interview, then several “mini-closes” will have occurred and research will be more precise and productive and the client closer to completing the buying process. The pressure will be off “the” close.