The light bulb finally went on. I have begun to realize that I allow potential clients to “pick my brains” and not give them a reason to book with me. I have stopped hiding behind “how can they do this to me” and now understand that not all people think like me. Certainly I would never gather information from someone like me and book elsewhere. Well, while I would never do such a thing I have come to accept that the majority of people in this world will. Thus the light bulb is now on.
This past month I have read, researched, and implemented a Research Fee for anyone who desires my services. This research fee is paid upfront via credit card or check and applied to the final balance if they book with me. If they do not book with me then this research fee is non refundable. I no longer have “public library” stamped on my forehead.
The first thing I did was to ask someone who has successfully charged a fee for her services how this is done. That person is Laura Frazier. Laura suggested I read Booked Yourself Solid by Michael Port. This book is invaluable. By following the steps outlined in this book I have been able to refine my brand, determine who will be my client, and establish a Research Fee for my services based on what I offer the client. In other words, I package my services and charge a fee. This is a win-win situation for me and the client. The client gets valuable information, I get a research fee, and if the client books with me the research fee is applied to the final balance. If the client does not book with me then they receive valuable information and I receive compensation for my time.
The vast majority of my clients find me via the internet. They contact me by filling out a request form on my website or calling me directly. Because of this I rarely have a client who is local. All communication is done via email and phone. When I charge a research fee it is “sight unseen” for the client. This means that I must have some very compelling reasons for the client to pay the fee. Also, this means that I choose the type of client I want to work with. First off I will not spend my time with anyone who wants a 3 night cruise. A client must have a budget of at least $3000 for 2 people. These are just a couple of examples of my criteria for a client.
So, how has this worked? I have implemented my research fee on March 23. I had 11 leads between March 23 and April 3 that I presented this research fee to, all of them declined. On April 4 one man called me for a family vacation to Hawaii for 10 nights. I explained the research fee and what I will do for him. He gave me his credit card immediately. He booked his 10 night Oahu family vacation with me on April 6, so I didn’t even get time to charge him the $100 research fee he agreed to. He ended up paying for his family vacation in full at booking. On April 9 another lead came in for a Hawaiian vacation for 9 nights. I explained the research fee and they gave me a credit card right away. By the end of the day this person also booked and paid in full so I did not have to process the research fee.
Just yesterday I had another client contact me for an all inclusive vacation to the Riviera Maya. For this I am charging a $50 research fee. The client exclaimed on the phone “oh, $50 research fee, that’s nothing.” I asked for a credit card and she said she would send a check. I will wait until I receive and cash the check before I do the research.
I feel good about myself and my business. I am not wasting my time and energy with the “brain pickers.” My confidence level has risen and I no longer am feeling used.
Pat Saizan, ACC, CTC owns Saizan’s Travel based in Altamonte Springs, FL (a home based agency hosted by Travel Planners International). For more information, you can contact Pat at Pat@SaizansTravel.com.
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