Time to sell again | TravelResearchOnline


Time to sell again

I suspect there are a lot of travel agents who are starting to get worried about how they are going to stay in business following the recent policy revisions on rebating by Carnival and NCL. With Carnival and NCL joining Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara, with strong no rebating policies, those agents that have been closing sales by giving away most of their commission are going to find it hard to retain past clients.

Having been in the travel business for over 26 years I have personally seen the effects of rebating on the income of agents that had never learned tried and true sales methods, and instead chose to close inquiries by giving back most of their commission. I can also remember back when the airlines came to the conclusion that if corporate agents could stay in business after entering into elaborate “commission sharing” agreements (that is what the agencies called it), that they might as well as start dropping airline commissions down from 10% and eventually down to 0%. While this forced many agents to go out of business, many of us just started providing additional and better service and learning how to cross sell our leisure products to our corporate clients.

Now, we find, it is the leisure agency whose turn it is to go “back to the future”, and learn to sell vacations again. I say back to the future, as when I came into the business I found it very helpful to learn how to apply my prior sales training, to selling vacations. Sales training was one of the featured “training workshops” at all the major travel industry conferences. Industry notables like John Dalton, Carnival’s Bob Dickinson and CLIA’s Bob Kwortnik taught me how to sell cruises; and I have been teaching agents these same sales skills for the past 20 years. And, the good news is that CLIA and many of the large leisure suppliers still provide great sales training for their products.

So my hope is, that the thousands of professional travel agents who want to not only survive, but thrive, will re-learn how to sell leisure vacations and leave the creative travel discounters to try to beat the system, as I’m sure they will. But, my real fear is that if the true professional travel agents don’t start selling more vacations and cruises then they are now, that the leisure travel suppliers will follow the ways of the airlines and start decreasing commissions. With all the new ships coming out over the next five years, I don’t think that will happen; but then again, if the existing agents don’t fill the ships, the cruise lines will certainly have to look at how they can.


With many of the major leisure suppliers taking a much more active role in shutting down rampant discounting, agencies and agents need to become much more skilled in their prospecting for new clients and then apply all the proven sales closing skills to close the sale. With the rapid growth of Social Media, coupled with the continued great leisure offers out there, there has never been a better time for agents to attract new clients and match them with the their dream vacation. Agents need to start ignoring price and start professionally qualifying their clients so they can match a vacation that fit their client’s lifestyle and travel preferences and not one that is offered at the lowest price.

If anyone would like to have me help them learn how to combine integrated Social Media Marketing with Professional Sakes Training, you can contact me at LarryNormanCTC@Gmaill.com

Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 17 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million.  Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LarryNormanCTC@Gmaill.com or leave a comment here.

  4 thoughts on “Time to sell again

  1. Joan McCarty says:

    Norm: Right on my friend. Joan

  2. Norm, you are bang-on!! I started my “sales carreer at the age of 12, and everything I have done since has been about “VALUE”, not the price. The “sales process” as performed by so many slick salespeople is dead and gone, or should be. Today, if you’re not genuinely interested and caring in your vacation product presentations, you could lose to the price hackers. Knopw your client, listen to your client and make sure they know that you CARE!!!

  3. larry norman ctc, mcc says:

    Steven, you are right on (as Joan agrees), that if agents would discuss the “value” of a cruise or vacation, instead of price…their clients would start to see the VALUE of using a true travel professional and not some mega online agency call center, that has not been there or done that.

  4. Larry, I just returned from a 7-day cruise on Carnival (see “A Most Pimped Cruise” in the TRO Soundings column) and must report that CCL appears to be steering a more agent friendly course. I attended the “book your next cruise on Carnival” session – not identifying myself as an agent – hiding my video camera in a rolled up towel in thinking I might capture a “smoking gun” moment. But, I did not. The session leader – the onboard booking agent for CCL – pointed out to the attendees that they could designate TA if they had one – and that TA would take over the booking and get full credit (by this I guess she meant commission). There are other questions to be entertained, however. Such as, is the $200 on board credit they are offering to onboard bookers a violation of their own new rules about a max of 10% value on cash equivalent rebating? I’ll post video of that segment soon. – Lyn

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