What Travel Agents can learn from Car Dealers | TravelResearchOnline


What Travel Agents can learn from Car Dealers

Most of us have had the experience of purchasing an automobile from a car dealership. There are certainly many, many aspects of the experience that are good examples of bad examples for anyone seeking to learn something about sales. Too often, the “come-on” is too strong and the sales person inauthentic. What is most obvious, typically, is that the sales person on a car lot is all about the transaction and your needs are secondary.


Car dealers know how to get you to relate to their product, to find your emotional connection to the vehicle. Let’s go for a test drive.

 Americans have a love affair with cars, with the idea of the automobile. Beyond their function of getting us from one place to another, cars are about freedom, independence, and status. We have to find the automobile that is “right” for us that fits the outline of our persona. Car dealers don’t create the emotion, but they certainly are masters of exploiting it. Unfortunately, they too often do so in such a way as to call into question their authenticity.

So what can we learn from the car dealer and perhaps do better?

Americans and Canadians love the idea of travel. We in the new world are a breed of explorers, pilgrims and travelers. The same emotional involvement is there. The authentic thing to do is to involve the customer for their own sake, to provide a pathway for their own emotional connections with travel to come to the fore.

The idea of appealing to someone’s emotions to effect a financial transaction can go awry if the motivation for the transaction is not client-centric. The travel consultant’s goal must be to encourage the client to travel – if indeed that is what the client wants to do. In the face of all of the rational, intellectual reasons not to travel, the travel consultant is a coach, reminding the client of the value of travel to a lifetime of experiences and even to well-being.

Likewise, a good travel consultant will encourage the client to engage in the romance of travel at a visionary level. So much of the value of travel is tied up at an emotional nexus in the client. The opportunity to meet new people, to experience new things, to encounter new cultures. At a purely intellectual level, the client will be able to list a dozen different reasons NOT to travel. There are plenty of other interests competing for those same travel dollars. If the travel consultant truly believes in the life-altering value of travel, the time spent engaging the client’s imagination will be well spent.

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Begin by fully understanding the client’s motivations for travel. What does the client’s travel history say about their reasons for travel? What does the client like to do in general? What are their hobbies? With regard to this particular trip, what is the motivation for travel? How does this destination, this trip, tie into the client’s needs and desires? Without knowing these elements of the client’s psyche, the travel agent will be operating without a full set of criteria with which to engage the client.

Too often, we make a presentation and then ask the client the wrong question: “What do you think?” Instead, ask the client a more important question “How do you feel?” It is the feeling function we are hoping to engage as the client’s travel coach. Give the client ownership of the trip by relating it back to their needs and desires. Help them to imagine themselves on the streets of Stonetown in Zanzibar wondering in a maze of alleys and shops, or on the beaches of Corfu swimming in the bluest and warmest of water. Describe to them the experience of walking by the Seine on a warm night in Paris or staying in the castles of Ireland. Tell them about their accommodations, the excitement, the dining and the experience. Put them in the destination.

If you can tell that story well, more of your clients will be traveling this year.

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