I am continually amazed at how many people still have not experienced a cruise vacation. At social events, I always find myself taking a “who has been on a cruise” survey. I am awe struck at the large percentage of people who have never cruised. The not-so-good news is that they have missed out on a great vacation. The good news is that travel agents have a huge market. However, the travel agent seeking out a first time cruiser needs to be aware of certain keys to marketing and selling to these first timers.
Your marketing & selling to first timers is not the same as marketing to repeat cruisers. Until you have cruised, there are only “what I have heard” or “I think” assumptions. To know only comes from experiencing a cruise. It is up to the agent to educate the first timer and to make sure you put the client on the right cruise product.
Know the competitive advantage of cruise travel versus land vacations. If you added the values of casual to fine dining, the value of entertainment (theater), the value of accommodations where the room is cleaned and freshened more than once a day plus much more, you know that the value is definitely in taking a cruise. This is the kind of value that a first timer does not yet understand.
Overcome objections of cruises. More expensive? We just covered that. Confined space. Not these days. Staterooms are now larger and if you add a veranda (balcony) to the room, it becomes more personal space. Public areas on cruise ships are more comfortable and have areas that are perfect for someone to sit and read a book without disruption. Motion sickness. There are remedies available for this concern.
Dining, dressing up or not, too many people, not enough to do, time in ports, etc. are considerations that may or may not be on the first timers mind. As a travel professional, show your knowledge by addressing them in advance. There is no “stupid question” in sales but many times the sales person skips the simple items leaving the buyer to guess or assume. I recall being on a cruise and a family did not show up for two dinners because they thought there was a charge for the dining room meals. Finally it was clarified that dining room meals are included and they attended every dinner thereafter. But remember, first timers are just that… first timers.
Ask questions and listen carefully. Take notes so that you donʼt miss something important to the passenger. Pay attention to lifestyle. I love “lifestyle” marketing. Have you ever watched a television commercial and not get the message? Obviously it was not targeting our age or lifestyle market. At the same time, the product might be something we use. The commercial is targeting another group. The same can apply to first time cruisers. You need to tweak your marketing and sales to that group.
Sell the results of the features and benefits of a cruise. We know the features and once the first timer understand the features and benefits, what will close the deal. Price? Not really. It is all about the value and the results.
How much does the prospect value the time of their vacation? Is sitting in the airport to island hop and dragging their luggage in and out of hotels how they want to spend their precious days of vacation? No. They want leisure, convenience and opportunities for great memories. This is where results become key. How will this passenger feel after the 7 day cruise? ʻEver treated yourself to a spa treatment? This is something you should really do for yourself while on a cruise. There is no hurry to get anywhere, just nurture your mind and body as you let go of muscle tension.ʼ Depending on the hot button of your customer, you need to build on it. Paint the picture. Let them see it in their mind and want it. It can be water sports, it can be activities, it can be time away to relax, it can be gaming, it can be dining, it could be wine tasting, shopping, it can be so many things. You just need to find those key lifestyle hot buttons. Ask, listen and take notes.
Continue the conversation and build the relationship. You need to build trust and assist them with this major purchase. You can provide priceless information for their first cruise. Most first timers want a “live” person and not a computer to help them with this decision.
Donʼt let your first time prospect change course by contacting another agency because you failed to return the call or online inquiry. Follow the “sunset rule”. Be sure to call the prospect back before the sun sets even if you donʼt have the answer. First time cruisers are a great market waiting to be tapped. The cruise lines are ready, the ships are ready. Are you ready? Brush up on your sales skills, look at your marketing, and be willing to go out, do your own survey and hop onboard the S.S. First Time Cruiser ship of prospects!
Keith Powell is a renowned travel industry speaker and author with 35 years of experience in the business. He’s crisscrossed the globe from Bangkok to Cannes, from Rio de Janeiro to Vancouver presenting programs both domestically and internationally. Known as “The Business Revivalist,” Keith has presented to client groups ranging from associations and airlines to cruise lines and Fortune 500 companies. His book “The Transforming Power of Achievement” is available at www.keithpowellspeaker.com. Be sure to visit his facebook page for a dose of business caffeine: Coffee With Keith.