If you discover in your analysis of your travel agency’s sales process that many clients are not proceeding beyond the first meeting, study each instance and try to pin-point where things might have gone wrong. Above all, resist the temptation to “blame” the client. As a professional, it is your responsibility to take charge and guide the course of the relationship. If you are consistently losing clients at this crucial point of the sales funnel, it is time for some brutal honesty and self-evaluation. Here are a few reminders of some skills and the mind set that will assist you in better understanding the dynamics of working with clients in first meetings.
The first meeting between a travel counselor and a new client is the primary opportunity to establish the foundation of the relationship. The client is excited to be planning a vacation, but filled with apprehensions and, unfortunately, a few misapprehensions about working with a travel agent. Over the past several weeks, we have discussed the need to establish a rapport with clients, to focus on benefits, to ask appropriate questions and to train the clients to work openly in the relationship. In every initial meeting, however, there are plenty of opportunities for something to go amiss. Let’s look at some critical junctures and develop a checklist for preparing for a client meeting, for conducting the meeting, and for establishing the context for a successful relationship.
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Before the meeting:
- Learn what you can about the client. If they are the result of a referral, ask the person who referred them. Google the client’s name to see what general background information you might discover. This can be useful in your preparation.
- Choose a suitable location and setting for the meeting.
- Rehearse the meeting in your mind. Never “wing it.” Professionals are prepared and visualize events before they happen, just as an athlete might.
- Look the part. Dress appropriately professional.
During the meeting:
- Be warm and friendly. Smile. Take the pressure off the meeting.
- Spend time getting to know the client. Find common ground. Develop a rapport.
- Explain how you work and how you will benefit the client. Demystify what you do and explain the client’s role in the process.
- Be authentic in your approach.
- Gather solid information that displays your understanding of the client’s needs. Ask questions.
- End the meeting is a warm, disarming manner. Establish when you will follow up with the client.
If at any juncture you sense that the client continues to be wary or apprehensive, back up and directly ask about their concerns. Try to uncover hidden objections early and bring them into the light. Your key mission is to establish a consultative relationship with the client, to get them to understand that you are not selling travel, but that you are helping them make an intelligent buying decision.