The $10 ashtray | TravelResearchOnline


The $10 ashtray

My mother loves garage sales.  When she is out and about, any car she is in gets magically pulled toward the nearest driveway of bargains.  While her 80 year-old vision is failing, she can still spot a garage sale sign from distances well beyond ordinary human visual range. 

As a result, from my toddler to teenage years most of my clothes, shoes, games and toys came from fifty-cent piles and dusty boxes.

Along with countless puzzles missing just one piece, I acquired many lessons for business and some tips for succeeding with professional fees: 

1.  Clean stuff sells faster and for a higher price than dirty stuff.

Look around your desk and office.  Are you creating the image of a professional consultant, or a hobbyist hoarder?

2.  People buy more when they feel welcome. 

When a customer comes into your office, will everyone look up and smile?  Will anyone offer a chair or a cup of coffee?  Will they feel like they’ve invaded your private space, or will they be right at home?

3.  Bargains attract them, but discovering a surprise delights them.

Promoting deals and discounts is an important attraction strategy.  But, if that’s all you do, just like at garage sales, most people will leave empty-handed.  A savvy consultant knows the importance of engaging, consulting and uncovering surprises that the client would never discover or think about on their own. 

4.  The box of free stuff will be mostly ignored.

Most of us love free things, but we also often assume:  a) there’s a catch, b) it must not be very good, and c) they wouldn’t be giving it away if it had any real value. 

Case in point:  we include free monthly webinars with all of our video courses and packages.  Lots of people sign up, but the no-show rate is about 60%.  When we offer a paid webinar, the no-show rate drops to 5%. 

Now think about your service, support, and consultations.  Ever wonder why your own no-show (or no-sale) rate is so high?  Maybe, as with garage sales and webinars, your customers are making some of the same assumptions.

5.  Price an ashtray at fifty cents and nobody will want it.  Price it at ten dollars and they’ll be fighting over it like a precious antique. 

I learned this one watching my mother host her own garage sales (mostly getting rid of junk she bought at others).  Similar to the box of free stuff, we all make assumptions about value.  The same is true of fees.

I know agencies that struggle to get $25 “plan to go” fees, while in the same market others are easily collecting $150 on top of commissions earned.  It’s a scenario I’ve seen over and over again.

If you believe you’re only worth $25, or if you’re free, don’t be surprised if that is exactly what your customers think you’re worth. 

You know you’re worth more than a dusty box of free puzzles with missing pieces.  Maybe it’s time to clean things up, get rid of the box, and put a price on your service that reflects your real value.

Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

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