Our Holland America / Seabourn Business Development Manager (BDM) shared a story recently which struck a chord with me. He was talking to a couple on a Seabourn world cruise. The client’s previous cruises on Holland America were booked with an agent; but for the world cruise they booked directly with the line. When he asked them why, their answer surprised him–their travel agent never asked them about a Seabourn cruise. They assumed that their travel agent never brought it up thinking that they couldn’t afford it. They lived a frugal life, didn’t splurge on their vacations, and didn’t flaunt their money.
At conferences and industry networking events, I’ve heard countless agents lament how they’d like to have one of “those” clients who book world tours and high end FITs or packages. I’ve done it myself. I’d love more clients to sail Regent Seven Seas. I’d love some clients to book a world cruise, or two. We just assume that our current clients would never book those types of vacations, so we never ask. We judge the book by its cover.
This reminds me of another story about a local farmer who walked into an airplane dealership. The sales person snubbed him in his dirty overalls and wouldn’t give him the time of day, let alone talk to him about buying a plane he obviously couldn’t afford. The next day the farmer returned with a letter of credit from his bank, demonstrating that he indeed had the wherewithal to buy any plane in the inventory—for cash. He then instructed the owner which plane he wanted to buy, and which sales person he wanted fired for the way he was treated the day before.
How many clients have I assumed couldn’t afford a high-end vacation? Who couldn’t afford a 100+ day-long world cruise? Two years ago, a family friend asked me to book four suites on Regent Seven Seas. Previously, I wouldn’t have considered that they were a RSSC client. Fortunately they came to me with their cruise request, and didn’t book directly. But would I have suggested a Regent Seven Seas cruise to them had they not spelled it out? Probably not.
My plan, going forward, is to plant the seeds for my clients. Milestones are a great excuse for bringing up the higher-end and luxury travel options. Plant the seed, help them visualize the trip, and let it grow.
Do you judge your clients (books) by their covers? Do you assume the guy driving a 20-year-old car can’t possibly afford an extravagant vacation? Or the woman that cuts your hair could never afford a five star all-inclusive resort? I think we all do to a degree. Avoid the trap, and share the possibilities.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Nashville, Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvaations.com) she focuses on travel for young adults under 35. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.