This column has argued in the past that a good travel planner is not selling travel – you are selling yourself. Nevertheless, there is still the necessity to understand the fundamentals of the sales process. You no doubt have clients that trust you implicitly and will take your advice without question. In the early stages of any relationship, however, the client may have reservations that you will have to explore and overcome.
Encourage your clients to verbalize objections as early in the sales process as is possible. Better to deal with an objection early rather than encountering as a rebuttle to your proposal later in the presentation. Objections may arise at any point in the relationship. Early in the relationship, the objections may deal with the client’s hesitation to use a travel agent. The element of trust is not yet present in the relationship and the client might perceive the travel planner as not fully invested in the client’s best interests.
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In a client-centric practice, the travel agent understands that to enjoy the benefits that travel offers, the client must say “yes”. Helping your clients get to a “yes” is an important service, not a sales trick. Ask the client to verbalize their objections – it’s the first step on the road to yes.
During the course of travel planning, clients are likely to raise objections to your suggestions. Typically, the travel agent makes recommendations based on knowledge of both the product and the client. The agent’s recommendations, therefore, are in the best interests of the client. Without a proper knowledge of how to handle an objection, the planning process, and the agent, may be stymied and much research might have to be redone.
Try to get objections out of the way during your initial client interview, before the research process ever begins. Adequate client knowledge and a sufficient number of probing questions will most often reveal what a client prefers in their travel planning. This is also the time when the travel consultant might discover something about the fears and concerns that are acting as an obstacle to the client’s travel ambitions.
The smart travel consultant learns to distinguish between a client objection that is accurate and one that is actually a misdirection. If the client truly hates the very idea being on a ship, agree and move on. Don’t spend time and energy trying to convince the client of the merits of modern cruising. If, however, the objection is really a request for understanding, an opportunity arises for the travel consultant to educate the client. In fact, many such objections present excellent marketing opportunities. For example, the client might indicate that the thing they hate about cruising is being on a ship with 2,000 other people. This sounds like a client that doesn’t know about small ship cruising, tiny ports of call that only small ships can reach, and the intimate atmosphere aboard small ships.
Listen carefully to an objection -if it is a request for more information, it might just be your next big opportunity.