(Editor’s Note) Today, we are launching a 7-week series called Seven Steps To Super Sales. The series will be written by Terry Denton, a 27-year veteran of the travel industry and the co-owner of one of the largest chains of award winning travel agencies in North Texas.
These steps work—period. The goal is not only to increase your knowledge but also to change your behavior. Certainly some of these steps are routine for you. But many may not! Please tune in weekly!
- STEP 1: Ask For A Credit Card On The First Call
- STEP 2: Ask For Referrals On Every Sale
- STEP 3: Master The Art Of Upselling
- STEP 4: Recommend Insurance With Every Sale
- STEP 5: Substitute “Best Experience” for “Least Expensive”
- STEP 6: Stand Out With Special Touches
- STEP 7: Contact Past Customers And Cultivate Current Ones
STEP 1: Ask For A Credit Card On The First Call
Carnival Cruise Lines says that for every ten bookings made by travel agents, five to six cancel. But internally, for every ten direct bookings, only one cancels.
“Why is that?” I hear you ask. At least, I think that’s what I heard you ask and not “Who took my Snickers bar out of the fridge.” The reason is that their agents are trained to get a deposit on the first call.
Let me clearly explain what I mean and what I do not mean. First, I recognize that it will not be possible 100% of the time to extract money from the customer on the first call. Therefore, I am not suggesting you use threats, extortion, bullying or advanced pick pocketing techniques designed to drive the customer screaming from the office or running from the phone.
What I am suggesting is that it is all too easy to say, “Let me hold that cabin for you. There is no obligation and you can think about it.” In other words, stop giving them an easy out and a free ride. Here is a sobering definition of a free option – “giving a prospect or client a license to continue shopping until someone else has the guts to ask for the credit card.”
Did you know that Carnival says that in the majority of their agency sales, space has been held, at one time or another, by one, two or even three other agencies? Carnival started asking the customer why they finally bought from the agent they did. Do you know what those customers said? “Well, this agency asked for my credit card number and told me I needed to make a deposit.”
So how do you get a credit card on the first call?
One proven way is “scarcity” or “Scare City” as some call it. You simply say, “I would strongly recommend you put down a deposit now. We are seeing a lot of volatility in both prices and availability and, to be honest, I can’t promise you that what we have talked about today will be available tomorrow.”
This approach has the dual advantage of being effective and true. No searing your conscience required here. Think about it. Can you guarantee that the availability and price will be the same down the road?
Emphasize that in most cases (be careful here) the deposit is refundable.
Stress that putting down a deposit is the best way to ensure that the customer gets the pricing, cabin, room type, rooms/cabins near fellow travelers, dining option, excursion, sightseeing tour, etc. that they want. You just want to be sure that they get the vacation they have been dreaming of.
Here is a great thought from Velma Tollison of Travel Leaders, about shoppers. “If the phones are ringing and we’ve got several requests to answer, it’s so easy to book something, call up the customer and quickly quote a price and a deadline and say ‘call me back if you want this’. I hear this and I’ve done it myself. It’s so hard in this economic climate to make a sale and get new customers. We should slow down and take the time to make the sale now. There really aren’t any ‘shoppers’. Shoppers are almost always ‘buyers’ who are looking for someone to take their money. If they are going to buy at some point, it should be from us, right?”
So here again is Step 1. Every time a customer calls in this week and you check some options for them; before hanging up, ask them which credit card they would like to use for their deposit. I bet they will want to do the smart thing and nail down their booking.
Terry Denton is co-owner of Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel of Fort Worth, Rowlett and Tyler, Texas. He is an inveterate traveler, proficient writer, avid golfer and, by his own reckoning, a fairly unremarkable person. Terry claims to have more degrees than a thermometer and less native talent than a first round American Idol reject. He and his business partner, Vince Ashwill, have managed over the past twenty-seven years to build a reasonably successful chain of Travel Leaders agencies spread across North Texas. As you can probably tell, he doesn’t take himself too seriously but he takes the challenge of building a team of successful travel agents very seriously. And last but not least, he writes an entertaining travel blog called TravelByTerry.com.