Step five — substitute ‘best experience’ for ‘least expensive’ | TravelResearchOnline


Step five — substitute ‘best experience’ for ‘least expensive’

This is part 5 of a 7 part series by Terry Denton.

Part 1: Ask for a credit card on the first call

Part 2: Ask for referrals on every sale

Part 3: Master the art of upselling

Part 4: Always recommend insurance

OK, this week it is time for a “check up from the neck up.”  Are you ready for some serious reprogramming?  You don’t have to be a devotee of the ill fated Heaven’s Gate cult walking around with five dollars in quarters in your pocket waiting for the next space trolley to get a little reorientation from time to time.

Carnival Cruise Lines did a fascinating study where they listened to travel agents speaking with their own reservation agents to determine the most common requests.  What they thought might take two weeks of listening to determine, ended up taking about two hours.  The two words that popped out of agents’ mouths like champagne corks at Times Square on New Year’s Eve were…

  • least
  • expensive

We are programmed to ask for the least expensive because we think we know that that is what our customer wants.  Oh really?   Somewhere in America is the absolutely least expensive new car available.  It is probably a stripped down, bare bones Yugo held together with baling wire and duct tape.  What percentage of the new car sales do you think that exact car represented last year?  I have no idea but I would imagine they sold around half a dozen to Heaven’s Gate cult members who only needed transportation to the nearest space ship trolley stop.

Everyone else (99.999999%) bought something else.  The reason?  They didn’t want least expensive, they wanted best value.  They wanted a combination of price and features important to them.  In Texas, that normally includes air conditioning. In travel, simply translate “best value” into “best experience.”

Absolutely–price is important.  But if I told you I could get you a room in Cancun, Mexico for $25.00 a night would you be interested?  I’m pretty sure I could, by the way.  However, for that rate, you’d have to be a fan of la cucaracha.

When people call us, what are they really looking to buy?  Essentially they are seeking a great experience with lasting memories.  That concept is encapsulated in a marketing message I came up with a while back–“Lend us your dreams and we will repay you with memories.”

I will tell you what people want.  People want a travel experience that will:

  • fulfill long standing fantasies
  • exceed reasonable expectations
  • build cherished memories

If you expect someone to come back from a trip and tell you that was the best $749 vacation they have ever had, don’t held your breath.  But if you craft the perfect vacation for your client by lovingly and expertly expanding their reach a tad, you will get enough bouquets to open your own florist shop.   I will let you in on a little secret.  Successful agents have tons of repeat clients and that is how they do it.

No more “least expensive.”  Your new motto going forward should be “best experience.”  

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

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