Here is an analogy I don’t like: “Would you like fries with that?” I dislike the analogy for any number of reasons beyond calories and cholesterol. Firstly, the analogy suggests the merits of the sales trick known as “up-selling.” It is inauthentic. If you are a consultant, you don’t up-sell. Instead, recommend. Replace “would” with “should.”
Look, friends, you are the expert here. Why on God’s green Earth would you leave insurance, a balcony view, or an amazing tour as an option? Up-sell? Why not just ask, “Would you like to enjoy yourself?” The answer is pretty clear without asking the question. Instead, recommend the best, most complete package your intelligent assessment of the client and their travel history suggests. If it is too expensive, I assure you they will let you know and you can begin to subtract elements of the plan. (Note the word “intelligent”).
Examples: Don’t up-sell insurance. It’s not “would you like insurance with your trip?” Rather say, “I’ve included insurance with your trip because you should have it. Terrible, terrible things happen to people who don’t buy insurance. It’s like one of those chain mail threats, only real.” OK, maybe that’s overstating my point, but you get it. The same goes for every feature of their trip important to an optimal experience. “Yes, a balcony is much more expensive than a cavity on the interior of the ship. But the value is there for you and I recommend the balcony. It’s unforgettable.” That is what your clients want: an optimal experience for the dollars they have available. They have come to you as a professional. Don’t act like the stereotypical used-car salesman.* Your clients want value.
You are the professional. Providing too many options lessens your authority. Clients come to you for recommendations. You are the expert. Make a strong recommendation and then back up your choice by explaining how it meets the client’s needs.
Please don’t designate your presentation as a “Quote”. That terminology sounds like you are selling the client a product or bidding for their business. Remember that your position is that of a consultant – you are helping the client make an intelligent buying decision. Include a short summary of the reasoning behind your recommendation. Repeat back what the client has asked of you and how your recommendation meets that need. If you have used the property, tour operator or some other element of the presentation with past clients, indicate that experience and the satisfaction that others have had in their dealings with these particular suppliers. If you can back up your research with a testimonial, do so. If you know your suppliers well, indicate your familiarity, including names of the concierge at the property you are recommending or the name of the driver for their transfers if available. In short, establish your relationship with the supplier and the properties you are using. Your business is relationships. These personal touches will give your clients confidence in your selections.
Speak plainly to your clients and de-mystify travel by explaining it in terms of your understanding of, and relationships with, the suppliers on the one hand and the client on the other. Have you had the experience of a doctor, a web site designer, a computer sales person or an auto mechanic using terminology that is over your head? The experience is more than a little frustrating, particularly when you have the suspicion that the real agenda is to keep you in your place as a consumer and them in their place as the expert. Don’t do that. Consumers do not want their professionals to talk TO them. They want you to hold a discussion WITH them.
Presenting the client with a clear recommendation along with your reasoning and an explanation of your past experience with your suppliers solidifies all of the relationships and engages their confidence. Remember, as a travel professional, your opinion and recommendation matters to the client and is one of the key reasons they turn to you.
Think about the other professionals you encounter in your own experience. Your doctor may give you an option, but it’s usually not a real option: “Death or an operation?” They first evaluate your situation by having a discussion with you. Next, they seek to educate you in general about the parameters of your situation. Then they make a professional recommendation. Almost all professionals will then do some research, after which they will make recommendations. Right? This same process is a great roadmap for you to follow as a travel consultant as well.
Trust yourself. You deserve it. If you don’t trust yourself, why should your clients?
Editor’s Note: I had a great deal of fun writing this. If I offended you, know I just meant to provoke. I actually published it a day early I was so happy with it. There are so few perks to this job.
* I said “stereotypical.” For the record, some of my best friends are used car sales people.