Note the title of this column is “Travel Professional Sales” NOT “Professional Travel Sales.” You will not this week be reading about how to sell travel, because that is not what I believe you do. Carnival sells travel. Funjet sells travel and so does Delta. You, on the other hand, sell yourself. You sell your ability to assist clients in coming to a good buying decision.
It is absolutely possible for you to enhance the arc of your travel practice by learning fundamental sales techniques. However, the techniques you need to master are not “tricks” or clever negotiating. Instead, we will discuss the psychology of sales and the development of the appropriates skills and commitments to generate a higher rate of performance.
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To increase your own performance at successful sales, understand the appropriate context of marketing. In the marketing you do for your travel agency, your goal should be to correctly set the expectations of your client. When a client encounters your marketing efforts, be that in advertising, public relations or online, you should engage their attention in such a way they are preconditioned to your sales technique and authentic manner of doing business. Marketing drives sales, and there should be no disconnect between the messages clients receive through your marketing and the more personal encounters they have with you during the sales cycle.
Know, too, there is no hard and fast line of demarcation between sales and marketing. You are always selling in your marketing and you are always marketing, even in the middle of a sales effort. Whenever you engage with a client either through your marketing efforts or on a 1:1 basis, you are putting your personality and authentic value system in full view for all to see. Sales is both a logical and an emotional process and you must appeal to both sides of your clients’ mind to best serve them.
One of the common misunderstandings about marketing is that it is all about hunting down and capturing prize clients. This notion results in frenzied marketing efforts designed to earn attention from travelers and prospective clients. However, sudden bursts of marketing activity are not as productive as more consistent and steady effort. Think relationships rather than transactions.
In its most simple form, marketing consists of generating new business and retaining existing clients. Ivan Misner says marketing is more like farming than hunting. Business is grown over a period of time. Prey that is hunted runs away. Consistent marketing efforts applied intelligently and in a steady manner pay off over time. Each and every day, make it your business to talk to someone new about travel…not to directly sell a trip but to engage another person in a mutual passion. At the same time, make it your habit to call or email some of your existing clients on a regular basis to check on their needs or to inform them of current travel specials in which they have expressed an interest. You cannot reap what you do not sow: spend some time farming.
The first commitment you have to make is a very personal commitment. You must take full responsibility for your success. The entire litany of other factors in the sales process, the economy, suppliers, time of year, technology, hurricanes, competition and even your clients must become secondary and even third tier factors in the evaluation of your performance. Ultimately everything comes down to you. The prospect is both liberating and frightening.