Empathy and Sales | TravelResearchOnline


Empathy and Sales

As a nation, we are a jaded lot. From Willy Loman to the used-auto hucksters in countless movies, the public in general holds sales people rather low on the scale of esteem. Indeed, most of the people you encounter are so afraid of being “sold” something that they refuse to speak with sales people when they enter a store or walk onto a car lot. “I’m just looking” is used as the warding spell against the sales person, and woe to the one who persists beyond that point.

Most travel consultants share this cultural bias against “sales.” Ironic, isn’t it?

Because of the image most people have of the sales process, they enter into any sales transaction very cautiously. Intellectually, the buyer wants a very clear and demonstrable congruence between what they want or need, and what they receive. In addition, they want to pay as little as possible for the product or service in the process. If they accomplish these buying objectives, they feel they have made a good purchasing decision. Their fear is that instead of making a good buying decision, they will be “sold” something other than what they wanted or at a price greater than the value they received. In short, your clients are scared and you aren’t helping matters because you don’t like sales people either.

Yikes. Such is the psychological swampland into which you first wade with every new client. Something has to change for a sale to take place, and you, the travel consultant, are the only one who can make that happen. So let’s investigate the psychology of the sales process beginning with the concept of authenticity.

The most important element in the sales process is not the client, but you. A long term relationship is built on trust. People trust authentic people who say what they mean, speak in a straight-forward manner and who demonstrate a keen insight into the needs and desires of the buyer. To create an atmosphere of trust and authenticity, the travel agent must first believe, with no shadow of a doubt, in the value of what they offer as a consultant. The travel consultant must believe whole-heartedly, that the client is better off booking their travel through the agent than direct with a supplier, or online or with the agent down the street. The travel consultant must believe in his or her inherent willingness to address every need and want of the client and then to go the extra mile. In short, the perspective of an authentic sales person is client-centric: the needs and desires of the client are at the heart of every transaction. This is the first psychological shift you must make, and it is strictly internal to you but it must be manifested in your outward demeanor.

One of the best ways of crafting an appropriate outward demeanor is to remind yourself what you don’t like about inauthentic sales people: the too-strong “come on”, the phony smile, the too-vigorous handshake and the lilting voice that sounds more like a motivational speaker than a trusted advisor. Not one of these attributes moves you to trust the sales person. Instead, you have the very distinct impression that he is going to “try and sell you something.”

In your own practice, strive to make the client feel at ease and comfortable. Review our previous discussions on creating the appropriate environment for the buying process. A calm environment, a confident demeanor and an assurance that your concerns are with the client all make up the best possible environment for the buying process to take place. And therein is the second psychological shift that must take place.

Your client does not want to be involved in a “sales process.” The client is in the process of buying something. Be empathetic. Again, it is your responsibility to make an internal psychological shift and come around to your client’s side of the table. Assist them with buying their travel, not with selling anything. You are not a retail store and you are not selling travel. You do not own a cruise ship, a commercial airplane or a resort. If the client perceives you as assisting them in making an intelligent buying decision, they will be on-board with you for a long, healthy relationship.

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