Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
For those of you following these articles month to month you may see a shift in content. I do not want any of us to duck and hide during the most difficult time in history for our business, but I want to provide some lighter fare that will hopefully be of help to you now and in the future. I will use a Broadway song lyric to make a point, but even if you are not a theater fan, I urge you to read on. While my analogies and examples might be light and fun, the content is heavy enough to make a real difference in your business.
The ultimate question you have to answer to maximize your potential: “Why should I do business with you?” When I first ventured into this industry I took what was then a unique and risky approach. I opened a cruise only agency. Now unless you have been in this industry as long as I have, you may be asking yourself “Are you an idiot? Aren’t cruise only agencies a common and accepted business model?” While the answer to both questions may be an “yes” today, thirty-five years ago it was a different situation. In 1985 my bride and I who were married only two months opened one of the first cruise only agencies in the country and it was considered quite unconventional. However, it wasn’t long before the ridicule turned to envy and then to emulation and now there are thousands of cruise only agencies in North America.
You need to be different enough in choosing your specialty that you will really stand out and give clients a reason to do business with you. For example, in today’s environment instead of product or destination specialization, you need to focus on your clients and specialize in them. Determine whom you really want to have as clients and then pursue them. Don’t just jump into the marketplace trying to get any kind of business from anyone but know exactly with whom you want to work with. Having a common passion (golf, theatre, knitting, etc.) is the best approach.
If you really want to prosper in this business, you have to “love” your customers. And just as important, they have to love you. Don’t set up your marketing plan to attract people who don’t share your passions or that do not have the potential to become lifetime customers. Instead, be like a laser to those you know you can easily love. But that is only half of the story. The other half is making sure your clients love you. My favorite Broadway character, Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof, wants to know if his wife of twenty-five years actually loves him. Through the funny and touching song, “Do You Love Me?,” we learn that the word love is not an easy word for his wife to say and therefore it is a struggle for Tevye to get an answer.
As they sing together a list of all of the things they do for each other is described and while important, Tevye just wants to make sure there is more to their relationship than duty. If you have read my articles you know I am an evangelist for checklists and documenting all of the touchpoints, services and processes you will use in selling. However, it is important to note that the reason for that documented and consistent approach is to ensure that the answer to Tevye’s question is Yes!
Although I don’t expect you to burst into song when you speak with your next client, in order to avoid Tevye’s uncertainty you do need to have a relationship that is solid enough that the answer is never in doubt! I made the decision years ago that I never wanted my bride or my three daughters to have any doubt that I loved them, so I set the goal to try and tell each of them that fact three times per day. It is easy when the kids are little, but it actually was more fun when I would yell it across the campus at high school. At those moments the feelings may not have been reciprocated equally but they still knew without a doubt that Daddy loved them!
To get to a point where your clients know they are loved it is really up to you to build a relationship, provide exceptional ongoing service and to truly care. Choose your clients, choose to provide exceptional service and then love your clients so much that they will let you know they love you before you even ask!