Simply Sales with Scott
Written By: Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales, Avoya Travel
As the father of three girls I heard the very familiar refrain of “Dad, let’s play” on a daily basis for many years. It did not matter what we played as long as we just had fun doing it. The passionate desire to be in a state of play seems to be built into children with an inexhaustible consistency. At some point the persistence to engage me in playtime subsided and I can only pray that it was not due to my unwillingness to join them. While not quite the same, our family has kept the tradition alive as we play games at every chance we get, even as my girls are all grown up.
As travel agents we need to have that same childlike passion to play – in sales. When kids play together it is not always with perfect results, and so it is with sales. Your playmate (client) may not like your ideas and the play date may end in disappointment, but don’t let that discourage you. I can’t count the number of times my girls would be at each other’s throats and storming into their rooms only to come out moments later to see who wants to play again. We need that kind of resilience to rejection and the overriding desire to play again.
Sales and playing are both like a dance, where both participants feel valued and are enjoying the process. This is why preparation is so important to the sales process. Preparing for the journey you will be taking with your client is the beginning of providing them an exceptional experience.
My daughter Charlene learned to be a master of this. She would prepare a classroom and lesson plans for her younger sister Cassie so they could play school for hours on end. It wasn’t until years later that her mother and I found out that Cassie was actually doing all of Charlene’s real homework for her in these ‘classes’! We must be a little careful as to our motives to make sure that manipulation is not the purpose of preparation. Starting with a specific goal in mind is admirable. In Charlene’s case it was simply brilliant, and her sister actually loved playing school!
I came across the following acronym for PLAYING which is really an excellent guideline for the important elements of sales and reminds us that if we are having fun, then our client will have fun too!
Plan your Call – As noted above, being prepared and hopefully passionate about another chance to sell (play) is paramount. If you are dreading another client interaction or afraid of rejection again then dig deep into your inner child and go out and play again. If you make the interaction enjoyable then even if you are doing hard work (your sister’s homework) it will be successful.
Listen to the Customer – This always seems like the simplest of suggestions but is actually hard to do well. Listening is actually the sum of all of the following elements that will lead to increased sales and better customer relationships. If your focus going into the sales process is to build trust and understand your customer instead of driving as quickly as possible to finalize a transaction, then you build a loyal and profitable customer base.
Ask Many Questions – We will cover this in depth in future articles as this might be the best way to really prepare for sales. You need to have a list of many questions that are well beyond just where and when they want to go. Questions need to shed light on what your clients are really looking for so that you can learn about them.
Yak Less – If I say too much more about this obvious clue, then I am not paying attention to it myself!
Involve your Customers – A recent study by ASTA determined that the number one reason people do not use a travel agent is that they want to ‘do it themselves’. While we can show them how much time and money they will save by working with an agent they still want to be intimately involved in the process. Just like when my girls would play, in order for things to be harmonious, they each had to be involved versus just being told what to do.
Negate Concerns – In sales jargon this is called overcoming objections. This is usually addressed as how to deal with specific roadblocks. For example, if your customer says ‘That is too expensive’ then we need to be prepared with how to deal with that. Having prepared responses to the most common objections is important, but it is just as important to learn how to flush out what the customer’s concerns are. In many cases they may not just blurt out their objection which is why building trust through listening, questions, and interaction will make the concerns more obvious so you can deal with them.
Gain a Commitment – I like this better than ‘Get to a Close’ or ‘Get the Deposit’ as the ultimate goal for each customer interaction is to end with a specific commitment of what the next action will be. While there are some one call closes that occur, when customers are investing a significant amount of time and money into a vacation it will usually be a multistep process. So plan on that and just work to make sure that no call ends with a nebulous ‘Why don’t you think about it and get back to me?’ Set the next time you will talk, calendar it and even discuss what you and the client will do in the meantime.
Sales is not easy but it can be fun. Find that unquenchable childlike desire and remember that selling is just PLAYING!