Written By: Scott Koepf, V.P. of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Whether the word ‘sales’ excites you or terrifies you, there is no escaping the fact that if you are going to be successful in retail travel then you must learn to excel in sales! The good news is that it is a learnable process that you can master.
Being a great salesperson is a matter of training and practice. In other words, would you rather have a born brain surgeon or a trained one? If you have the desire, then with this training you can gain the skills to watch your sales soar!
1. Take pride knowing that you are in sales!
If the word bothers you then just focus on the fact that you deliver fulfilled dreams and that what you do is not just wonderful but worth paying for! Many people think travel agents are a thing of the past so you have to sell customers on your very existence, let alone a vacation!
You know the value of what you do but unless you sell yourself and your service, you may be the only one who knows it.
2. Enthusiasm sells!
No matter what skills or techniques you learn, they will be worthless unless you believe in yourself and are enthusiastic about working with people. a recent Stanford research study determined success in sales is based on 85% enthusiasm!
Product knowledge and focusing your training on a limited number of niche suppliers and destinations is important. However, NOTHING will equal a positive attitude and enthusiasm. Remember enthusiasm cannot be taught, only caught!
3. Focus on people; Not product!
Even though you are in a fabulous industry with products that are mind blowing and ever improving, don’t forget your business is people. Learn about them and how to build a relationship with them instead of just focusing on the latest and greatest product enhancement.
Travel agents should be known as counselors or advisors not because it sounds good but because it really is what you do. Disseminating facts and figures is what travel agents used to be paid for but in today’s world the consumer can pull up every fact and figure they could ever want (and usually more than they want). Your job is learning about the customer and using that information to customize and determine the perfect vacation for them. Think about creating a lifetime relationship not handling a transaction!
4. Strive to develop ongoing business.
Setting goals are imperative but understand that revenue or gross commissions are not the true sign of greatness. The number and percentage of repeaters you have is the best indication that you are exceptional (and that you will have a financially lucrative future!)
You are in a very competitive business and the big gorillas are getting even bigger. The good news is that those big players are basically call centers that push to make a sale but do not want to take the time to really get to know the customer. The most money in this business comes from repeat and referral business so design all that you do to maximize them.
5. Differentiate or die!
While selling does follow a specific process, your personality and style should be unique. Sales should never be robotic and without personality otherwise computers could sell anything. Yes, it is all about you so let your personality shine!
Most differentiation that is attempted in our industry is based on destinations, product categories or company brands. You are your own brand and you must craft a unique and compelling brand that emphasizes your personality and appeals to the type of customers you want. As an example, I often hear agents want to be luxury travel specialists and I believe that is exactly the wrong approach. Instead you should aspire to be a luxury traveler specialist!