In my last feature last year (doesn’t time fly!) I said that it was important to try to close the sale and not to let your telephone customer hang up without getting some kind of commitment. Try always to get some agreement from your customer, even if you can’t get a definite booking. 

It’s easier to close a sale when you have a customer in front of you since there things you can do – such as passing a booking form over the your customer – which invite him or her to take the next step in the selling process in a non-threatening manner. But when you only have your voice to do the job then you have only your words to persuade. But fear not, words are powerful things if used properly.


Aim high 

And the first thing that you must do is to aim high. If you ask for a sale then you might get a sale – but if you simply ask that your customers let you know when they’re ready to book then you’ll only get that level of commitment. Just think of the difference between, “OK, shall I make the definite, then?” and “OK, do you want to have a think about it and let me know?” But how many times have you heard the latter instead of the former?

The sound of silence 

As I said in my last article, if you say to your customer something like “Shall I book that for you?” you are asking for a big commitment and it’s quite likely that your customer will pause for as while and the line will be silent. And there is one simple thing you should then do. Shut up. Keep quiet. Say nothing. After around ten seconds the pause will seem to have gone on for ever and this is when so many salespeople, to break that awful silence, then use that sales-killing phrase, “…or do you want to think about it and let me know?” Don’t do it; let the silence work for you and wait until your customer speaks – as he or she surely will. Silence is a normal part of the decision-making process and it is actually telling you that your customer is interested in your product – if he or she weren’t then you would get an immediate negative answer to your “Shall I book that for your” question. But, as we will see, there are ways of avoiding that tricky question and the silence that is might create.

Ease the path

Earlier on in this series of articles I mentioned the different kinds of questions you could use in your sales conversation – closed questions that can get a “yes” or “no” answer and open questions that can’t. The question “Shall I book that for you?” is a closed question and needs a simple yes or no answer and, as I said earlier, that’s a yes or no answer to quite a big question – which is why you’ll often get that long silence when you ask it. So why not try using an different kind of question entirely?

Closing techniques

In same sales courses a lot is made of the various closing techniques that exist and some of them are very powerful. But I don’t believe that those of us working in travel are of the same mould as those who are trying to sell those kinds of products that the cold-callers who ring you in the middle of your favourite Soap are trying to sell. We are trying to create a long-term relationship with our customers and coercing them into buying a product they don’t really want by using sophisticated closing techniques is not the right way to go about that. But we can learn from these techniques and use them in our own selling – but to make it easy for our customers, not to manipulate them.

Asking for the sale in the right way

To make it easier for your customer to agree to book, don’t ask that big closed question, “Shall I book that for you, then?” right at the outset – or even at all. Try a few open questions. Remember, open questions can’t be answered yes or no and so that big “yes” answer isn’t needed. Remember too, you will have been listening for those “buying signals” from your customer and you could try using them to lead you into your close. For example, if your customer asks, “Do you take credit cards?” you could reply, “We certainly do – which one would you like to use?” And then, when your customer answers, just go into your normal procedure for accepting credit cards over the telephone and the booking’s made. No yes or no needed. Or if the question is something like, “Do we need a visa for Australia?”, you could respond, “You do and we can take care of all that for you just as soon as we’ve sorted out your booking – so let’s get that confirmed first” Again no question asked and no answer needed. And nothing pushy done or said. Or you could use a technique which was always my favourite when I was a travel agent and which will fit in with any buying signal – and it’s to use the word “why”. As I said earlier in this series of articles, the question why is a very powerful one when you are seeking information and, strangely, it is also a good one when you want to close a sale – like this. “OK, that seems to be far and away the best deal – why don’t I make that definite for you?” What is actually happening here? The question is not really a question – it is a statement of intent that appears to be a question.

If your customer is happy with the product you’ve suggested then he or she need say nothing and you will then get on with making the booking definite and processing it. Of course, because it is still a question, if your customer is not ready to book, then the question gives him or her a chance to say so. So that concludes our look at the telephone and I hope you will agree with me that, used properly, the telephone is your friend, not your foe.

For more information about this, or any other aspect of training, contact Richard English at Dormers, Church Road, Partridge Green, West Sussex, RH13 8JS. Telephone 01403 710371 or email

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