When a customer walks into an agency, phones a homeworker or emails you there is normally a desire to purchase a holiday, cruise or other travel product. What is happening with the ones that get away? Were they serious? Did we offer the right thing? Somewhere along the line there isn't a meeting of minds. We haven't understood what is motivating that particular client.

There are four steps to getting that sale:

1. Information
2. Recommendation
3. Motivation
4. Action

Many things go in to making a sale; including product knowledge and skills but surrounding them all is your approach.

Information To sell successfully you need information and lots of it...
• How serious is the enquiry? Don’t be afraid to test the strength of the enquiry.
• What type of travel arrangements are required?
• Numbers of passengers, names, dates, duration?
• Possible destinations? What are the no-no’s?
• Budget? If vague suggest a figure to get a reaction
• Why are they travelling? (pleasure, business, health, status, sentiment, family commitment, special occasion etc) Don’t assume -find out and then you will know what is flexible and what isn't.

For example someone may be asking for "the cheapest break to Cyprus". If you find out that they are travelling to attend a family wedding then maybe reliability is more important than price. Make notes as this demonstrates interest and allows you to recap using the client’s words.

Use client phrases or a stated preference in reply emails - an invaluable aid to closing a sale. Don’t pounce too quickly with suggestions - at some point during the information collection stage you may believe that you know what the client wants.

• Don't jump in.
• Make sure that you are on the client’s wavelength.
• Keep asking plenty of questions in the form of a discussion.
• Use tentative suggestions to test client reaction, such as "How do you feel about Tunisia?” and "What are your views on the new cruise ships?” You are then ready to move on to the next stage.

Recommendation Using the information you have gained you should now be able to build up a picture of:
• What to offer - type of arrangement.
• Where to - destination.
• What price is acceptable?

Now suggest your recommendation: "Here's something on the screen which you will find interesting" and "Remembering your comments on.....” or “Given that you particularly wanted.......” or maybe "Turkey sounds the sort of place that.....” Then judge the client’s reaction. If they say yes - shut up and go for it! If they say no or hesitate - recheck your information, you've missed a bit of the puzzle. If place or price is raised - "Isn't the hotel a bit remote?" or "I thought Spain was supposed to be cheap" then recheck your information. Whilst some clients are crystal clear at the outset about what they want, a large number use the enquiry process to refine their requirements.

Motivation The heart of selling is establishing the ‘benefits’. People buy a product because it gives them something or will do something for them. The classic example comes from Black and Decker who say that people don't want to buy 8mm drills, they want 8mm holes. What do your clients want out of the travel arrangement? Every client is different. Is it: pleasure?; relaxation?; sports?; historic or other interest?; nightlife?; culture?. How can you categorise your client?

Are they:
• New seekers looking for somewhere different
• Familiar repeaters who prefer the old haunts|
• Activists who want sports and activities.
• Independents looking for the unpackaged package.
• Collapsers (or fly and flop), wanting a good hotel and facilities and no mobile phones.
• Social climbers – St Bart’s or bust!
• Explorers – castles and crusaders.

What are their hot buttons? You need to see the holidays as they might, appealing to their viewpoint. Any feature or advantage of the holiday that you put across must have meaning and relevance to them.

Action The last stage and the most simple: ask for the business. Clients often need help in saying ‘yes’, so it is up to us to make it easy for them. Listen for the buying signals such as "What's the deposit these days?"; "I suppose that half-term is very popular"; "I wonder if there are any rooms with sea view left?". Then, close the sale.

You can use a number of methods including:
• The Direct Close - "Shall I book that for you?" or "Let's go ahead then".
• The Alternative Close - "Would you prefer the Luton or Stansted flight?"; "Would you rather have the Grand or Splendid hotel?"; “Would the cabin on C or L deck be better?”; "Is Saturday or the Sunday more convenient?".
• The Assumption Close - "Let's check that it's still available"; “Will it be your usual credit card?”; "You'll be requiring insurance won't you?". There are many other closing techniques but these work well in travel. The most important thing is to ask for the business. Weak selling simply delivers clients into the hands of your competitors.

Top Tips:

• Take time to qualify the client in the first place. How serious are they? Don’t waste time and effort on enquiries that are going nowhere, as that’s time you could be using on researching an enquiry for that repeat client with a reasonable budget.

• Email enquiry? – check who else it has been sent to, does it look like a round robin enquiry? If so don’t waste time with a lot of research and lengthy reply. Simply email back with a tempting request for the client to phone you such as “you need a couple of more details” or “I’ve got the ideal deal for you but would like to check it out”. If they can’t be bothered to phone you it is probably a time waste.

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