Over the last couple of years or so we have been looking at the business of selling to customers of what we called “The Sales Conversation”. Just to remind you, a sales conversation is not the same as an ordinary conversation. Unlike an ordinary conversation which can go in any direction and has no real purpose, a sales conversation has an objective – that of making a sale – and it has a structure.

And the structure is a simple one – and you forget it at your peril! We could maybe think of the structure as a series of stepping stones that will get you to the opposite bank of a river, on which bank there is your reward – the sale you are expecting to achieve. And those stepping-stones are called: Rapport; Investigation; Presentation; and Commitment.

 

Building rapport Rapport is all about the way in which you get along with your customers. You will know from your own experience that you get on with some people better than others, and that’s very natural. You pick and choose your friends, and those people you don’t get on with you don’t bother to associate with. Unfortunately you don’t have the option with your customers – you can’t pick and choose who they are going to be – but you have to get on with them no matter what. Of course, you don’t have to make them all into your friends but you should make them into customers.

Rapport is even more important these days. Your jobs as travel salespeople have never been more challenging or faced with greater threats from competition. Now your customers have access to all the information they need about travel and holidays and can book online at any time night or day. And many of them will.

To make sure that your customers continue to book with you, it’s your job to ensure that they like booking with you. It’s the job of your company’s marketing unit to get people to contact your agency – but it’s your job to make sure that, once they get in touch with you, they turn into customers. Creating rapport so that people will enjoy dealing with you, rather than a faceless computer screen, is essential and, fortunately, there are techniques that you could and should practice.

Your attitude Remember, we are talking in this article about customers who contact you by telephone, not about those who call into your office, so the techniques we will be discussing are those that relate primarily to telephone use – although you will probably find that there is often a cross-over. And probably the first thing where the telephone and the face-to-face encounter coincide is what you do with your face! Yes. Whether you are talking face-to-face or on the telephone, make sure that there is a smile on your face. Smiles can be heard as well as seen and a surly face is as off-putting to a telephone caller as it is to a customer you have in front of you. If you don’t believe it, try recording your voice when you’re smiling and when you’re scowling and listen to the difference.

Your greeting One thing that is usually different with the telephone (although, as video-phones get more common this is changing) is that you can’t see your customer and your customer can’t see you. Indeed, until you answer that call, your customers can’t even be sure that they are actually calling the right agency. Wrong numbers are not unknown, after all. So, when you smile and pick up that telephone, make sure that you first few words reassure your customers that they are talking to the right person or organisation.

If you announce yourself and, at the end of your greeting your caller says something like, “Am I talking to XYZ travel?” then you should consider what it is you’re using as a greeting. It is a fact that people do not usually hear the first few words of any fresh conversation and the reason for this is a simple one. In order to protect our brains from information overload, most of the sounds we hear are simply filtered out; our brains do not take any notice of them and it’s not until an important sound is received that our brains start taking notice. This is why, at places such as airports and railways stations, before any service announcement is made, a chime is sounded. That chime warns our brains that there is important information on the way. When your customers are calling you their brains are also “in standby”; their ears are receiving the sound of the ringing tone but their brains are not reacting.

The ringing tone is not important except insofar as it is reassuring their brains that the call process is still under way. So, when you answer the call, your customers’ brains will not immediately be ready to absorb the information you are giving out. Which is why you may be asked to repeat details that you have already given. Be sure you’re heard

To give your customers a better chance of hearing what you have to say, follow these simple rules:

1.Don’t start speaking as soon as you pick up the receiver; wait a second or so. This will give your customers a chance to get their brains ready to receive your information.

2.Make sure that your first words convey the less important information.For example, try starting your conversation with “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”. If your customers don’t hear this salutation it doesn’t really matter.

3.Give the name of your agency after your initial greeting.

4.Give your own name as soon as you reasonably can, so that your customers will begin to feel that they know you.

5. As soon as you can reasonably do so, ask for your customer’s name; you will need it sooner or later so why not sooner? First impressions count You only get one chance to make a first impression with any one person – but that first impression can last for ever. Make sure that the first impression your customers get of you is that of a friendly and efficient person that they want to do business with.

For more information about this, or any other aspect of training, contact Richard English by calling 01403-710371 or emailing retraining@pncl.co.uk

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