This quarter, Key Notes On Travel collaborated with Dan Chappelle, aka The Wealthy Travel Agent, to bulletproof your travel business.
It was during his second presentation that Chappelle expanded on prospecting in the context of success as it relates to a return on (time) investment. As we first reported in this post, Chappelle argued cold calling and mailing lists are chief among the least effective prospecting methods. The best way to gain new customers, he said, is through "referral prospecting."
"The best way to get to a customer is to proactively ask for referrals," Chappelle explained. "This is all based on a scientific study by Mark Granovetter at Stanford University called The Strength of Weak Ties. It's why people buy and how people get jobs. It's applied to a number of social situations."
What is "The Strength of Weak Ties" phenomenon?
To understand the phenomenon, Chappelle instructed advisors to examine their social networks.
“We all have friends and family who find out you’re in the travel business and ask, ‘Can you help me plan a vacation? Can you tell me about Disneyland?’ You give them all this information and you get excited because you have a prospect there. And then they go silent on you…they ghost you. You may hear through the grapevine that they booked with a travel agency across town or they found someone online. Worst case, they booked direct or maybe they didn’t go at all. The important thing is that they didn’t book with you."
It begs the question, why don't people want to buy from their loved ones?
Chappelle explained: "What we’ve learned from this study is the reason most people will not do business with people close to them is because they don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. They would rather deal with someone they don’t know well. They may have met them before, but they don’t know them. They’re just more comfortable doing that. And that’s where The Strength of Weak Ties comes in."
Here's how it works:
"At any given point, you have 20 or 25 people who fit into your 'circle of influence' or 'level one relationships.' And then [those people] have got their friends, families and relationships. They may be people you see once a year at a company barbeque or a holiday party but you don't really know them."
Chappelle then drove the point home.
"Ten to 15 per cent of your business will come from your 'first level' people. Sixty to 70 per cent will potentially come from 'the second' segment, and then it will drop off exponentially from there."
Your network's network: How to apply "The Strength of Weak Ties" referral prospecting strategy
“If we know this is where the business is going to come from, doesn’t it make sense to have a systematic process that we use regularly to access those people?" Chappelle asked advisors. "But how do you do that? How do you get to those people? If the folks who are close to you aren’t going to buy from you, the key is not to ask them to buy something from you; the key is to ask them for help."
What might that "ask" sound like? Chappelle offered a few scripts:
- "Who do you know who would benefit from my services as a river cruise expert?"
- "Who might be interested in sailing with Uniworld in Europe?"
- "Who do you know who might fit that description and can you give me their contact information? I’ll reach out and let them know you referred them to me."
Why does this work especially well?
"Because people like to help each other," asserted Chappelle. "And because they've been referred by someone they know, it’s not a cold call. It’s almost a hot prospect. And they’re qualified. The odds are pretty good that the people they associate with are in the same socio-economic group and want to do the same type of travel."
Chappelle further recommended that advisors use precise language when asking friends and family for a referral.
"Put it out there that you’re looking for a specific customer travelling to a specific destination or a specific product. You’re not just asking somebody to come book travel with you. You’re asking for specifics. That’s how you really, truly make money prospecting."
The Bottom Line
Chappelle closed the segment by reassuring advisors that prospecting need not be a dreaded task.
"Don’t let the word prospecting scare you. Most people think of cold calling, but that’s not what this is. This is reaching out on behalf of someone you already know quite well, who has recommended your services. This works."
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