You’ve gone through the process of questioning and qualifying your clients, and as such, understand their interests and motivations, and have a sense of their expectations. All of this helps you to determine the type of itineraries you should present to them when the time comes. Your research is done, you have looked-up relevant product options available with your preferred suppliers, and you may have even connected with appropriate sales managers, hotel representatives or other partners to better decide the match.
Now, it’s time to share the fruits of your labour with your clients, who are eager to see what you’re going to bring to the table.
This is the moment that will determine the future; where your clients will go (should they decide to book with you), if they’ll work with you again in the future, and how likely they’ll be to recommend you to family and friends.
It all comes down to this.
So what is the best way to proceed when presenting the options? Let’s start with the basics:
IF POSSIBLE, ARRANGE FOR AN IN-PERSON MEETING.
There’s no denying that face-to-face is the most effective way to communicate. Your clients might request that you e-mail them instead, but keep in mind the time you’ve invested in putting these options together; if you want your client to be as excited as you are about the opportunities, let them see the enthusiasm on your face and hear it in your voice. If this is simply not possible (your client lives in a different city, province or country, or is travelling at the moment), make alternative arrangements such as a Skype meeting. Remember that the message itself is a small part of your delivery; your body language, voice and tone will all influence your clients’ attitudes and perceptions of your presentation as well, which is why the in-person strategy is most likely to pay-off.
DEMONSTRATE THE VALUE OF THE PRODUCT AND OF YOUR SERVICE.
Your client has come to you because they are interested in your service and expertise; when it comes time to present the options, make sure that the value you – as a travel professional – are offering is clear, whether it be access to exclusive sights or excursions, hotel upgrades or other special services that they would have had a hard time arranging on their own. Just the same, focus on the value and inclusions of the product you are presenting before focusing on the dollar figure attached.
START WITH THE TOP-SHELF AND WORK YOUR WAY DOWN.
When you’re out at a fancy bar and order a martini, the bartender never comes back with the question, “Smirnoff or Absolut?” No, they offer you Grey Goose or Kettle One, and if you’re not interested in paying the premium for a better drink, you let them know you’d prefer whatever their “house” option is. The same is true when selling travel; your client has presumably given you a budget to work with, and while you should respect their wishes, take some liberties to show them what more they can get out of their vacation should they spend a few extra dollars. Walk through your proposal and address any objections they may have. The first options you present should be the best of the best; these may be a bit beyond the budget they’ve suggested you work within, but delve into what that trip will look like. Paint a picture so enticing that regardless of how good the other options you have prepared within their budget are, they just won’t measure up and as such, if there’s any chance they have extra discretionary funds laying around, you’ll not only close the sale at a higher price point that initially anticipated, your clients will see your value more clearly.
HELP YOUR CLIENTS VISUALIZE THEIR TRIP.
Some travel advisors like to put together a physical presentation for their clients, not only to enhance the professionalism of the process but also as a visual aide to help in closing the sale. If this is part of your sales process, be sure that you are doing it right. Above all, colour is important; you can’t sell travel using black and white images; the impact just isn’t there. Use vibrant colours, like blues and greens, and images that accurately depict the experiences that await them upon booking. Keep the design clean, and make sure the options are organized in a clear and concise manner. Some travel agencies have invested in hiring professional designers to prepare this sort of material on behalf of their agents, as a way to ensure efficacy. If you’re not so lucky but design is not your strong suit, just remember the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid).
With these strategies front of mind, you also want to consider how to best address the wants and needs of your clients when presenting them with the trips you’ve curated. At this stage, there are three points of focus: features, advantages and benefits (which we’ve previously delved into in CT). Let’s look at each element using the example of a coach tour:
This is the item or service that you’re going to present. Think of the lists you see in brochures – group size, type of coach, hotels, destinations on the itinerary, sightseeing options, etc.
The advantages are what that item or service does. For example, group size will determine the type of access your clients will gain to various sights. The destinations included should align with what your client wants to see. The “advantages” are basically what value different pieces of the proposal offer your clients. And while brochures often include a list of features and services with a brief description, don’t make the mistake of reading things off, hoping that clients will be impressed by the array of options and activities available. In doing this, you’re missing the most important step. Which brings us to...
This is where you’ll truly be able to demonstrate your value and expertise. The benefits are why each feature matters to your individual clients. To determine benefits when crafting your proposal, ask yourself: “So what?”
This coach tour limits itself to 20 passengers. So what? Well, if your client is interested in exclusive experiences, such as having dinner at a local’s home when touring Tuscany, small group touring is the way to go. Plus, not only will they have access to unique opportunities, they will be led with the skill and knowledge of an experienced guide along the way.
All hotels throughout the tour are situated in central locations. So what? Your client wants to be able to explore independently when the opportunity arises, so this will allow them to do so with ease, whether by foot, taxi or local transport. Want to take it the extra mile? Offer them recommendations for off-the- beaten path sites or restaurants so they don’t waste any time researching once there.
You get the point; a list of features means nothing to your prospect unless you explain how those features are going to help them make their dream trip a reality. So before you go into the presentation stage, make sure you review the features and truly understand (and are able to articulate) the benefits of each. If at any point you’re at a loss, reach out to appropriate sales managers and ask them to explain the value of various elements — the “so what?”
But above all, make sure you position the benefit based on what your clients are looking for. Say the tour visits five different destinations over a two-week period (feature). This means they’ll be seeing a lot, at a relatively relaxed pace (advantage). Delivering the benefit by saying, “So you’ll be on the move every few days” sounds very different than saying, “So you can enjoy a few guided experiences while also taking some time to explore different areas on your own.” This is the same feature and same advantage but positioned differently; the first would work for someone wanting variety, the second for someone seeking balance and cultural immersion.
APPLYING THIS KNOWLEDGE
WHEN SELLING TRAVEL INSURANCE:
Travel insurance is all too often something travellers see as an extra cost rather than an investment, so when it comes to closing the sale, travel agents really have to focus on the “so what?” Depending on the package, advantages likely include emergency hospital and medical, follow-up visits, accidental dental and dental emergency, emergency return home, accidental death and dismemberment, and more. So what?
According to Debbie Robinson of Allianz Global Assistance, travel agents should enlighten clients to examples of costs that could have been incurred by travellers, had they not made the investment. Here’s an example of how you might go about presenting and positioning, according to Robinson:
“I recently had a client whose mother was here from Spain on a SuperVisa to get to know her newly-born granddaughter. She was experiencing chest pains and was diagnosed with a heart attack. Her medical costs were over $35,000 but her travel insurance only cost just over $2,000. Travel insurance covered her eligible medical expenses. My client was so grateful that she had purchased it for her mom.”
Secondly, make the dollar figure less of a hindrance by breaking down the cost per day.
“The cost is only $x per day, which in the bigger scheme of things is priceless to get the protection you need. From my experience with travel, I highly recommend it.”
Of course, product education is paramount to closing the sale as well. “Become well-versed in various plans so you can efficiently and effectively match the need,” Robinson said. This will enable agents to simplify the case for purchase, and more easily guide clients to an understanding of the value of travel insurance.
WHEN SELLING CRUISES:
Of course, presenting and positioning cruise options is vastly different from that of travel insurance, as the features, advantages and benefits vary based on company, ship and destination, in addition to many other factors. That said, some cruise lines have established verbiage to help travel agents on the path to understanding the advantages and determining the benefits, as they apply to different clients.
Celebrity Cruises, for example, introduced Celebrity Distinction in 2016, which defines its commitment to continuously provide guests with unique, leading-edge experiences. Enhanced destination experiences (including Chef Market Discoveries and a greater variety of Signature Event Sailings to the hottest global events) and onboard enhancements (multi-million dollar refreshes of various vessels and new Suite Class services and amenities) are great advantages, which, when positioned to a client by highlighting the benefits as they relate to one’s unique vacation desires, can propel a booking.
Let’s take Celebrity’s all-included options as an example. The advantage is that travellers make one payment to cover cruise, air, taxes, transfers, gratuities and a chosen beverage package. So what? This will be particularly valuable to travellers who want to know the full cost of their vacation upfront, or have a very limited budget. The “so what?” for some will be the peace of mind in knowing that once they take off, all costs are covered; there’s no need to worry about surprise bills while onboard.