I recently read a tirade from a travel agent on one of those travel agency forum groups. The travel agent was very frustrated (rightly so) and was using the forum to vent and get advice on how to handle the situation different in the future.
In a nutshell, she spent a lot of time and effort working on a honeymoon quote. A day later, the agent learned that the bride’s mom had found the same package for almost $1,000 less through Costco. She lost the business and hadn’t charged a service fee.
Boy, have we all been there one time or other! I certainly felt frustrated for this agent, but couldn’t help to wonder, how much time did she spend on building up her value with her client before sending her a quote?
For example, did she communicate only through email or make the effort to get the client on the phone to have an opening conversation? Did she educate the client on the benefits of working with an experienced honeymoon specialist? Did she ask the client to bring her any better deals so she could take a look to see if it was a true apples-to-apples comparison and possibly price match?
It’s very naïve to believe that prospects are NOT going to price shop. Of course they will! We all do! So getting frustrated is only contributing to the problem – not the solution.
I believe the solution is to create a better process for your opening communication with your new prospect so that you are educating them on the benefits of working with you, and then let them decide if they want to go the “DIY” route or get help from an experienced advisor.
Follow my A, B, C, D (4 step) process (and scripts) for doing this:
A. Ask Open Ended Questions
Many agents receive an inquiry and jump straight into working on a quote. Don’t do that. Take some time to get to know them and their travel taste. Ideally, get them on the phone after completing a short survey (this is a process I described in this video).
In addition to asking the necessary questions like Who, What Where and When, ask open ended questions to get more of a picture of what they want. It’s about tapping into their dreams so they realize you are a facilitator of that. It’s important that you listen too! The added bonus of asking qualitative questions is that these questions will subtly demonstrate the value of working with you. So, ask questions like:
“Tell me about your favorite vacation of all – and why.”
“In general, do you prefer a big city to a deserted beach, or something in between?”
“What’s your biggest priority for this vacation? (i.e., romance, relaxation, pampering, family fun, etc)
“How would you spend a free long weekend with unlimited budget?” “Would you prefer champagne, fruit or flowers upon arrival at your first hotel?”
B. Build Up Your Value
Here’s a working framework for how your conversation can go to build up your value after you have finished listening to their responses to your open ended questions:
a. Get excited for them.
“I’m so excited for you. You are going to have an awesome time!”
b. Validate them for doing the right thing by contacting you.
“You’ve done the right thing by reaching out to me.”
c. Bring them up to date on working with a travel advisor
“You may not fully understand what a travel consultant does. Here’s why my clients like working with me and come back again and again:
i. First, I protect their precious vacation dollars and hours. I’ve been there, seen the resorts, know the locations and I take time to get to know my clients as well as possible. So I do a great job at matching them with the right experience. I’d hate to see them wasting money on the wrong vacation, even if it is a great deal.
ii. Second, I save them a lot of time and hassle. There is so much information on the internet these days and it’s hard to know what’s accurate and what’s not. Thanks to my expertise, I know the options far better than most and I am able to zero in on the best options very quickly. In addition, I’m the one that sits on hold, checks fares, prices, etc saving them hours and hours of mindless time.
iii. Third, I can get them special treatment they can’t get on their own. Thanks to my relationships with travel suppliers, I can often get amenities, upgrades and other special VIP touches that my clients don’t have access to. So even though many “do-it-yourself” vacationers may pat themselves on the back for saving the $100, I often get my clients special amenities worth way more than that.
iv. Fourth, my job doesn’t stop when they book their travel. I go the extra mile to make find great restaurants I know they will love and book the reservations, book extra special activities, golf tee times, shore excursions, and I love adding my own surprise touches. I also prepare my clients for travel, so there are no surprises. I check if their passports are current, help them with packing advice, and even tipping guidelines.
v. Finally, I’m 1 phone call away. If my clients experience unexpected surprises during their travel like a missed connection, they know they have just 1 phone call to make and I will take care of the rest.”
C. Commit to Them and Get a Commitment Back (your fee!)
Once you finish listing all the reasons why your clients like working with you, then it’s time to ask for a commitment
“So as you can see, I am really committed to making this the best experience possible. I may not get you the cheapest deal – that’s what the online booking engines are for. If that’s what you are looking for, then we are not a great fit. But if you are looking for a true partner with the expertise to do this job right and get you the best value, then I can’t wait to get started working with you. If that’s the path you want to take, then the next step is to collect a $250 service fee (OR non-refundable trip planning deposit) and then I will begin preparing some quotes for you. Shall we get started? All I need is your credit card details…..”
D. Deal With The Price Shopping (Confront It)
I.e., “I realize that you have probably done some checking of prices and may continue to do so as I prepare your quotes. There are a LOT of “shiny, red objects” out there and it’s easy to get sucked in. Please, do me a favor. If you find a better price, bring it to me, so I can take a look, tell you if it’s the right resort (or cruise) for you, assess if it is a true apples-to-apples comparison, and if so, give me the opportunity to price match. Sound like a deal?”
Print out this script, or create one of your own and start using it with each new inquiry. Remember, don’t just jump into getting quotes – that’s what an order taker does. Start acting like a consultant and you will be shocked to see your clients treating you like one.