Ideally, if you’ve established a trusting relationship with your customer, identified his or her needs, and clearly and thoroughly presented product options that would satisfy those needs, handling obstacles wouldn’t be necessary before bringing the sale to a close. However, even the most polished and successful travel consultant must contend with the inevitable obstacle that may arise to impede the way to a purchase decision.
This phase in the sales cycle provides consultants the opportunity to recognize and overcome obstacles. This discussion is the sixth in an eight-part series examining each step of the sales cycle.
Whether you call such challenges in the sales process obstacles, objections, concerns, or problems, the important thing to remember is that they represent an opportunity for you to provide acceptable solutions to your customers’ travel needs. Your attempt is not to subdue or counter their concerns, as if the two of you were poised in battle. In that situation, someone must lose. In a win-win sales situation, you and your customer work together to come up with a travel solution that meets the needs of the traveler. This goal requires you to encourage your customers to honestly express their needs and concerns.
The unfortunate consultant is the one whose customer listens pleasantly then leaves silently without returning to buy. Such hidden obstacles are dangerous; travel consultants should not view their customers’ expressions of concern negatively. Without such feedback, you have no recourse to respond to their concerns and earn the sale. When you sense resistance, probe with open and closed questions to determine what type of obstacle is present so you can plan strategies for dealing with it.
The types of obstacles that could occur in the sales process seem endless. We’ve included two of the most common obstacles and suggested some ways to overcome them.
Obstacle: Delayed Decision
Often, customers will tell you they need some time to think about their decision, or that they must check with someone before a decision is made. Or they might admit they want to wait until closer to departure in case the price drops. In all such instances, the obstacle to the sale is a delay in decision-making.
Your response to this concern will vary depending on the situation. However, it often is effective to remind the customer of the cost of not implementing your solution quickly (i.e., losing the seats or rooms you’re holding for them). Avoid high-pressure tactics; often a gentle reminder that availability is limited is enough to spur action. You also can overcome this obstacle by asking in advance if the customer is ready to make a purchase decision or by offering to protect the price if your agency’s policy so allows.
Customers may object to your recommendation because they feel the cost is too high or because they believe a competitive source offers a better price. In either case, price is the major obstacle, and it is very common in travel sales.
You sometimes can avoid this obstacle entirely by including budgetary requirements in your qualifying process. When you determine the customer’s price range in advance, you can select and recommend products within that range. However, if the issue of price arises and you must address it, remember that customers usually are more interested in value (the benefits received in relation to the cost) than in price. Show how the product you’ve recommended is better or provides greater benefits than the alternatives and offer additional or value-added services to support or enhance the product or make it more convenient for the customer. If price is still an issue, re-check the client’s requirements and see what sacrifices can be made to allow for price adjustments.
Whatever obstacle you encounter, and however you choose to overcome it, remember an obstacle is an opportunity for you to earn the sale. Resist the temptation to reject or ignore the customer’s concern or jump to hasty solutions. Above all, listen to your customers and focus on their needs. With skill (and a little luck), your efforts will position you to successfully close the sale.
This week’s Hot Tip Tuesday was taken from the Customer-Focused Selling module in The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate program. For a more in-depth look at all the skills in this step, we encourage you to enroll in the CTA program.