The Sales Cycle  

How does YOUR sales cycle flow?

The sales process is dynamic, fluid and subject to unforeseen challenges at any point. While your techniques for dealing with these challenges may vary, the process for leading customers to a buying decision remains essentially the same.

Step One: Identify Customers This involves two activities: finding new customers and assessing their buying characteristics.
 
There is no limit to the ways you can help your agency attract new customers. But reviewing your existing database, asking for referrals from satisfied customers and using social media to get your name out there can bring results.
 
You also must assess potential clients’ buying characteristics by asking simple questions, like who will be traveling, why, where, and when.
 
Step Two: Build Trust This begins when you first communicate with your customers. Thus, you must practice interpersonal communication skills, which will create a perception of you as competent, confident, trustworthy, and credible.
 
Interpersonal skills involve all the verbal and nonverbal behaviors that allow you to interact effectively with other people. These include being enthusiastic, responsive, approachable, and accountable.
 
Step Three: Identify Needs You must ask thoughtful questions to determine what travel experiences your customers need.
 
This step is called qualifying, but it means more than conducting a quick question-and-answer session. Successful salespeople know how to formulate clear, concise, and well-chosen questions to encourage customers to reveal more information about themselves. Consequently, more of your time should be spent listening rather than talking.
 
Step Four: Select Products To find products that meet your clients’ requirements, you need to know the products you sell. To do so, you may have to consult with supplier representatives, attend trade shows and other events, go on familiarization (FAM) trips, or talk with your colleagues.
 
Before you recommend something, you should make sure you understand what your clients need. The best way to do this is to check with them. Summarize what they tell you and ask for their confirmation to make sure you’re on the right track. If they disagree with something you said, you need to ask more questions to further identify their needs. Otherwise, their confirmation or agreement paves the way to closing the sale.
 
Step Five: Recommend Products You can use your knowledge of products and customers’ needs to increase the sale’s scope when you make recommendations. Remember that value is the relationship between price paid and performance received. By offering products or services that add value to your clients’ travel experience, you are treating sales as an extension of customer service.
 
Once you’ve recommended two or three suitable options (don’t overload your clients with too many choices), you must check to see which, if any, of them appeal. Based on your clients’ reactions, you’ll know whether you need to take a step back or move forward in the process.
 
Step Six: Overcome Obstacles Obstacles represent opportunities for you to provide acceptable solutions to your customers’ travel needs. You should not view expressions of concern negatively. Without such feedback, you have no way to respond to customer concerns and to 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.

Resist the temptation to reject or ignore customer concerns or to jump to hasty solutions. Above all, listen to your customers and focus on their needs.

Step Seven: Close the Sale and Recap The key to successfully closing a sale is timing. There are no easy ways to know when it’s the right time to attempt to close. But keep an eye out for your customer’s buying signals—verbal and nonverbal—that indicate your customer is ready to make the purchase. 

An important—but often overlooked—step is recapping what terms you and the clients have agreed upon. Although you may be repeating most of the same information, clients will be reassured that all details have been properly arranged.

Step Eight: Follow Up The sales process does not end with the close. Service after the sale often is more important to customers than the purchase price itself. You have a responsibility to ensure satisfaction after the sale has been made. Your goal should be to frequently let your customers know you sincerely appreciate their business and are committed to always providing them with a satisfactory travel experience.
 
A more in-depth look at the sales cycle is contained in the Customer-Focused Selling module in The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate program.