6 Signs a New Client Might Be a Tire Kickerby Dori Saltzman /
Travel agencies interested in business growth need new clients. But not all prospective clients are worth your time. Some prospects have no intention of planning travel with you. Others just want you to find rock-bottom prices and will go with whoever offers them the lowest price.
Knowing how to identify these so-called "tire kickers" can save you a lot of time and frustration, leaving you with more time to work with the clients who truly do appreciate your expertise and service.
1. Won't Talk about Budget/Unrealistic Budget
"When you ask if they have a budget and they say to me that there's no budget," that's when Lianabelle Pinero, owner of Nautical Dreams Travel, an independent agent with Cruises & Tours Unlimited, said she starts to seeing warning signs.
With few exceptions, most vacationers have a budget in mind when they start planning travel. Those that say they have no budget or won't reveal their budget during an initial conversation may not actually be ready to commit to making a purchase. Or they may have such unrealistic expectations that an advisor can waste time putting together proposals they're never going to consider.
Pinero isn't alone.
"If the client is unwilling to provide a budget, I always proceed with caution," said Carla Woolstrum, owner of an Atlanta-based Cruise Planners franchise. "If they don't have a number in mind it usually means they have an unrealistic expectation of what their trip is going to cost."
Jamie Jones, president of Whirlaway Travel, a Signature member agency, agreed, saying both not having a budget or having an unrealistic budget are two of her top red flags that a new client is about to waste her time.
However, Woolstrum added that while "having no budget" is a red flag it doesn't have to be an immediate and automatic disqualifier.
"You do occasionally get someone who really does have an unlimited budget."
Woolstrum said she'll send two preliminary quotes, one on the very high end and one more moderate to see what reaction she gets, but she added she won't spend more than an hour on it until she gets a better feel from the client.
2. Focus Is on Price
On the flip side, a potential client who is only focused on price has a high probability of being a tire kicker.
"There are many ways to run a travel business," said Jesse Morris, owner of We Book Travel, LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Network. "For me, I do not compete on price… If the sole deciding factor is money now, it will be later and I am not getting a long term client who values service and relationships… not the client I want and not worth my time."
Words and phrases that indicate a client is only focused on price include anything related to "deals" or "best price."
"If the conversation starts with "What kind of deals can you offer me?' I immediately assume the caller is price shopping and does not appreciate the service a travel advisor provides," said Woolstrum. "I have found that these clients tent to take up a lot of time asking for multiple quotes and then generally end up deciding they can get 'a better deal' online."
Even worse? If someone uses the word cheap, which Diane Manson, CTC, owner of Mountain City Travel, a division of Uniglobe Enterprise, called a "bright red flag."
Similarly, if someone says they found a price online and asks you to match it, that's a red flag, said Rhonda Day, owner of a Kentucky-based Dream Vacations franchise. "That person is only looking for rock bottom prices and will not value what a TA offers," she added.
Other signs that indicate a potential client may be price focused is if they need a price breakdown of everything, said Jones. "We specifically ask this question: do they require priced breakdowns? If so, this is a red flag for us as we work primarily with DMCs and do not provide price breakdowns."
3. Has Spoken with Other Advisors
Similar to the above is when a potential client indicates they've spoken to one (or more) other travel advisors. While they could be looking for someone that matches their needs, there's a much higher probability that they're price shopping.
"I would say the biggest red flag is when they mention that they have already contacted other travel agents," said Pinero. "To me that is huge red flag that I need to walk away from this customer. I usually reply to them and ask why they are not working with those travel advisors. If the customer did not buy from them, they are not going to buy from me either"
Morris agreed. "If in the consultation a prospect tells me that they have talked to other travel agents and are comparing to see who has the best price, I generally move on."
4. Only Interested in Destination & Product
Becky Smith, owner of Becky's Travel Biz, Inc., a of TRAVELSAVERS member agency, told TMR a big red flag for her is someone who is only asking about destinations without wanting to plan anything, a behavior she refers to as "milking the agent." To her, this indicates the customer is trying to gather as much information as possible before going off on their own to book direct or via an OTA.
5. Won't Answer Questions or Respond to Requests
Another sign that a prospective client isn't seriously interested in planning travel with you is a reluctance to answer questions, from not wanting to provide travel dates or a budget to something as simple as letting you known if they have a passport or not.
"When they refuse to answer questions to qualify them as a customer and make sure I get them the correct quote. To me that's a big flag that they are not serious about working with me," Pinero said.
And Woolstrum told TMR, "The first thing I ask for when setting up a new client is a copy of the passport information page (or photo ID for domestic travel) for all travelers. If the client is not willing to share this information, it tells me they either aren't serious about booking or they don't have the proper documents to travel."
Not responding to requests or commit to a follow-up call are also red flags.
"If there are multiple families/couplers traveling and not all are available during the initial consultation, even after we requested it," Jones said.
"I have seen many advisors waste a lot of time chasing," Morris told TMR. "The biggest sign that it may be time to cut ties with them is when they refuse to many any commitment on a next step. If you get to the end of a conversations with a prospect and they are non-committal about even scheduling a phone call to discuss the proposal, they are likely not a serious buyer or there is an unstated objection that I haven't uncovered. If you have provided a proposal and their only response is that they will call you when ready, they are simply trying to avoid what they think will be conflict and will in most cases ghost you."
6. Unhappy about Service/Planning Fees
Manson told TMR she explains her fee schedule in every consultation she does.
"Should there be resistance or bartering, I consider this a blazing red flag. It's time to move on. Immediately."