Booking a family vacation can be more lucrative than booking a couple. Booking a couple can be more profitable than booking a single traveler. Booking large groups is the Holy Grail for many agents.
But finding groups who will book with you can be a challenge, and closing on a group travel contract often takes a select group of skills. Stuart Lloyd Cohen, chief motivation officer of his own consulting firm, recently conducted a Travel Institute webinar on group travel business, offering agents strategies for finding and selling to organizations and other affiliations.
One of the first things travel agents need to do, Cohen said, is to quit searching for organizations and group business. “Quit fishing with a big net. A big net has big holes. Fish fly right through,” he said.
“Focus on being found first,” Cohen said. “When you give me your card, and you say, ‘I book groups,’ if I Google you, will I find you on the Internet, at your company’s webpage? Will I find pictures of you doing your thing on social media? Make sure I can find you. When you nail this business, with a one-page website, Facebook posts, people will seek you out and find you.”
Attending business events and meeting people should be high on an agent’s list to building prospective contacts. When an agent meets someone whom they think might be a potential sales opportunity, a well-written e-mail can get them in the door for a sales call. But he cautioned agents about telling too much too early.
“Don’t dump your big idea in an e-mail. We’ve all done that, where we lay out the whole program, with all the details, and then you never hear back,” Cohen said. “First of all, they don’t have the time to read all of that. And you gave them the opportunity to say no because you already are trying to sell them something.”
Make friends first, Cohen said. “Find the common thread that binds you.”
Join an organization your client is a member of, getting referrals from mutual contacts, and becoming a customer of theirs. Expressing your passion for something that connects you also can help. Cohen calls this getting in a sales prospect’s “love circle.”
Making that first meeting work for you
Cohen believes that a first meeting should last about 15 minutes. “You want enough time to state your purpose and give you a chance to play detective and uncover the problem that group travel will solve.”
So spend less time selling and more time discovering your potential clients’ needs and how group travel fits with their association or business strategy. “Quit convincing people to do groups. Use group travel to solve problems. Nobody wants to be sold to. I don’t want you selling me something. But I have problems. Everyone has problems. If you can solve my problem with group travel, now I’m listening,” he said.
Cohen also advised agents to use verbs and adjectives versus nouns. He gave an example of a trip to Niagara Falls. “You can sell the boat ride to the falls as a feature, or you can talk instead about how their employees or members will taste the water coming over the falls, and how it feels on your skin,” he said.
Bring the trip alive through descriptions, and then give the client a chance to respond. “Speak, pause, observe.”
Closing the deal
Once you have reeled in a potential client, and you’re nearing the moment to close, Cohen said, now is the time to be very buttoned up. The final pitch should be by appointment with all stakeholders. “No one is going to pitch with the same level of excitement as you to the rest of the organization.”
And don’t send out your closing presentation beforehand; “keep and maintain control of the sales message.”
While you want to control the process, you also want to maintain a complete level of trust and transparency. Reveal your pricing up front, but don’t focus on pricing. Return again in your messaging to how you are solving a problem, and how your unique qualifications will deliver a group trip that reduces the client’s risk and stress, add value and convenience, and transform the experience for the client due to your passion.
In that final meeting, “get the ‘yes’ every step of the way. Don’t move forward until issues are resolved.” And some final thoughts:
- Confirm you’re removing the problem.
- Confirm you are giving them something they want.
- Confirm they can’t do this without you.