Sales Advice: When Booking Hotels, Show Your Value

by Harvey Chipkin

Savvy travel agents know how to sell clients and potential clients on the value of making their hotel arrangements through them. One key is being persuasive about the hotel perks that agents can obtain for their customers.

Unfortunately, many agents are missing the boat on hotel bookings.

Current estimates show that about 50% of the time travelers who book their air travel through an agent go on to make their own hotel arrangements, according to Matthew Shephard-Lupo, a sales and marketing associate at Ovation Corporate Travel.

How to show your worth
Travel Market Report asked sales trainer Bill Todd to share his advice for frontline agents on taking care of customers’ lodging needs in a way that demonstrates the value of the agents’ services.

Travel agents need an “old-fashioned elevator speech,” said Todd, a former hotel industry executive. “People like to know they are going to be treated better or have the perception that they will be treated better than the average guest because they used this wonderful travel agent.”

Here are his suggestions for winning, and keeping, your clients’ hotel business.

Start with the benefits
•    Never cite the rate until you have the opportunity to deliver four or five benefits the guest will receive by using your agency.

•    Ask them, ‘Are you going for business or pleasure?’ You want to tailor the benefits to the traveler’s trip; if they’re traveling for pleasure, they don’t care about free faxing.
•    When the rates start to show up on your screen, take a positive approach. Say, ‘You’re in luck; this hotel is one of our preferred suppliers.’

Instill confidence
•    Use the halo effect. If you have a client that is a household name, throw it around. If your client is thinking of using the Marriott in New York, tell them, ‘Oh, our client Dell puts a lot of business into that hotel.’

•    People want you to reinforce that they’ve made a good decision. If you can instill confidence in a buyer, they won’t go looking [elsewhere].

Know your stuff
•    The more agents know about a property, the better the property sounds to the consumer.

•    If a client is asking about the difference between a Westin and a Crowne Plaza and the agent can answer well, or get a good answer from someone in the office, that is powerful.

Learn how to talk about price
•    Rate is not necessarily everybody’s concern. Research shows that 40% of the time when people question the rate, they’re okay with the rate; they are just asking.

•    The main thing is to communicate that the hotel is a great choice because of the preferred relationship your agency has with them and that the agency’s customers love the hotel. You’re the expert; make the client feel that this is a good decision.

•    If there’s nothing you can do on rate – because they’re looking to stay on Capitol Hill on July 4 – tell them your agency sends a tremendous number of people to that hotel and they will be treated like a VIP.

•    Be cautious as far as saying there are no better deals on OTAs. You could get burned because they may have a short-term promotion.

Follow up with clients
•    It’s all about keeping customers. That might mean an email or voice mail while they’re at the hotel saying you hope they’re having a good time.

Stay front and center
At Valerie Wilson Travel, handling clients’ hotel bookings is part of a broader strategy to position the agency as a resource for all their clients’ travel needs.

“Treat the client as a customer of your agency no matter the situation,” advised Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president of the New York-based agency.

“So if the client is on a business trip or a multigenerational vacation or is just facing bad weather at an airport and needs help, they should think of you for any hotel needs.

“The overarching theme is to be in the front of the client’s mind on every occasion and not one-dimensionally,” Wilson-Buttigieg said.

Next time: Frontline travel advisors from Ovation Corporate Travel share their detailed tips on persuading clients to book their hotel stays with them.

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