Six Ways To Move A Mountain

by Steve Gillick

The word “intransigence” says it all. It refers to the refusal to abandon a position or attitude and is akin to trying to move a mountain. The very mention of the word probably conjures up images in your mind of some clients who fit the description. They heard, or they think, that cruises or all-inclusives, or adventure tours or coach tours, are not for them and that’s that.

Yet these are the same clients who tell you they want something different, exciting and memorable. They want to connect with the destination and the people; they don’t want to be bothered by taking out their credit card multiple times each day; they want to meet fellow travelers along the way. In fact, many of their needs can be fulfilled by the very mode of travel they say they abhor. Moving their mindset is like moving the proverbial mountain.

Here then, are Six Ways to Move That Mountain.

1. 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. The famous 19th century set of prints by the Japanese artist Hokusai showed Mt. Fuji from different locations, seasons and weather conditions. Still, all of the views showed respect and reverence for Mt. Fuji. In your quest to deal with your intransigent clients, it’s important to show empathy and respect for their views. Obviously they feel strongly about them and you don’t want to dismiss, belittle or embarrass them. However, what you want to do is understand the reasons why.

2. Show them your travel provenance. Just like a treasured antique, YOU, the travel advisor, have a provenance that includes everything that you learned, experienced and facilitated before and during your career in travel. It’s important for your clients to know something about your background as part of the relationship-building process but also to emphasize the point that your knowledge of all-inclusives or cruises is backed by your own travels as well as your proven success in arranging vacations for other clients.

3. Plan where you want to move it to. Moving a mountain takes a bit of planning, with the end result being the most important part. Where are you going to move it? For the client who disdains adventure, your goal may be to open his/her eyes to how an adventure component, however small, can add to the travel experience and overall value of the trip. Your goal is not to get the client up K2, Kilimanjaro or Mt. Fuji. A one-hour bicycle ride through a park may suffice. Perhaps a walk in the rain forest to a waterfall, a wander through a cave complex or a visit to a wildlife sanctuary will open the client’s eyes to further possibilities. The key is to add value to the client’s trip as a natural extension and enhancement of their travel plans, and not an additional burden. Think of it as moving foothills as a precursor to moving that mountain.

4. Line up your assistants. Just as you would hire professionals if you had to move furniture, you can’t move a mountain alone. Assistance comes in the form of those valuable contacts you’ve built up over your career: business cards, emails, personal meetings at conferences and events. These are the sources to turn for special requests and favors. A mountain that has been moved may in fact want to keep moving! A client who dismissed coach tours may want more and more. Your local contacts are the “gold” that not only add to your expertise but are in choice positions to make things happen at the destination.

5. Get creative. An intransigent client may be the perfect candidate to write that article in the agency newsletter on “There’s no place on a cruise ship for an adventurer like me.” In other words, you might subliminally challenge the client to experience a cruise and show that it’s not suited to people who love adventure. (Unless of course you were clever enough to suggest an adventure cruise). Likewise, a client who is hung up on the “If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” type of coach tours may take to the challenge of going on a modern coach with air conditioning, comfortable seats, a sound/video system, washroom, coffee maker and large—clean—picture windows.

6. Tell it like it is. Remember that your job is to counsel and advise about all the myriad travel options available. When you interview a client who makes one of those “mountainous” statements like, “You’ll never see me anywhere near an all-inclusive,” take it in the spirit of “it could be that the ones you’ve stayed at simply did not take into consideration your needs. You could have upgraded to an ocean view…you could have had more privacy…you could have a room away from families with kids,” etc.

You’re not there to convince someone to experience something they don’t want. But by gently encouraging some of the mountains in your database, you may do them a great favor—and also potentially affect more revenue for the future.

Testimonial from Dennis, age 50, after trekking in northern Thailand for eight days: “If I’d known how enjoyable adventure travel was, I would have been doing trips like this over the past 20 years. I’m really happy that I discovered it now.”

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