Do you want to be the top rainmaker in your agency – the travel consultant who sells more than anybody else? You can get there, but you’ll need to master the art of “rainmaking conversations,” says sales consultant and trainer John Doerr.
Doerr’s new book, the bestselling Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation (co-authored with Mike Schultz; Wiley, March 2011), aims to give you the tools you’ll need.
Travel Market Report spoke with Doerr, co-president of RAIN Group in Framingham, Mass., to find out how travel sellers can use his rainmaking expertise to increase their sales.
Why do conversations ‘make or break everything’ in sales, as you’ve said?
Doerr: The sales process is really, I have something of value to offer; how do I convey that value to the person I want to sell to? That takes place through conversations. It’s the way I let you know who I am, the way I articulate my value. More importantly, it’s the way I get you to tell me what you really need, what’s important to you.
Travel people can put marketing material out about this wonderful place. They can talk about these offers. But how I really get you to want to pay money to me is to find out exactly what you’re looking for. The more I find out, the more I can translate what I have into what you want and need. Then the customer will perceive value and be willing to pay money.
How do you build rapport and trust from the first contact?
Doerr: There are a number of incredibly basic things. It’s showing interest in the person. You have to be yourself. It’s the firm handshake, the look them in the eye, the being attentive. People love to be listened to. People love to talk about themselves.
So it’s asking intelligent questions. ‘How do you spend your time? What do you do for enjoyment at home?’ That’s the start of the sales process, and it gets people to appreciate you.
What makes the biggest difference for the salespeople you train?
Doerr: One is the idea of a new reality. When a customer buys, they are in a buying mode because they’re dissatisfied. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have a problem to solve. Sometimes they’re dissatisfied because they want something.
When we sell, we think we’re selling our services, but that’s not what they’re buying. They’re buying what the services or products get for them. Each person has a vision of a new reality. Stop trying to sell a product or service, but think about what it does. The value is the measure of the new reality, not the service.
What do you mean?
Doerr: Here’s a way to think about it. I play a little golf. I’m not exactly great at it. If somebody said, ‘You can pay $150 an hour for the next three months and your score is going to drop by 10’ – I’m not going to spend the money. The value to me of my score dropping is not $150 an hour.
However a couple of times a year I play in a golf scramble [where a foursome plays off the best of four shots]. The last two times I played, my ball was used once. If somebody said to me, ‘Take lessons and the next time you play in one of those events, you could get your ball used two, three, five times; think of what your friends will think then’ – ah ha! That’s a new reality. It’s getting me to a new place. It has nothing to do with the golf score, with the lessons.
What questions do you ask to get to that level in a sales conversation?
Doerr: One of my favorites is: ‘What do you want to have happen on your trip? What are you envisioning right now?’ A travel salesperson might mention there are 13 cathedrals in Italy and great wine, before finding out that I like to be near the ocean. Ask questions first, instead of jumping in and saying, ‘Let me sell you everything I have.’ Then you’re recommending to what their needs are.
Travel is very price-driven. Your advice about overcoming price objections is to ‘find out what they’re really saying.’
Doerr: When people say, ‘That sounds awfully high,’ they could mean, ‘That’s higher than my budget.’ It could mean, ‘You’re pricier than other people, so I’m kind of shocked.’ It could mean, ‘I can’t afford it.’ It could mean, ‘I had no idea how much this would cost, but boy that sounds high.’
Depending on what that person is thinking, your response is going to be different. I suggest asking them to explain it more: ‘Tell me what you mean? Have you talked to other people? Do you have a budget?’
Doerr: If somebody says, ‘That’s a lot more expensive than I thought,’ I go back and say, ‘Let’s talk about what you want to do on this trip.’ I get them to envision the trip, then they sell themselves on it. The real issue is they don’t see the value yet. You have to get them talking about what they want to achieve – maybe it’s relaxation. Then they start to see, ‘That’s what I’m paying for,’ rather than a dollar figure.
John Doerr is President of RAIN Group, a sales training, assessment, and sales performance improvement company. John is author of Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade and Sell in Any Situation (Wiley, 2011) and draws upon an extensive career in business leadership which has included senior executive management, business development and marketing, and product and service development. He can be reached at JDoerr@raingroup.com.