When the CDC recently lifted the COVID travel warning for cruises, it gave the green light to travelers that it really is safe now to go on a cruise journey. Travel advisors are already seeing an uptick in bookings, so this is a good time to brush up on your essential skills. When selling to a particular market segment - namely, luxury ocean experiences to new-to-cruise prospects - here are five mistakes to avoid making.
1. Selling out of your own pocket.
Be careful about automatically putting clients into certain market segment buckets based on first impressions. You could miss out on some big-ticket opportunities.
“Never sell from your own pocket. I’ve had clients who don’t look like they have two cents to rub together, and they purchase the largest suites on the ship. Just because you don’t think of someone in the luxury category doesn’t mean they don’t think of themselves as your luxury client,” said Suanne Adair, ECCS, LCS, DS, PRTE, owner of Adair to Travel, LLC.
2. Assuming you know what type of accommodations the client wants.
You may think you know what style of travel and level of accommodations a particular client wants, but you may be quite surprised as you dig deeper with them about their travel desires.
“The first thing I train advisors to do is question the client’s preferred accommodations,” explained Annette Nero Stellhorn, VTA, CTIE, ACC, president and founder, Accent on Travel. “If a client has loved staying at the Hampton Inn, then a luxury cruise experience may feel unnecessary to them. But if their favorite accommodation memory was at a Peninsula Hotel or a Taj property, then discussing the variety of luxury cruise experience options is fitting.”
3. Not taking the time to fully describe what differentiates luxury ocean journeys from premium cruising.
Always convey the key differentiators of the luxury ocean experience with the brand you are recommending versus sailing on a premium brand, such as space, choice, design, service, immersion, and destinations - all leading up to an incredible value for their vacation investment.
“Selling the ship's style of exploring the destination before discussing the pricing is a very successful way to introduce new-to-cruising clients to a luxury cruise,” said Stellhorn. “It’s really a consultation. Explain the difference between a luxury experience at destination and on the ship versus that of a premium product. You need to know the brands, explain the products, and then talk about price.”
And remember to focus on the value proposition. Denise L. Wiggins, global executive advisor/CEO of Denise Wiggins Travel & Health Services, noted one of the biggest mistakes that travel advisors make is “the failure to differentiate not only the level of cruising style, but the value proposition. A luxury cruise offers an experience and level of personal service unlike other cruise categories. Be it size of ship, number of guests, luxury cabins, dining, personal excursions, butler service, yacht-style, etc.”
Wiggins takes this a step further: “I invite the customer on a visual cruise journey and ask them to imagine the various onboard experiences that would unfold for them, from embarking to walking into their cabin to sensing the sights, sounds, smells and overall feelings that overcome them as I share the joys of all that such a beautiful cruise will welcome them to be a part of. This is honestly a good five or more minutes’ experience. I love the reactions from the clients as they hear the excitement, passion, and energy in my voice as I have them ‘walking’ through an experience they have never had, but now desire.”
We’re three for three on the point of conveying the value proposition, as Adair relayed her strategy: “When I’m selling luxury to a first-time client, they are usually clients that I have placed in premium cabins previously. It is just a little ‘push’ to move them up. But if they are first-time cruisers to luxury or cruising at all, then I sell the all-inclusiveness of the cruise,” said Adair. “The ability to have it ‘one and done,’ all paid for upfront with no ‘nickel and diming’ to be done onboard. I also tell my first-time clients about the differences in the ship, from the smaller size of luxury lines, the quality of the food, the superior service, and the overall amenities offered by the line. And I tell them there are no lines of folks waiting to get off and on the ships, unlike the mega-ships.”
4. Selling something you have not personally experienced.
This one really speaks for itself, and although it is obvious, not all travel advisors take the time to do it.
“Sail on the product and experience it for yourself,” said Adair. “You sell what you know with more knowledge and enthusiasm if you can speak from experience. If you do the luxury lines’ online classes and cultivate a relationship with your local BDM, they will work with you as well to get you on a ship to experience their line. They know you will sell it if you experience it. Creating a relationship with your BDM is imperative, as they will be the ones to help you if you run into a snag.”
5. Trying to sell all the cruise brands.
Two of the travel advisors we spoke to had similar advice for travel advisors who are just starting out selling luxury cruises.
Wiggins said: “Start with a high-level overview of all the luxury cruise brands to familiarize themselves and then determine the top three based on their clientele and interests to explore further. Request a meet-up with their BDM and make note to keep in mind no two brands are alike. They all have distinctions that set them apart.”
Stellhorn suggested: “Research and commit to your three top brands for luxury cruising. Get certified and create a relationship with their sales team and start marketing.”
We hope we’ve given you some food for thought to increase your bookings of luxury ocean experiences this season. We wish you luck, because as Adair says, “The commissions with commas are fabulous!”
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