Travel advisors who master the art of the upsell understand what it takes to be truly successful. They generate a win-win-win scenario: clients are happier because they enjoy outstanding travel experiences; advisors collect larger commission checks; and suppliers increase revenues. So, if you are not already upselling, it is time to start, and here is a quick primer.
It’s not always about price
There was a time in travel when it seemed many people were focused almost obsessively on getting the lowest price. Consumers searched the Internet endlessly to discover the best deal – but often found themselves disappointed with their experiences.
As a professional travel advisor, you have the opportunity to steer clients to the travel products that will bring them the greatest satisfaction, even if that means it will cost a bit more. And once travelers get a taste of upscale products and services, they rarely turn back to economy mode. Value for dollars spent becomes the driver for their purchasing decisions, instead of price alone – and they become loyal, repeat customers.
Aim to elevate their experience
How does one go about upselling? “When a client shares with me things that they are interested in, I try to add something more to that experience that they may have not thought about,” says Theresa Winters, owner, of Faraway Places Travel. “Many tours offer variations which allow you, as their agent, to offer them more than just a day on the water, for example. I am taking a group of 20 to Puerto Vallarta this month, and rather than just booking them a private yacht for the day, I hired a private chef as well. Always aim to elevate their experience.”
She also gives this example of an easier upsell: replacing their shuttle transfer with a private transfer. “Explaining the benefits of this and the small price difference is usually something they never even considered. More importantly, if it is four to six people or more, often it is less expensive than paying the per-person price for the shuttle. Now they are really starting their vacation on the right foot!” suggests Winters.
Offer something above their price range
When consumers have the perception that they are receiving the very best, perhaps something more upscale than they are accustomed to, they feel an added sense of fulfillment. With this in mind, travel advisors should always offer clients some products that are just above their price range. Also, be aware that they may have given a conservative starting figure regarding what they are willing to spend on their vacation.
Encourage them to indulge themselves in the vacation that they really want and deserve. Get them talking about what they most wish for but think they cannot afford. This is, after all, their time to reward themselves. It may be as simple as suggesting a stateroom with a veranda instead of one without, or a suite instead of a cabin, while on a cruise. How about a butler service or an upgraded room category at their hotel of choice? Perhaps an escorted tour with a private car and guide. There are so very many opportunities to suggest an element that takes their vacation above whatever they have known before. They probably can afford more than they think, if they take advantage of the expert knowledge and recommendations of their travel advisor.
Think of each booking as if it were your own
Winters told us her best piece of advice for other travel advisors who are new to the art of the upsell is to “think of each booking as if it were your own. What would make it extra special for you? What are your clients not thinking of that would make you look like a superagent?
It doesn't have to be over the top, but simply something that shows your client that you are working hard for them to make this a trip to remember. There is always something.
Don't be just a booking agent. Aim to create experiences that they can't do on their own.”
Her one caveat about upselling is: “Don't be pushy. Simply suggest and let them know you are here to inspire with new ideas, but never arm twist.”
Book an upscale special interest group
Another way to approach upselling is to book custom-made trips for upscale special interest groups. This market segment allows you to set your own price and margins as you create unique travel experiences that are generally not available.
For example, arrange a culinary tour through the Italian Riviera with a famous chef. Coordinate an unplugged wellness retreat week in a tropical location for a group of female executives, with access to a high-profile female leader in business who is participating in the gathering. Develop a two-week journey to exotic lands for those who appreciate archaeology and have the wherewithal to collect artifacts. Anything is possible, and there is always a group of consumers willing to invest in one-of-a-kind luxury travel experiences. Remember to keep the group small, so travelers feel personally attended to and they can mix and mingle with the tour’s designated experts.
However travel advisors decide to tackle upselling, the benefits are equally appealing to their clients and themselves. “The little added thoughts and upsells will go a long way. They will remember all the thoughts and detail you helped them with and continue to book with you -- and more importantly, refer you. And it goes without saying that an upsell on a trip is an upsell on your commission,” reminds Winters.
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