This is the second of two stories on upselling
While most travel agents agree that upselling is an important skill, there’s a wide range of opinion on how to upsell—and what to upsell.
Pat Johnson, owner and manager of Flair Travel Planners, a TRAVELSAVERS member agency in Lethbridge, Canada, finds that clients often don’t understand the options available on a given trip.
“When people call they have an idea in mind or have seen a price somewhere, but they really don’t know what that includes or what it doesn’t,” Johnson said. “Just presenting them the options for the different types of rooms available opens opportunities to upsell.
“Asking, ‘Do you like higher floors, an ocean front view or an adults-only resort?’ can move them into a higher priced room or property.”
Easier than you’d think
Although upselling is no doubt a learned skill, it doesn’t have to be difficult to learn.
“It’s a matter of finding out what people want and then providing them with something a little better and outlining the details,” according to Mary Jane Hiebert, manager of Canada One Travel in Steinbach, Canada and the newly-elected chairman of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) board.
“It’s not too difficult to convince people to spend another $200 or $300 dollars to get a much better resort –and they’ll come back happier,” she added.
Jade Chiarini of CTA Travel in Cerritos, Calif., pointed out that successful upselling to a couple often depends on which member of the couple you talk to.
“The women make the decisions on the cruises, but the husbands are usually the best to upsell on hotels and room categories,” said Chiarini. “They want to impress their wives.
“It’s usually anniversary trips that husbands are calling for, and they always want the best that they can get.”
Upselling it all
Although some agents upsell a part of a trip—like a higher category of cruise cabin or hotel room—Peter Herff, president and chairman of Herff Travel, a Virtuoso agency in San Antonio, Tex., upsells the entire vacation.
He cites a recent example. “A client – a family of four – came in and wanted to do a land-based program in Greece” said Herff. “I turned that into a land-based program and a 10-day Silversea cruise of the islands at a cost of $50,000.”
The same kind of thing happens all the time with Buenos Aires, he added.
“They [clients] only want to go to Buenos Aires, but I can convert them into a trip that includes Iguazu Falls and wineries if they’re into wine,” Herff said.
“People also come in wanting to take a beach vacation to the Mayan Riviera and after we sit with them for five minutes, we find they’re not beach people and upsell them to a nice luxury cruise.”
A better value
While Nancy Yale, president of Cruise & World Travel, a Virtuoso agency in Fairfield Conn., usually upsells cruise ship cabins, she also successfully upsells hotel rooms by telling clients why hotels in certain locations, although more expensive, can be a better value.
“The hotels that are more centrally located are more expensive than those that are on the fringe. But you tell them, ‘This is a better hotel and a better location so you can walk to more places. If you’re staying in a fringe hotel, you’re going to spend money on taxis rather than with the [centrally located] hotel,’” she said.
At the same time, Yale won’t recommend the most expensive suite to a client unless she thinks it’s a real value, can enhance their experience and fits their budget.
“The Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris has suites for 10,500 euro per night, but you get a tremendous view of the Eiffel Tower and it can sleep four people. And who wouldn’t want to wake up to a view of the Eiffel Tower?” she said.
While agents can successfully use upselling techniques, they might sometimes waste time trying to upsell.
“One mistake is spending too much time on a client you don’t know well or providing way too many options,” said Hiebert.
“You need to simplify it and break it down, so people can make the decision easier. Agents spend too much time researching.”
Another mistake is to make judgments about price based on an agent’s personal situation.
“The No. 1 mistake they [agents] make is they sell out of their own pocketbook,” said Herff. “I hate it when one of my agents says, ‘That’s really expensive.’
“That’s the most damaging thing that agents do. They think small.”
The Ins and Outs of Upselling