This is the first of two stories on upselling
Upselling has a bit of a bad rap among many in the industry. The thinking behind the process may need to be reconsidered, but upselling offers numerous opportunities for travel agents to make more money on each trip they sell.
According to some sales and marketing experts, it may be the term “upselling” itself that’s the problem.
“If you go out to a person and say, ‘What do you think when I say salesperson?’ they’re not going to say anything good. Salespeople have a reputation of selling stuff whether you need it or not,” said Mike Marchev, president of Marchev & Associates.
But rather than aggressively pushing travel products, upselling is the gentle art of trying to find out what clients think they want—and providing something better.
“You don’t upsell anything. You sell what is right. What is right may cost more. What is right may take more time,” as Marchev put it.
Rather than increasing profits by trying to sell clients more than they think they want, it might be better to consider upselling as creating an experience for clients and outlining why that dream vacation might cost a bit more, according to the experts.
“The mistake is to just ask people what they want. Any answer they give you will only be based on their existing knowledge of what that means,” said Nolan Burris, consultant and owner of Future Proof Travel Solutions.
“A better way is to ask the right questions in order to do the right research in order to make the right recommendations,” he added. “Rather than just saying, ‘Do you want a suite?’ ask, ‘What’s this trip mostly about. Is it a romantic getaway? Is it a celebration? Is it a family gathering?’
“Ask probing, experience-related questions and then you can make good recommendations. It’s not upselling but finding the right fit.”
Go ahead and ask
Upselling offers agents numerous opportunities to increase sales.
“If it’s done correctly there is quite a bit of room for upselling in the travel industry,” said Guida Botelho, director of training for The Travel Institute. “But I also find that sometimes we get too afraid to ask or suggest an upsell.
“Sometimes we as consultants look at the budgets more than the experience,” she added. “When a good consultant looks at the experience, they will see a lot more room for upselling.”
The process begins with qualifying the client.
“Truly qualify the client instead of starting to talk about what’s their budget,” said Botelho. “Ask what kind of experience do you want to have? Do you just want to go to the theme park, or do you want your clients to meet the characters, have lunch with the characters.”
Botelho compares the process to buying a house.
“You sometimes know you have this budget that you can’t go beyond, but your real estate agent shows you something that’s slightly above your budget that’s exactly what you want, so you’re willing to go for it,” she said.
A fine line
How much to upsell without scaring away the client can be a fine line. And often it’s the little things that count.
“Agents will leave 30% or more in potential commissions on the table by not taking advantage of upselling,” said Andi McClure-Mysza, co-president of Montrose Travel.
“Upselling is selling all the ancillaries, including selling a higher room type,” she said. “A lot of people think it might not be worth their time and effort to sell all of these little things, but they add up to a third of the component.”
Following that advice, it’s important to consider each and every element that can be upsold.
“Upsell one little piece at a time,” said Botelho. “Say you’re selling a cruise cabin. You should offer a client three options – low, middle and high. Usually they will go for the middle, and you’ll have a chance to upsell a bit.
“If they have an inside cabin, suggest an outside cabin,” she added. “Upsell one shore excursion. Upsell one cabin. Cross sell something else. At the end of the day every little bit counts.
“You want fries with that? I think we’re a little bit more classy, but it’s the same concept.”
Next time: Agents’ views on upselling