The buzz at The Travel Corporation (TTC) this week surely is all about the Consultative Selling Process. So it should come as no surprise that the first thing on Melissa da Silva’s agenda is meeting – or should we say consulting – with Trafalgar’s best customers, U.S.-based travel agents.
As Paul Wiseman steps down after 20 years at TTC, da Silva on Monday will take the helm of two TTC companies, Trafalgar USA and Brendan Vacations. Wiseman will stay on full-time through July before beginning his own consulting business, with TTC as his first client.
Wiseman will focus on the Consultative Selling Process, or CSP, a program broadly used in other industries but relatively new to the travel industry. Its core tenet, he explained to TMR in an interview yesterday, is to turn your attention during the sales process to the customer’s needs, to always place the emphasis on what the potential customer wants and needs, rather than what you want and need from the potential customer.
Over the next few months, Wiseman will be honing the program – which in theory, of course, sounds remarkably similar to what the best travel agents instinctively do – and tailoring it to meet the specific needs of travel industry players, he said. But TTC is no stranger to the program, what with Wiseman’s enthusiasm for it over the past months. And da Silva is taking a page from the CSP handbook as she describes her agenda as she heads into the corner office on June 6.
“First and foremost throughout June we have a number of advisory board meetings, so it’s an opportunity for me to spend some quality time with our travel partners and understand how we can work together," she told TMR. “From there we move into product launches for 2018, where one of our focuses will be on the emotional part of travel, what it is that helps people connect to travel. It’s not always rational; it’s about the memories and the growth experiences, the things that make us come back year after year. We want to make sure when we talk to our partners that that’s first and foremost.”
Coming as she does from within the TTC family, where she served as president of the Millennial-focused Contiki brand for the past four years, da Silva is excited to be stepping into “a banner year” at Trafalgar, where “nothing is broken. I’ve been able to sit with everyone on the team and get an understanding of what’s working and where we can double down.”
“Melissa is super smart and I am sure she will come up with some great ideas I never would have thought of,” said Richard Launder, president of TTC USA. Noting the advantage of “having the bandwidth to be able to fill positions from within,” he said “the collaboration across brands, the ability to use a brand like Contiki (where both da Silva and Wiseman got their starts) as an incubator of people and ideas, is fantastic and speaks to a special strength that makes us all feel proud.”
The Consultative Selling Process
Wiseman, meanwhile, has been “having conversations” with Launder and Gavin Tollman for some time about launching his own tailored version of CSP. “We’ve been using external companies to work with the CSP concept; we like to take external ideas and bring them to the industry. And with me understanding the company so well we’ve been talking for many months about this. We’re having a fantastic year at Trafalgar and Brendan, and it’s time for me to look at the next chapter and bring my passion for training and learning to the travel industry, to our retail partners, and to help TTC add value to our retail partners.”
The Consultative Sales Program rolled out three years ago at Contiki. “It’s a new way of working with our partners, a different way of looking at sales. We’ve been continuing to evolve it, and over the course of the past 12 months have been rolling it out globally," Wiseman said. "Richard has been the champion. I stand by it; I believe in it; I am a huge champion of it. If you ask the right questions it’s a whole lot easier to close the sale.
Wiseman credits CSP with helping push Trafalgar USA’s sales increase into “the high double digits” over 2015. “It’s a complete shift in mindset. Understanding exactly what the customer needs benefits everyone, at all levels of the organization, whether they are agency partners or consumers or consortia partners.”
Launder, who also began his career at Contiki, said he is “really excited to be able to give Melissa this opportunity to run our biggest brand in the United States.”
Wiseman, meanwhile, offered up the following advice for da Silva as she takes over his role: “We all know that the travel industry is a relationship business, so my first piece of advice would be to focus on relationships. My second would be to remain focused on the CSP concept of putting the customer first. And the final one would be to remember that a job like president is a marathon and not a sprint. Stay healthy, be well, and pace yourself.”
Da Silva, meanwhile, seems ready to go. “I’m excited to get my feet under the desk,” she said.