With more capacity and variety than ever before, selling cruises is hardly simple. But with the right tools and direction, the commissions gained can be well worth the time put in. Education and training are key elements to becoming a successful cruise advisor, but it doesn’t stop there.
Travel Market Report spoke to some industry cruise experts who shared their best practices advice for travel advisors engaging in cruise sales. Here’s what they had to say.
Maximize your commission
Who wouldn’t want their commission to come with a comma? While there are many ways to make this happen, one in particular is to sell World Voyages, namely cruises that travel around the world in 100 days or more. There are a handful of cruise lines that specialize in these types of voyages and travel advisors can earn six-figure commissions with just a small pool of clients.
According to Craig Satterfield, self-proclaimed “Cruise Scholar” who has 35 years in the business and has sold four world voyages throughout his tenure, it all comes down to building relationships with your existing clientele, waiting for that right opportunity to drop a hint, and stressing the value.
“World voyages are not the kind of thing you sell every day, but when your existing clientele (who trust you) come to you for new ideas, and are not afraid of exotic locations or longer cruises, that’s when you start dropping that hint little by little. Most say they would love to do it, but they don’t visualize themselves ever doing it. It’s your job to show them there is potential for world cruising in their future.”
Satterfield narrows down who is best suited for these cruises by their past travel history. “If they travel expensively and I’ve already moved them from premium to deluxe cruises, that leads to ‘Where will they go next?’ I try to plant the seed with my regulars in a casual sort of way. I know they have the money and the time, so it makes sense.”
And Satterfield is one to talk. He booked his first world cruise four years ago for an existing client and earned a $15,000 commission. Then he sold her insurance for $5,000 and earned another lucrative commission on top of that. And he said the best part about these sales is that world cruisers actually tend to go more than once. In fact, that same client of Satterfield’s rebooked onboard for a year later and he earned the commission yet again.
Another opportunity to increase commissions is to sell clients on back-to-back voyages. For example, consider convincing your client who booked a seven-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary to follow it up with the next sailing of seven nights in the Western Caribbean. Not only does this enhance the clients’ vacation experience, but in most cases, it will double your commission.
Once you’ve generated a group following, shop around to see which cruise lines will offer you the best group benefits for your clients. Some cruise lines will give you an impressive 1 for 10 Tour Conductor (TC) credit for affinity groups versus the 1 for 15 TC to earn a free berth. Also, research who is offering you the most affinity points when booking your group. This will allow you to provide added values to the group by having various options to choose from like sparkling wine, specialty dining, group photos and more. Shopping around will also find you the cruise line that will pay you additional commission for your group business so be sure to do your research.
Friend your business development manager
Most travel advisors will tell you that a good relationship with their business development manager (BDM) is worth its weight in gold. BDMs are not only a great resource for information and marketing dollars, they can be your most trusted advocate. Most BDMs have a co-op budget to offer for marketing and advertising so you can increase your reach. If you ask, they may be willing to fund a percentage of your advertising to help market to your clients. They can also be a huge help when trying to close a sale and particularly with group sales. Additionally, they offer training to help increase your industry knowledge.
Build your social media presence
Follow the cruise lines trade social media pages. There is usually great content about destinations and itineraries that you can easily share with your social network of clients. Not only will this help generate business, it will also keep you top of mind. Social media is also a great way to get industry news and supplier information hot off the press. For example, cruise lines share details on their latest promotions and selling tips.
Experience the product
The best way to learn about a cruise line is to sail on their product. Most lines offer travel advisor appreciation fares and familiarization trips. Visit their travel advisor website/portal or ask your BDM to get more information about these opportunities.
FROM THE SPONSOR: Holland America Line is Committed to Your Success.® Holland America Line offers an easy-to-use travel advisor website, GoHAL.com. Our award-winning education and training program, called Holland America Line Academy, is where you can earn benefits like shipboard credit and more. For groups, the Connections Program for small affinity groups gives you a 1 for 10 TC (tour conductor credit) and 2 additional GAP points. To help you close Alaska sales, we offer On Stage Alaska (OSA), an interactive presentation and show hosted by Holland America Line for 50 of your clients or more. All you have to do is set the OSA up with your BDM and our team comes in to sell your clients on the Alaska experience to get more bookings for you. To get information on the go, listen to our exclusive travel advisor PartnerSHIPS Podcast episodes. For more information on all these topics, as well as FAM opportunities and travel advisor appreciation fares, visit GoHAL.com.