The Booking Point is that moment when the needs and wants, questions and answers for both buyer and seller are aligned. It is simply impossible to close the sale until you reach this point.
From Suspect to Prospect
To reach The Booking Point you must first be sure that the consumer is in fact a prospect and whether or not they understand how you do
business. If this person is an existing client, having already done business with you, then they are a prospect. If this is the first contact, then they are a “suspect” not a prospect. You can bet on it that all suspects will do their own thing, which does not include you unless you move them to the next level. You must move the suspect to the prospect level and wedge yourself between the prospect and their sources of information. The step most often missed in this sequence of moving the consumer from suspect to prospect to lead to customer is explaining to the consumer your rules of engagement.
The Rules of Engagement
When that click, call or walk-in consumer makes contact, rather than offering knee-jerk answers their questions, meaning you are on your heels, you wait for the break, gain control of the conversation and then advise how you do business: The caller has relayed what they are looking for…two weeks in Mexico. You could respond with “I have a very low price to…” to which they reply, “Oh,I have a cheaper price than that…” Or, you could settle down and educate the caller this way: “ Two weeks in Mexico, fantastic… I’ll be able to help you with that, but first let me explain how you can best use our services. We have two booking options, one where I do all the work from research to booking to managing your trip from the time you leave to when you return and the other where I do all the research for you, then advise you of the best vacation opportunities for the money you wish to invest and then if you wish, you can book online. The initial fee is $150 and if you book with us, the fee is deducted from the overall price, if you book online or with another agency we retain the fee. Which service would you like?”
If that sounds like a lot of fluff, then you might have missed the keypoint - and this is the reason you are not reaching The Booking Point. You can change the script and fee to suit yourself – the main point is that something must be stated that advises the caller that you do not offer any advice without payment up front. The serious client will go with you, those that wish to play you, will hang up, giving you back the time you would have wasted and can now use to prospect for travellers that understand the value of your services.
The Four Stages of Buying
There are four generic stages in the buying process that most people experience as they set out to buy a product or service.
- Stage one is feeling the need/desire to travel and what they want to realize from the intended trip.
- Stage two is research that includes gathering information and evaluating that information and trimming down or up to match the travel need. This stage includes past memories, input from friends, online information, promotions, newspaper travel sections and magazines.
- Stage three is the moment of purchase and here there are two things happening – the decision to go ahead and purchase and the actual purchase situation itself.
- Stage four is the post-purchase evaluation which includes value for money, service levels, being ripped off, scammed, overall enjoyment and finally a decision that they will always use your agency, or not.
Needless to say The Booking Point model ranges from basic to extreme based on the type of booking/s that can be simple to complicated to
complex. At this point lets say this: you can close the sale when all your customer's questions are satisfied and your questions to them are equally satisfied and the customer has agreed, with cash on the table, that they will book with you. This is the basic Booking Point model.
The complex Booking Point requires more confidence, control, information, overall knowledge of world trends and a higher level of questioning and discovery. This level generally comes with trade experience and exposure to complicated arrangements and being trained in the art of the discovery process. Unfortunately this level of sales is rarely taught within the travel trade.
The Art of Discovery & Consultative Selling
The art of discovery is a component of consultative selling. Consultative selling as it relates to selling travel means you would be relaxed and comfortable discussing your services, stating your experience, solidifying your credibility and asking the hard questions at a boardroom, senior management level. This level of the Booking Point would be employed when selling a world cruise worth $300,000 or closing a multi-million dollar corporate account or designing an off-site meeting for a board of directors or arranging a conference for 200 attendees. One show of uncertainty and it's no sale. The Booking Point will not be reached.
Back to the basic Booking Point. The travel agents suffering the most from being played by the travelling consumer seems to be the home-based / ICs who have entered the travel trade without previous experience or training. Their introduction to retail travel seems to be product knowledge which many mistake for sales training. The second group having trouble getting to the Booking Point are the agency owners and managers who have not yet entered the realm of social media marketing and lack Internet skills that would at least level the playing field when it comes to understanding the prospect's request and source of information.
The Booking Point Gap Analysis
Is your sales team reaching The Booking Point each time every time? Are they effective at all four levels of contact: telephone, email, in-person and online? Give it some thought. Discuss The Booking Point with your team and analyze those who are reaching it and those who aren't. Develop a Gap Analysis and train the low performing to the level of the high performance group. You can have all sales people reach The Booking Point with internal training. For information on The Booking Point workshops, webinars and conference keynotes contact firstname.lastname@example.org