The single-greatest opportunity to increase business in today’s
challenging economy may be for travel agents to become more
“We’re all struggling for business with the downturn in the
economy, formidable competition from the Internet and a myriad of
other factors. So agents need to become accountable for becoming
salespeople,” says Robert Stalbaum, president of Havertown,
Pa.-based consulting firm Strategies for Success.
Stalbaum says that, on average, agents close three to four sales
a day. But Stalbaum says he thinks agents have the potential to
close seven to eight a day.
To prove his point he notes that in a recent survey of 1,500
agents, only 33 percent asked for a prospect’s name and number
during a call to the agency, only 26 percent of agents attempted to
check availability for any of the travel options discussed, and
only 18 percent attempted to close the sale.
“Therein lies the problem,” he says. “But it also presents a
tremendous opportunity. If this is the way your competitors handle
a call, how hard will it be for prospects to notice the difference
when they call your agency and you get it right?”
Following are ways that Stalbaum says agencies and agents can
become more sales-driven in today’s market:
Take personal responsibility for creating a sales-driven
environment in your agency.
" Set standards. Establish criteria that enable you to measure
performance specifically when it comes to closing sales. Stalbaum
suggests that a great agent should be producing $75,000 or more a
year in commissions and service fee revenues.
" Monitor. Let agents know you’re monitoring their performance
by listening to them sell. (Monitor calls and spend time being
visible on the “selling floor.”) Be sure to do this, however, in a
nurturing way. Leave agents who are meeting your productivity
standards alone. Focus on the underperformers.
" Follow leads. Establish a mandatory policy that requires all
agents to follow up with all prospects at least three times.
" Offer incentives. Establish a pay-for-performance salary and
incentive program that is designed to offer your agents an
open-ended window of opportunity to earn as much as they can
" Become an expert. Be proactive by offering regular training
and coaching sessions.
Generally there are three ways to be a $1 million producer: book
travel for the Donald Trumps and Bill Gateses of the world; travel
the world first-hand so you can sell from firsthand experience, and
learn how to sell more effectively. Since most agents don’t hobnob
with the rich and famous and can’t take off months at a time to
travel the world, Stalbaum suggests that learning how to sell more
effectively is an agent’s quickest road to becoming a sales
" Build rapport. Greet all prospects enthusiastically. Make them
feel glad and comfortable that they contacted you. Engage them in a
genuine dialogue and work to establish a rapport.
" Don’t waste time. Qualify prospects within five minutes by
determining their degree of commitment and degree of readiness. Are
they a true prospect, a shopper or a “trifler”? To qualify
customers quickly: Listen for signals.
" Ask questions. Probe and gather information by conducting a
relaxed and informal client interview designed to help both you and
the prospect focus on specific travel needs.
Stalbaum contends that for any area of the world there are seven
to 10 questions which, when asked and answered, will enable an
agent to make proper recommendations.
" Your recommendations. Offer just two to three choices as your
recommendations. Any more will only confuse your client.
" Selling dreams. Sell the benefits of your recommendations.
Describe them in a way that emphasizes how they will fulfill the
client’s vision and dreams.
" Overcoming “no’s”. Overcome objections and resolve concerns. A
good agent learns to anticipate most major objections and
incorporate them into his or her sales process.
" Close the sale. Closing a sale shouldn’t be viewed as a
dreaded struggle. If you’ve done everything right, it’s the natural
progression of your discussion.
" Or, the follow-up. If you can’t close the sale right away,
commit to following up with a prospect three times.
" “Supersize” sales. When you close the sale, you can work to
“supersize” it by recommending things that will enhance your
client’s enjoyment: a room with an ocean view, travel insurance, a
rental car, etc. You can add 20 percent to 30 percent to your
commission this way.
" Building lifelong customers. Think beyond the sale. Every
customer has the potential to become a lifelong client. Think about
things you can do to add value and exceed his expectations.
" One more thing. Don’t forget to follow up with your customers
after the trip. It can offer a lead for next year or even
" And finally. The goal should be to add at least one lifetime
customer each day.