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An Ancient and New Skill Set – Sales

Simply Sales with Scott

Written By: Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales, Avoya Travel



Each month I have been digging into aspects of the sales process and sharing best practices and suggestions as to how to improve your business. These insights come from my research, conversations with top selling agents and personal experience of being in sales for over thirty years or I should say from birth. Sales is really just the use of influence to get to a mutually beneficial result. So, the louder a baby cries the more likely it will get fed – everyone’s first use of influence – and if you are a parent you know it is mutually beneficial when the Baby is successful in its communication!


When we think of sales as simply the ability to influence then it becomes obvious that we are all in sales every day. In fact, Aristotle described the elements of influence (or sales) over 2400 years ago and they are still the basis of good human communication today. He breaks down what is needed to have a successful relationship as follows:


ETHOS – This is everything done to create trust from the other party. Interesting that Aristotle starts with this as trust is really the primary thing you need from a customer to create a comfortable buying environment. Most of your opening and early interaction with customers should be designed to build trust with your prospect. Each of the elements build upon each other so without Ethos there is no value in the other elements.


PATHOS – This is the power of passion to arouse feelings. In some ways, we are in an industry where this would seem easy. In many workshops I present for travel agents, I ask the attendees if they are passionate about travel. Not surprisingly, almost every hand goes up (I do wonder about the few who do not raise their hand). Being passionate about travel therefore, is not unique or a rationale for consumers to work with you as almost every travel agent can claim the same thing. However, your ability to take that passion and bring the consumer to the same level of passion is a unique skill that can be crafted and practiced. Continue to try new approaches and best practices shared in these columns to develop a strong Pathos.


LOGOS –  This is the ability to make a logical choice. Or in the travel sales vernacular, this is where research and determining the right product to present come into play. Aristotle gets this spot on here as he knows that if you did not spend time building Ethos and Pathos (by asking questions and getting to know your customers) then you really can’t make an informed choice for your customer. Of course, this is where product knowledge comes into play and why specialization can help you be of more value to your customers. Keep in mind however, that exceptional product knowledge will be worthless unless Ethos and Pathos are used to personalize that product knowledge.


ART – Aristotle describes Art as the ability to paint the picture of the solution. In sales jargon, we call this the presentation. It is indeed an art to create the story and have the consumer visualize a perfect vacation customized for them. To make the presentation believable you need both Ethos and Pathos established with your customer and in so many cases travel agents begin painting the picture (or in the worst cases, just go straight to price) far too soon. If your customer trusts you and shares your passion, then they are much more likely to believe the story and put themselves in the story. Again, this is just like putting on a show, it requires rehearsals and practice so take time to learn how to make extraordinary and personalized presentations.


WISDOM – The ancient philosopher called this the highest level of intellect. While we get caught up and sometimes intimidated by calling this the close, it really is simply coming to the appropriate decision. It takes all of the previous elements to make the right choice so make sure you spend time in Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Art as that is where true wisdom is developed. In other words, it is not knowledge of facts that creates Wisdom, it is the combination of product knowledge and customer knowledge which is only gained by following this process. Closing a sale therefore, is the highest level of intellect which means the more you sell the higher your intellect!


All sales follow a process and it is now obvious that no matter what we call the steps, the ability to influence is as old as human relationships. However, as we all know, what is old will be new again! While the steps and the process basically stay the same, the nuances of how we interact with customers change. For instance, Bruce Wedderburn, EVP of Channel and Enablement of Huthwaute said “The traditional discovery or investigating skills that have been the bedfellow of top-performing sales people for the last twenty years are being totally redefined. That redefinition is being performed by our clients, with or without you.”


Simply stated, the internet has allowed the consumer to spend hours to research any potential vacation before they ever contact a travel agent. That access to information has caused the consumer to know the price of everything and the value of nothing! To deal with this reality you need to establish your value early and often. You can’t wait to ‘prove’ your value after a customer buys from you. You have to tell them why you add value right up front. The title of Rick Barrera’s book says it all – Overpromise and Overdeliver. Go into the first conversation knowing that the consumer already has knowledge, what they need is discernment and advice. But what hasn’t changed is that they need to trust you first and understand that you can help them.


I mentioned earlier that I ask travel agents at my workshops if they are passionate about travel and almost 100% of the hands go up. However, I follow that question with “How many of you are passionate about the income you earn from travel?” As you can imagine only a few hands go up. If you want to be one of those few then spend time learning more about the sales process and creating your own sales system. Ancient discernment with a modern approach will have you passionate about both travel and the income you earn from it!