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Building Relationships – One Question at a Time

Simply Sales with Scott

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



The common step in the sales process, no matter the source, is relationship building or qualifying. While there is fairly universal acceptance of the importance of this step in the sales process, the details of how to become a master of that step are sometimes elusive. Building a relationship with a customer is not only important in closing the sale but the foundation to building a long term loyal clientele. The good news is that the last two articles and this one are all about the one skill you need to master relationship building – asking questions.


It is not only asking questions but knowing which questions to ask and when, As Voltaire said “Judge a man not by his answers but by his questions”. The first article on questions provided a starting list for you to personalize and then we talked about how and when to ask the questions. Now we need to know the point in the conversation to wrap up the questions and move to the next step in the sales process. Don’t forget that a recent study showed that asking five questions instead of two increases sales by seventy two percent. So just imagine if you are ready with ten, fifteen or twenty questions!


Of course, every client is different so sometimes you will ask multiple questions and engage in a long dialogue with ease and other times it will be all you can do to get a few questions answered.  While the ultimate goal through asking questions is to learn about your customer and build rapport, you will at some point need to at least get to the ‘Five D’s’. Many of these may be volunteered before you even ask and in some cases, they will rattle off at least the first four in their first sentence. However, even when you have the first four D’s early, don’t jump to the next step of the sales process as the fifth D is what I think is the Quintessential D.  When you really know the fifth D is when you know you can do the proper research and can present the right option for your customer. Here are the five D’s:


  • Date
  • Destination
  • Duration
  • Dollars (Budget)
  • Desires (Quintessential)


As the next step is to research and present the best vacation option for your customer you need these as a minimum to proceed. Of course, a few other facts will help too like who is going and from what gateway but those are the questions almost any travel agent will ask. So, if you focus on past vacation history and on questions about what they really want from this vacation you will have the ability to make a presentation that truly suits their needs.


One of the biggest paradigm shifts I can suggest to you is to do three things when you have all five D’s. The typical travel agent will move immediately into providing a quote or making a sales pitch right after they have garnered the information necessary to move on. Instead, I recommend you pause and summarize all you have learned to make sure you and your customer are on the same page. In other words, say something like:


‘Mr. Smith, I am so glad you called me about your upcoming vacation plans. We are going to find you the perfect way to enjoy time with your wife and relax (his fifth D). We are going to look at the week of July 15 for a seven-day cruise in Alaska. I am going to offer you an exceptional value for a balcony cabin (addresses budget without being specific at this time). There are many options and offers in the marketplace right now so I would like to go to work for you and find the right deal on the right ship. As I am an Alaska cruise expert I will be able to use my expertise and my agencies buying power to give you something you won’t find elsewhere. What is the best number I can call you at 3pm tomorrow – is that a good time for me to share the great news with you?’


First you summarize what you know. If they are set on a brand, then you can add that to the summary or any other pertinent information they have shared about any of the five D’s. Next tell your customer that there are many options and deals in the marketplace right now – and no doubt there are – and that you will ‘go to work for them’. This is important as it takes your role in the mind of the customer from someone who just provides quotes and handles transactions to a professional who is going to work for them to provide them something special. A simple sentence to reiterate your expertise will help show them your value and leave them excited that you are going to offer something unique and unbeatable.


The third and possibly most important part of this transition is setting the appointment. If you quote something right away, then it appears you did no work for them and just reiterated what they have probably already seen online. Even if you know what the best choice and price is for them, take the break to establish your worth and to prepare a professional presentation that focuses on their Desires. We will cover the research and presentation step in the sales process next month but for now you need to establish your worth and create anticipation for your next call. The real magic here is to set an appointment for your next conversation. Don’t end with ‘I will get right back to you’ or ‘I will call you tomorrow’. More sales are lost by simply not ever connecting with a customer again than any other reason so don’t risk that you will ‘catch’ them later. Specific number, time and date. If you feel you need the significant other on the call as you are unsure of who the decision maker is, then set the appointment at that time for when both can be on the call.


As much as we would all love ‘One Call Closes’ they are rare in our business (I am especially referring to first time customers as loyal customers already have a relationship with you). If someone calls and gives you and order, then take it! Don’t worry about being called an order taker – just get the credit card! However, most people will not make their biggest purchase of the year to a stranger they have just called. Therefore, making sure you continue the conversation (maybe even multiple times) is key to successful selling and the way to accomplish that is by ALWAYS setting an appointment for your next call. Even when you get the credit card and close the sale, set your next call which will put you apart as a true professional. So, remember these three things for wrapping up after you have asked all the right questions:


  • Summarize what you have heard – The Five D’s
  • Establish your worth and that you will go to work for them
  • Set a specific Appointment


Just like the questions you ask, write these down and make them a part of your sales system and you are on your way to not only building relationships and loyal customers but to sales figures you have only dreamed about!