Written By: Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales, Avoya Travel
Many of you may still think the whole purpose of learning the steps of the sales process is to get to the close. However, if our ultimate goal is to create a lifetime client, then the close is just another step like all of the others. That step needs to be as comfortable and beneficial to the customer as any other step. We shouldn’t be afraid of the close, but we should remember that without it the whole process is a failure. Before we get to the close itself, there are a few points to consider that may help you land that lifetime client.
The way in which we sell travel has changed dramatically over the years from face-to-face, to over the phone, to email, or even through text. All are viable avenues to making a sale and in most cases, you will use a combination of all of these channels and more. Even though electronic media is becoming more pervasive, it is important to note how the choice of media can affect your closing ability and the loyalty you will attain from the client. Just because so much business is done by phone and email does not mean you should only use that approach. While most travel agents are not in brick and mortar locations, if at all possible, you should try to meet face-to-face with any potential client. Studies and experience prove that when you connect with people face-to-face your closing rate will be higher than any other communication channel. Whether you go to them, they come to you or the local coffee shop is the venue of choice, if they are anywhere near you then try everything to get to look in their eyes.
We all still want and need the human connection, and clients will build trust in you faster in person. You also have the valuable ability to ‘see’ the signals that will tell you if your client is close to making a decision. This is another advantage of meeting with potential clients in person. I do not think you need to be an expert on body language but there are obvious clues to look for such as:
The Angle of the Body – If they are leaning in then they are usually excited and engaged.
Facial Expressions – Smiles and frowns are obvious but there is so much more the face and especially the eyes, will show you.
Arm Placement – We all know that crossed arms may mean they are closed off, but they may give more clues as to how interested your customer may be.
Hands – This may be the number one Indicator of interest, so hopefully there is no wringing of hands (or gnashing of teeth for that matter!)
Don’t forget that even though most customers are not trained in deciphering body language signals, they will be forming their opinion of you based on the same things. Be sure to lean forward with a smile and with open arms and expressive hands. If you do, you will establish the tone of the meeting and there is a good chance the customer will follow your lead. Body language works both ways, but the advantage to meeting in person may best be summarized by the brilliant quote below:
You can observe a lot just by watching.
– Yogi Berra
If geography makes an in-person gathering impossible, then your next goal should be to connect on the phone. Emails and texts are fine for passing facts and information to each other but it is very difficult to build a real relationship via those paths. Yes, phone calls can take time and they may take a bit more preparation and confidence – but don’t hide behind your computer screen. Again, closing rates are significantly higher if you talk to a customer over the phone. Have fun and get to know your potential client while sharing your story. Lifetime clients are not created through transactions, they are created due to relationships.
On the phone you also have the advantage to ‘hear’ buying signals. Obviously, you can’t see body language signals, so instead listen for the following clues which all indicate that the customer may be ready to move into the close step:
Words of Acceptance, Agreement or Approval
Expressions of Excitement or Enthusiasm
Lack of Concerns or Questions
Statements about Plans, Visualizations
Use of Your Name
Questions about Practical Things (Clothing, etc.)
Questions about Payments or Terms
Checks Dates without Conflict Noted
Increase in Voice Pitch and Speed
Just like the face-to-face meeting, you set the tone for each phone call. Make sure you are prepared, sound excited, listen without interrupting, and show a genuine desire to connect with your customer. Remember, enthusiasm can’t be taught, it can only be caught, so become infectious!
The ability to close the sale is not based on a magical phrase. It will be determined by all of the steps leading up to the close. As noted above, it is very important for you to get with the customer in person or on the phone. By following this process, you will get a clue (or many clues) and both you and the customer can look forward to moving to the close!