Written By: Scott Koepf MCC, CTC, V.P. of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Although we live in a digital world, the vast majority of Travel sales today are made by phone. Many statistics shared that show the growing percentage of ‘online’ sales are misleading in that most of those bookings actually required a phone conversation at some point in the sales process. The number of bookings that happen completely via email or online is minuscule. Even our suppliers who have built extraordinary booking engines that make the online booking process as simple as possible have to have large direct teams because of the phone conversations needed to close the sale.
Many Travel Advisors have come to me over the years requesting a perfect booking engine on their website that will require no human intervention. Sure, that sounds nice and seems like you will make money while you sleep but this falls into the ‘be careful’ what you ask for’ realm. If your clients can do everything online without you then why do they need you at all. I promise that no matter how good your website or booking engine might be, someone with significantly more money and resources (like our suppliers) will build a better one and have a team of hundreds keeping it up to date.
I am not complaining about our supplier partners building amazing websites and simple booking engines. In fact, I am glad that they have. Scott, how can you say such heresy? I will tell you. Even though they have built wonderful websites and have knowledgeable direct sales teams they have come to the conclusion that the consumer is still better served by using you, a professional travel advisor. Every major supplier has continued to invest heavily in supporting you. Why? Because they know you will spend the time necessary to ensure that the customer has as good an experience booking the travel as experiencing the travel itself. And that buying experience happens primarily how? On the phone!
Therefore, it is of supreme importance to get comfortable with and master telephone techniques. Doing business over the telephone requires many of the same basic skills used in face-to-face selling (which is still the best way to differentiate yourself and close the sale but most conversations still happen via the phone). However, you will need to develop and refine your skills to maximize the golden opportunity every time the phone rings or you call out. To help you focus on the skills that will help you succeed on the ‘teley’ here are some ideas and suggestions to keep in mind:
GETTING YOURSELF READY BEFORE YOU PICK UP THE PHONE:
- Check the mirror – do you look ready to do business: Posture-grooming-smile.
- Relax – Take a deep breath
- Be positive – confident you will achieve the objective
- Be enthusiastic – voice energy transmits over the phone
ANSWERING THE PHONE:
- Pick up in 3 Rings or less if at all possible
- If necessary, ALWAYS ask if you can put the customer on hold – tell them for how long and STICK TO IT (no
- more than 2 minutes); usually 30-40 seconds maximum. When you return, say “Thank You for holding.”
Use the ideal greeting:
- Thank them for calling
- Give your company’s name as it reassures callers that they dialed the right number. It also reinforces the
- company’s name in the caller’s mind.
- Give your name as it personalizes the call and increases the likelihood that buyers will give you their names.
- Try unique first questions, like:
- “Where in the world can I take you today?”
- “How can I make your vacation dream come true?”
DURING THE CONVERSATION:
Sprinkle you and me throughout the conversation. Words like these link buyer and seller. They’re one more way to personalize the somewhat detached nature of a telephone call.
Once you know it, use the client’s name. This, too, personalizes a call. Don’t overdo it, though. The best times to use the customer’s name: early in the conversation; when you make your recommendation; near the agreement stage; and at the very end of the sale.
Picture the caller in your mind. It’s important for you to react to a person, not a voice. If you visualize the customer – it doesn’t matter whether you get it right – then it’ll be easier to relate to your buyer.
Be energetic. Robbed of your visual expressions, it’s hard to convey excitement over the phone. So you must be extra energetic. Remember: The buyer is excited about the trip. Reinforce that excitement.
Speak with a smile. Isn’t it odd? Callers can “hear” a smile which is why voice-over actors try to smile when narrating. Psychologists have actually proven that smiling releases pleasure-provoking endorphins into our bloodstreams. Smiling actually makes you feel better.
Be noisy. Have you been in a situation where you weren’t sure that the listener was still on the other end of the line because you weren’t hearing any sounds?
“Uh huh,” “yes,” “okay” reassure the caller that you’re right there with them.
Mirror the caller’s verbal pace. The speed at which people talk reflects how they value time. You must mimic their pace. It’ll keep you in harmony with the buyer, but no matter what – speak clearly!
Cultivate a professional appearance. This seems to make no sense. The caller can’t see you. Yet, somehow, salespeople project their grooming attitudes over the phone. You should dress, move, groom and pose in almost the same way as you would if the client were right there with you.
Use comfortable telephone equipment. Headsets are much more user friendly than hand-held receivers. And avoid talking on a speakerphone. It alienates most callers. That’s that last thing you want to do with a customer.
What you say is important. But how you say it may be even more critical. Nancy Freedman, the Telephone doctor Suggests:
Never Say at the beginning of ANY sentence :
- I don’t know…
- You have to…
- We / I can’t…
- Wait a second…
Use “Good” words not “Bad” words (or phrases)
GOOD WORDS – improve, value / investment, presentation, opportunity, own, okay, endorse, autograph, agreement
BAD WORDS – charge, payment, price, cost, pitch, deal, buy, sign, contract
Remember, 60% of calls will reach an answering machine, so prepare your phone messages:
- Have four messages scripted but don’t read them, just speak naturally.
- Introduce yourself, tell them why you’re calling, and why they should call you back.
- Reference the brand / product requested early in the message.
- Grab interest, but keep it short and sweet.
“I have a question only you can answer”
“Something made me think of you”
- Reference another known person
- Always say your direct phone number twice slowly.