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Top Ten Traits of the Top!


Simply Sales with Scott

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



We all know that the retail travel business has gone through extraordinary changes over the last thirty years. One significant change is the way in which we interact with our clients. Not too many years ago almost every sale was handled in person across a desk. While there was certainly phone communication it was rare for a transaction to be handled without sitting face to face with the client. Today it is now rare when travel agents even meet their clients in person…ever.


While the sales process does not change based on how or where travel agents communicate with clients, there are significant skill sets that become more important based on a lack of in person connections. Things like reading body language become a challenge when building a relationship over the phone and the use of your voice may help close more business than you can imagine.


There are some sales that are made through email or texting alone but those are still rare. So learning to sell over the phone may be one of the most important skill sets to master as a travel agent today. One of the very best books on telephone sales is called Telesales by Stephen Schiffman. Even though his book is primarily focused on cold calling, which thankfully we don’t usually do in travel sales, his techniques and ideas are fully transferable to selling travel.


In his book Mr. Schiffman lists the top Ten traits of the very best salespeople who use the phone as their primary connection to clients. His list is below with some commentary of mine to integrate into travel sales specifically.

  1. Focus on reaching the next step in the Sales Process – Whenever a sales trainer like me starts to teach selling techniques there is an assumption that most of the time will be spent on the close. However, closing the sale is only one step in a multistep process and all of the steps are equally important. The simplicity of this first trait is brilliant and cliché as ‘just take one step at a time’. It is important to not be preoccupied with getting the deposit from the minute you say hello. Instead be in the moment on the step you are in and focus on only getting to the next step (check my previous articles for the steps of the sale).
  1. Focus on new relationships daily – Hopefully you got into travel not just because you like travel but because you like people and want to help them. So while it seems contrary to what you might think about sales, the idea here is not to focus on closing the sale and getting the money but simply to get to know someone. The primary thing you sell in travel is trust and that will only be achieved if you have a relationship with a client.
  1. Desire to find out about people – We sell an amazing product that is so fun to talk about. However, there are thousands of competitors including the suppliers themselves who can talk about and sell the same thing. What will set you apart is a curiosity about the folks you are talking to and a focus on them instead of on what you sell.
  1. Anticipate responses – This is another way of saying ‘Be Prepared’. The vast majority of objections or stalls are pretty similar so practice how to handle all of the classics like ‘I can get it cheaper from…’ or ‘I am afraid of getting seasick’ or ‘This seems too expensive’. Actually script your responses and test them out. It doesn’t mean you are robotic in your responses but you will feel much more confident if you know these questions will come up and you are ready to handle them.
  1. Understand the need for new leads – The ultimate goal of all travel agents should be to build a loyal client base of clients for life. However, no matter how good you are and how fabulously you deliver service, clients will leave you. So you have to keep the funnel full of new prospects. Make sure it is a part of your business plan to constantly be reaching out to new clients who have yet to experience the magnificence of you!
  1. Count No’s not Yes’s – No matter how good you are as a travel agent or a salesperson you will get more rejections than sales. So in other words you will have to get a certain amount of no’s to get to each yes. Therefore, consider each no as being one step closer to the next yes. I don’t want to simply say get over the frustration and disappointment of rejection as each one hurts. However, if you understand that it is part of the process to get to the next yes it will help you move on with a great attitude.
  1. Understand the necessity of verifying data – As any professional travel agent knows, while this is a fun business with a wonderful product it is also a business that requires attention to details. The sales process should be full of questions which confirm dates and desires and such. The key to this is again in being prepared with all of the right questions you need to ask.
  1. Use other people (testimonials) – You may be the best travel agent in the world with a personality that shines but no matter what you say it will not be as powerful as someone else saying it about you. Have testimonials ready and use them before they are asked for. You can send them in emails but also have them ready to quote on the phone and even better if that person who gave the testimonial is willing to talk to your potential client.
  1. Plan on learning constantly – You are reading this so you have this one nailed! But don’t stop here. There are actually very few teachers of sales in our industry but lots of product knowledge available. Schedule time for both and don’t hesitate to go outside of our industry to get more knowledge that can help you grow your business.
  1. Believe they are the best – Most consumers don’t really understand what any travel agent does or the value of using one, let alone the one as good as you! So have the confidence in knowing how amazing you are and how valuable you are to your clients and in a humble way – tell them!