When a prospective client calls and tells you that they want to go on a cruise for the first time, and you learn that they are a couple, early 40s, looking for a 5-day cruise, and want your recommendation since they know you are an expert – what is your response?
I can tell you that this advice can be the most crucial part of the equation and will reveal whether you are a successful travel advisor/agent, or just trying to survive in this business.
Many TA’s feel the urge to start talking about their knowledge of cruises to eventually book the cruise. But, as much as they know about cruises, they lack knowledge about the prospective clients. This will not only delay the sale, but most often, waste everybody’s time, making the experience frustrating for both sides.
The best approach is to try to learn more about the prospective clients (even if they seem in a hurry or distracted). Learn as much as you can about them, so when you offer your recommendations they will be happier, not only appreciating your knowledge, but how you can make all their dreams come true.
Listening is an important skill that not everyone knows how to practice. Don’t expect to remember all the details, write them down. Follow a guideline of questions, you learn a lot by letting your clients talk. Make them feel relaxed and not judged. Find something they enjoy talking about it.
People usually like to talk about food, cars, clothes and hobbies. These types of subjects usually don’t cause any reason for disagreement. Try one of these, see what your prospective client reveals about themselves with that. So, for example if you talk about food you can mention that your favorite food is Italian, and your client says he/she likes Thai. Then you ask for names of good Thai restaurants she/he recommends. You can then Google how expensive the restaurants are. Slowly, you’ll build a profile of your prospective client to see what kind of ship and room will suit them best.
Clients and prospective ones (and people in general) like to know that their needs are being understood without having to repeat themselves over and over, and that they are not being judged or misled. Budget is a concept that needs to be considered very carefully; what is expensive in my eyes, could be pocket change for someone else, or vice versa.
The biggest mistake a TA can make is to assume what the budget of another person is based on their appearance, or on their own reality.
Listening with all senses is the secret!