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Chapter 19: Basic selling skills for the travel professional.


You have seen the making of a sale. There are several things to remember about the situation involving the Travelers and most other situations you will encounter as a travel professional. Mrs. Traveler had every intention of buying a travel product from a travel counselor. The buying decision she had to make was which product and from which travel counselor. The first counselor she called did not understand the sales process well enough to know that by following a few simple rules, she might have gotten Mrs. Traveler's business. The second counselor understood this very well. The sales process can be summarized as follows.

1. Convey a sincere interest in the customer and her needs.

2. Qualify the customer by asking appropriate questions to help her articulate her needs.

3. Use your product knowledge and what you have learned about the customer to select some travel options that meet her needs.

4. Answer the customer's objections (if there are any).

5. Ask for a commitment, "May we make the reservation?"

6. Support the decision to buy. Reassure the customer, take care of details, offer additional value products, and follow up on the sale.

There are obviously many scenarios that a travel professional will encounter; the sales process is not much different. A business traveler whose only need is an airline reservation and a hotel, a group leader who is responsible for taking 250 people to Las Vegas, and a family like the Travelers have individual needs that the travel professional must discover and meet. Selling is a process that nearly anyone can easily master. Developing good selling habits early in one's career will provide rewards for a long time.

A professional salesperson must strive to give his customers more than they expected to receive. Selling additional products and services that your customer may not have thought of purchasing is a way to create a satisfied customer and make more revenue for your agency at the same time. Specialty selling is becoming a much more important focus for agencies. Specializing gives a travel counselor the opportunity to identify unique attributes and interests and turn these into an asset for the customer. A counselor's specialty allows consumers to differentiate between the services offered by one travel agency over another. Follow-up after the sale is another way to give your customer more than he expected. It is also a way to gain some valuable information for you and for your agency.

Telephone selling has some special considerations because so much of what is communicated is lost when we do not have visual contact. Things like tone of voice and word selection become much more important.


At the conclusion of this chapter, you should be able to:

* understand the importance of sales skills.

* ask appropriate sales-oriented questions.

* make a sales-oriented proposal.

* handle customer objections.

* ask the customer for his business.

* understand and offer value added products.

* understand the differences between in-person and telephone selling.

* understand specialty (niche) selling and its advantages.


buying signals

closed-ended question

fact-finding question

feeling-finding question

niche market


open-ended question



Throughout this text, you have picked up many tips on selling various travel products to potential travelers. In the cruise section, for example, you focused on the benefits of cruising and how to match the customer's wants with the features of cruising. In the section on hotels, you learned how necessary it is to ask the client questions regarding the type and location of the hotel he wants. In the rail segment, you were introduced to many features of rail travel that will assist you in helping a customer decide if a train trip meets his needs. Knowing your products is important to your ability to perform your job, but product expertise is not all it takes to be successful as a travel counselor or other travel professional. You must also be able to sell the products to prospective customers. You do that by following a few simple steps that are part of the process of professional selling.

The travel business of today is considerably changed from just a few years ago, and it is still evolving. If you are to remain a part of these fast-moving times and be ahead of your competition, you have to take an aggressive stand in the marketplace. It is up to you to ensure your job security. Being a competent and successful salesperson is a key ingredient in ensuring your own as well as your employer's security.

Whether you are a travel counselor, airline reservationist, hotel front desk clerk, car rental reservationist, or tour escort, you will find it necessary to be knowledgeable about how and why people buy things. Although here we use a travel agency to illustrate the sales process, the same principles apply to any travel professional. We concentrate on the sales process and how you can use the product knowledge you have gained, along with the sales skills you will learn, to turn a potential customer into a client.

Many types of products and services are bought every day, yet we can safely say that few things are actually sold. It used to be that the salesperson's job was to make outrageous claims about products and to pressure a potential customer into buying something he didn't really want or need. Because of this, the profession of sales is seen by many as making a living by coercing customers into buying something. Today we know that outrageous claims and gimmicks rarely succeed in making the sale; rather, listening to the customer and helping him understand our products and services does work. We do not "sell" any longer. Instead, we provide information, counsel the prospective customer, and match his needs to our products. When the customer has been properly counseled, we ask him to do business with us. The chances are that he is going to buy anyway, so our job is to help him buy from us, not from someone else.

A research study conducted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) revealed that many travel counselors lack basic sales skills. Obtaining key information is a critical part of the sales process, yet 64 percent of travel counselors surveyed did not ask for the customer's name; only 23 percent inquired about previous vacations that the prospective customer enjoyed; only 29 percent asked what activities the customer preferred; only 26 percent offered to check the availability of a specific travel product; and a very poor 18 percent asked if they could make a reservation for the customer.

Are you asking yourself, "Why should I have to do all that? If the person has taken the initiative to call me or come into my office, won't he buy it if he wants it?" Sure he will. But he may buy it from someone else! Your goal is for him to buy it from you. You are in a position to influence the prospective buyer's decision about not only what to buy but also from which person or company he will buy. If you develop some very simple skills and habits of conversation, you can turn the prospective customer into a client.

Now you may be saying to yourself, "OK, I understand that, but if I'm polite and helpful and show I'm interested, isn't that enough? Won't this prospective customer buy from me instead of from someone else?" Being helpful and interested is very important. Being helpful probably means that you have an excellent orientation toward serving your customers. You want to do everything you can to provide what the customer wants. However, there's more to it than that. It's very possible that the prospective customer you have tried so hard to assist will take your information and buy his airline ticket directly from the airline, or he may decide to buy the ticket from the travel agency down the street. You won't make every sale, but you can greatly improve your percentages if you learn some basic selling skills.

"Okay, I'm with you so far, but how about my expertise? If I provide this prospective customer with all of my knowledge about the product he wants, then won't he buy it from me?" Most travel counselors describe their job as that of information provider, and that is definitely an important function of the job. You are expected to be an expert. Your expertise is what makes you a sought-after travel counselor. A travel counselor is a provider of information, but so is a library! Unlike a travel agency, a library does not depend on the income from the sale of its products to stay in business.

A travel counselor must be more than helpful, polite, interested, and a provider of information. A travel counselor's task is not complete until a sale has been made. Many of the elements of sales we discuss are also important to customer service. The difference is that, until a sale is made, you have no customers to serve. That is an important distinction. Selling, as we have defined it, is an integral part of most jobs in travel. All the training, all the expertise, and all the helpfulness are wasted unless you can turn these qualities into a successful sale.

In the rest of this chapter, we use short scenes between a prospective customer and a travel counselor to demonstrate and examine some of the skills you should develop to be a good salesperson.

Initial Contact

Act 1: Scene 1--The Brush-Off

Mrs. Traveler to her husband: We haven't had a vacation for two years. Couldn't we get away for a while?

Mr. Traveler: You know, that's a great idea. I can manage a week off in February or March. See what you can find for us to do. As long as it's someplace warm, I don't care where we go. Don't worry about the cost. Mom can watch the kids.

Mrs. Traveler thinks and thinks and finally decides she doesn't really care where they go either. Maybe a travel counselor will have a good package to suggest. So, she phones a travel counselor at random. Mrs. Traveler lays out her situation for the travel counselor.

Mrs. Traveler: We have seven days, just the two of us, we want to go to a warm climate, and we want a good price--maybe a package. Can you help us?

Travel Counselor to Mrs. Traveler: That's great! I'd love to help you, but I really need to know where you want to go.

Mrs. Traveler: We don't care. Can't you suggest something?

Travel Counselor: I'd really like to help, but there are so many places you could go that I really need to know where you want to go before I can suggest anything.

Mrs. Traveler: Oh. Well, I guess we'll have to decide and call again. Thanks anyway.

Asking the Right Questions

If you said that the travel counselor in the preceding scene just blew a potential sale, you are absolutely correct! Mr. and Mrs. Traveler really didn't care about the destination as much as they did about getting away and having someone else attend to the details. The travel counselor's goal in this situation should have been to discover a little more about Mrs. and Mrs. Traveler and what they like to do, rather than focusing only on the destination. She could have asked questions like, "What do you like to do?" "How much do you want to spend?" "Have you considered taking a cruise?"

By asking a few questions about Mrs. Traveler's wants and needs, the travel counselor could have communicated a couple of things to Mrs. Traveler. First, she would have shown Mrs. Traveler that she was interested in Mrs. Traveler's needs. Second, she would have obtained information from Mrs. Traveler that could have resulted in a confirmed reservation. A confirmed reservation is the goal. Asking the right questions is the first step toward that goal.

Often a considerable amount of information is required from a prospective customer before a reservation can be made, but there are always four things the travel counselor needs.

1. Name

2. Date of travel

3. Destination

4. Number of travelers

The date is sometimes the most difficult piece of information to obtain, and a counselor cannot quote any price information until the date of travel is known. However, it is important to give the caller a reason to give you a date. Tell him truthfully that you are not able to give accurate information unless you have a specific date. If he still cannot or will not give you a date, suggest one to him and quote fares for that date.

Is asking, "When will you be traveling?" the same as asking, "What date will you be traveling?" No. The first question is too vague and may get a vague response, such as "next month." The way you ask a question can sometimes determine the answer. The travel counselor's goal is to get as much information as possible from the prospective customer. Asking questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no" (closed-ended questions) usually elicits less information than questions that require the caller to phrase an answer (open-ended questions): "Do you like to play golf?" (closed-ended question); "What kind of activities do you and your husband like?" (open-ended question).

You may also ask questions requiring answers that deal with facts or with feelings. "What date do you want to return?" (fact-finding question). "What do you think about taking a cruise?" (feeling-finding question). With a customer like Mrs. Traveler, who gives you only minimal information, open-ended and feeling-finding questions can provide the travel counselor with a large amount of information that can then be used to turn the shopper into a buyer.

An additional purpose for asking appropriate questions is to determine the level of knowledge and experience of your potential customer. Many people are very knowledgeable about travel and travel products; many others are completely uninformed. Some are frequent travelers; others are not. Would you treat these different types of clients in the same way? Absolutely not! The first-time flyer may need considerable hand-holding and encouragement, as well as a large amount of information. The old pro won't need his hand held, and he may know exactly what he wants; you won't have to tell him. If you treat both of these customers in the same way, you will most likely lose them both.

Can you see how the type of question you ask determines the type of information you receive in return? Develop good questioning skills early, and they will become a natural part of any conversation you have with a prospective customer.

Good questioning skills should be used to lead the conversation in a direction you want it to take. It is important that you have an agenda for every contact with a potential customer. Acquiring information you need is less difficult that way, and you can supply only the key information the customer actually wants and needs. The dialogue won't be the same with every customer, and some individuals require more time and skill than others, but keeping to an invisible agenda is a proven technique used by professional salespeople to keep conversations on track.

An effective way of maintaining your agenda is to answer the caller's question briefly and then follow with an information-building question. For example, if a prospective customer says, "Do you sell cruises?" your reply should be, "Yes, we sell many different cruises. What part of the world are you interested in cruising?" You have answered the question briefly and asked a question intended to give a direction to the conversation. A poor response to this question is, "Yes, we do. We sell three-day, four-day, seven-day cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, river cruises, ..." This type of response gives neither you nor the customer any direction for the rest of the conversation. You can also waste considerable time describing cruises in which the customer may not be interested.

Avoid answering a question with a question. This suggests to the customer that you did not hear his question, that you are not interested in his question, or that it was a dumb question. Always acknowledge a question by giving a brief answer, but have your follow-up question ready to ask. If asked, "Do you sell cruises?" it is not appropriate to respond, "Where do you want to go?" Rather, acknowledge the inquiry by saying "You bet we do! Where are you interested in cruising?"

The best salespeople are great talkers, right? No way! The best salespeople are great listeners. How can you discover what you should know about your customer if you do all the talking? Especially in the initial stages of contact with a customer, it is essential to say as little as possible and to really listen to what the customer has to say.

It isn't easy to be a good listener. Our thoughts move much faster than our speech, so we can lose concentration if we don't practice good listening habits. To be a good listener, you must first stop talking. Take notes if you have to so the caller is not forced to repeat. Be an active listener. Illustrate by your body posture (lean forward; don't turn your back even to use the computer), brief phrases of agreement ("Uh huh," "Yes, I see," "Really?"), and eye contact that you are involved in what the customer is saying.

Let's summarize what you have learned thus far. First, the customer has to feel that you are interested in him and that he can trust you to help him find what he wants. This trust may be affected by several factors. Your sincerity and enthusiasm, your friendliness, your greeting, and your level of interest all have an effect on the customer.

Second, you need to qualify the customer. You do this by asking questions to determine the customer's wants and needs. Sometimes a prospective customer is unable or unwilling to be specific about his needs. Don't do as the first travel counselor did and assume that being unspecific made Mrs. Traveler a less than serious caller. Rather, use your professional skills to help a potential customer articulate his needs. In the next scene, you will see how this is done.

Act 2: Scene 1--Second Chance

Mrs. Traveler to her husband: I contacted a travel counselor today to get some suggestions for our trip.

Mr. Traveler: Did we get a good package vacation?

Mrs. Traveler: Well, the counselor must have been busy because she just gave me the brush-off. She said if I couldn't be more specific about where we want to go, she really couldn't suggest anything.

Mr. Traveler: Did you tell her what we wanted? Seven-day package? Warm weather? That should have given her enough to work with!

Mrs. Traveler: Yes, but she was no help at all. I don't think she really cared.

Mr. Traveler: Try another agency. Maybe you'll have better luck next time.

The next day, Mrs. Traveler phones another travel agency. After she identifies herself, she again lays out her situation for the counselor.

Mrs. Traveler: We have seven days, just the two of us; we want a warm climate and good price--maybe a package? Can you help us?

Travel Counselor to Mrs. Traveler: That's great! I have several ideas already, but first tell me what you like to do on vacation.

Mrs. Traveler: Let's see. We like to get away and really relax. You know: no deadlines, no hassles, time to get reacquainted with each other. We're fairly serious tennis players and like to be active, but there's never enough time for that, it seems. I love to shop!

Travel Counselor: That helps me a lot. How do you feel about the Caribbean?

Mrs. Traveler: We've never been there but have talked about going many times. Our friends have been to several islands. I guess my only concern would be where to go because I don't know anything about the islands. Do you have a suggestion? Travel Counselor: Yes, I have a couple of things in mind that I think you will love. But tell me first, do you have a budget for this trip?

Mrs. Traveler: We didn't really talk about a specific amount. We were hoping that we could get a package or something with everything included that might be a little less expensive. When we went to Hawaii two years ago, we spent about $3,000 for a week. Can we do anything for around that amount?

Travel Counselor: We will certainly try! How would you feel about a cruise?

Mrs. Traveler: Hmmm! We haven't ever thought about it. Sounds interesting, if it's not too expensive.

Travel Counselor: We'll take a look and see. Cruising can be very economical. Are you flexible on your dates of travel? Mrs. Traveler: Yes, my husband said he can get a week any time in February or March.

Travel Counselor: Let's be sure I have all the information I need, Mrs. Traveler. You want to go someplace warm in February or March; you would be interested in the Caribbean, but destination isn't as important as a good package with a good price. You would consider a cruise if the price is comparable, and you like to play tennis. Is there anything else you can tell me that might help?

Mrs. Traveler: No, I'll trust your judgment to find us something great.

Travel Counselor: It will take me a few minutes to collect this information for you. May I call you back?

We have come a long way in this scene! Notice how the travel counselor controlled the conversation by giving only brief answers to Mrs. Traveler's questions, and then being ready with her next question. She was enthusiastic and helpful without spending time discussing details. This travel counselor has discovered several things about the Travelers and has enough information to suggest some possibilities. She was able to find out:

* When they can travel

* How many will travel

* How long they can travel

* What they like to do

* Whether they might consider a destination in the Caribbean or a cruise

Progress! Because she was in control of the conversation and asked the right kind of questions, this travel counselor didn't take much time to get the information she needed.

The Proposal

Now that she has the information she needs, the counselor's next step is to make a proposal to Mrs. Traveler. Using her knowledge of travel products and destinations, the counselor can put together a proposal that meets the Travelers' needs as she has discovered them.

One caution should be made: Don't offer your products too early, before you know what the customer really wants. It's sometimes tempting to assume that you know best what your customer really wants. Let him finish telling you. If you offer something too early, it could be the wrong thing, and you may lose the prospective customer because he thinks you don't have the product he wants. In response to Mrs. Traveler's opening statement, what if this travel counselor had said, "I'll send you some brochures on Mexico. Give me your address." How do you think Mrs. Traveler would have reacted? Did she say she wanted to go to Mexico? Maybe she doesn't like Mexico. If the counselor doesn't take the time to discover how Mrs. Traveler feels about Mexico, it's a waste of time to propose a trip to Mexico and to send a selection of brochures that probably won't be read. You can probably imagine Mrs. Traveler sighing and thinking to herself, "If Mexico is all this agency sells, I guess I'll have to call someone else."

In sales terminology, what you have done so far is qualify the customer. You have discovered a very important thing: what Mrs. Traveler wants. Without this information, it would not be possible for you to move one step further. Because Mrs. Traveler was unspecific about her destination, it is up to the counselor to ask the appropriate questions that lead Mrs. Traveler into providing enough information so the counselor can proceed.

Now the travel counselor has a direction, and she uses her expertise and product knowledge to make some suggestions--a proposal. If this were a perfect world, Mrs. Traveler would think the counselor's proposal was perfect and her only concern would be which vacation to buy and whether to pay cash or with credit card. However, things don't usually work quite that smoothly. Let's see what happens next.

Handling Objections

Act 2: Scene 2--The Objection

Travel Counselor phones Mrs. Traveler with her proposal the same afternoon. Mrs. Traveler loves both plans, but hesitates.

* "I have to talk this over with my husband."

* "That's too expensive for what we get."

* "A cruise? I get motion sick and my husband's on a diet."

* "We'll surely be bored on a cruise."

* "Are you sure it's not hurricane season in the Caribbean?"

What happened? Did the travel counselor do something wrong? Did Mrs. Traveler have a bad day? Is this sale doomed?

No, none of the above. What happened is a normal part of the sales process called objections. A customer's objections may be a legitimate request for more information, a lack of understanding of the product being offered, or a way of stalling the decision to buy. An objection does not mean that this customer is not going to buy. It simply means she needs a little more information and time. Objections can usually be anticipated, and you should be prepared to handle them.

The best way to handle any objection is to listen to it fully. Ask the customer for clarification if you do not completely understand the objection. Answer the objection by giving additional information or clearing up a misunderstanding, and don't give up. This sale is not lost. The customer has not said "No."

Use the following techniques to handle objections.

1. Frankly admit that the objection is a valid one. Then point out compensating features or ways to overcome it: "Motion sickness is a problem for some people, but there are excellent remedies now, and large ships are very stable."

2. Agree with the objection, but offer facts to show that the objection is not true now. "Several years ago, this tour company had some problems, but we sell many of their tours now and our clients tell us they are very satisfied."

3. Restate the objection as a question, then proceed to answer it. "Do you think this package is too expensive? It does look expensive, but let's look again at the features included in the price."

4. Ask why the customer feels the way he does. Sometimes it's difficult to tell what is behind a person's unexplained objection. "Why do you feel that you would not enjoy this tour?"

Asking for the Business

Up to this point, you have been developing a working relationship with the potential customer. You have asked questions and listened closely to the answers. You have let your expertise shine by finding just the right product to offer. You have handled all of the customer's objections, and the customer is agreeing with you about the benefits of the product you have offered. What's next?

Your next step is to ask the customer to buy it. This is the step that separates the sales professional from the mere order taker. Yet, many salespeople have difficulty asking for the business. It's difficult because every time you ask, you face potential rejection: the customer may say "No." On the other hand, if you don't ask, you face the possibility that the customer may take the information you have given her and go elsewhere to buy the product.

It is important to recognize when the customer has made the decision to buy. It isn't necessary to wait until the end of the sales process to offer to make a reservation or ask the customer to buy. If she gives signs that she is ready early in the conversation, ask her then. Don't wait! How do you know when to ask? There are some buying signals you can look for to determine the client's readiness.

A buyer is ready if:

* He is agreeing with what you say.

* He is talking freely.

* He is volunteering information.

* He is asking pertinent questions.

* He is smiling.

* He is leaning forward and touching the brochure.

* He is relaxed.

A buyer is not ready if:

* He is finding fault or criticizing.

* He is making excuses.

* He is bringing up objections.

* He is sitting back in his chair with arms folded and eyes wandering.

If you are unsure about when to ask for the business, give it a trial run. For example, just assume he is planning to buy. Ask, "In what name shall I hold the reservation?" "Because that date is right for you, shall I confirm it?" "There is space available on that date. May I make a tentative reservation for you?"

Another way you find out if the time is right is to offer the customer a choice: "Which flight do you prefer?" "Will this be cash or charge?"

The most common approach is the direct approach. Ask in a straightforward way if you can make the reservation. Most customers expect a good salesperson to ask for their business. It is not necessary to be annoying or high-pressure when asking for the business, and it will not be interpreted that way by the customer if he is ready to buy. The customer should be feeling comfortable with the counselor, and asking for the business is the next logical step.

Act 3: Scene 1--Success

Mrs. Traveler to her husband (after describing the vacation plan she prefers): I found the most wonderful travel counselor! She really took her time and asked me a lot of questions about what we like to do, where we wanted to go, and how much we wanted to spend. She came up with a really great plan for us. It's a little more money than we spent last time, but I'm convinced it's what we should do. It's worth the extra money. I'll stop in the agency tomorrow and make the deposit, if you agree.

Mr. Traveler: If you're that sold on it, let's go! Sounds like that travel counselor really knows her business.

Giving the Customer More than He Wanted

You did it! You made the sale. It's not time to rest yet, however. Customers have expectations of how they would like to be treated. If you are able to exceed those expectations in some way, you will have a happy customer. This is a principle of customer service, but it also applies to selling. Customers must feel they have gotten their money's worth. In addition to selling products and services, you are also selling your knowledge and expertise. Here are some ways to do it. Offer something extra--something you know about that may be something your customer hasn't even thought of! Develop a specialty in which you are the expert to keep customers coming back.

SELLING ADDITIONAL ITEMS A business makes more profit by convincing its existing customers to spend more money than by constantly trying to get new ones. The travel counselor who suggests to the customer that he purchase an option to make the trip better is not only performing a service for the customer, but is also making additional commissions for the agency. Once the decision to purchase a tour package has been made, suggest an optional sightseeing trip. Once the decision to purchase a cruise has been made, suggest cruise insurance or an additional shore excursion. Customers don't always know about the little things that make their trip more memorable or more efficient.

SPECIALTY (NICHE) SELLING Some experts in travel believe that travel counselors may be redefined from generalists who sell every travel product and service to specialists selling only a particular travel specialty, often called a niche market. This is definitely a way to offer your customer something more. It is difficult to be all things to all people. By focusing on niche markets, travel agencies are identifying their unique interests, abilities, and attributes and offering these to clients with the same interests. For agencies that charge for their services, niche marketing provides a legitimate way for the customer to differentiate one agency from another based on an agency's specialization.

The Internet has been instrumental in supporting this move to niche marketing. Internet customers don't usually come into the office, so they don't know whether an agency with a great Web site is large or small. Your Web site serves to inform customers that you have the expertise they want. Likewise, doing business only in your "neighborhood" need not be a concern. An agency can develop a specialty that might not have much of a client base "at home," but can be supported by doing business globally on the Internet.

An area of specialization must be large enough to sustain a profitable level of business, but small enough to allow the counselor to become a true specialist. Specialties are sometimes divided by activity, customer type, destination, or product type.

* Activities. Choose an activity such as golf or tennis vacations, skiing, or scuba diving. Activities may also be subdivided by destination, so that you might choose to specialize in ski vacations in the Rocky Mountains or in Europe.

* Customer type. "Senior citizens" and "Baby Boomers" are both types of customers. Members of these groups are active, and travel is a product that surveys tell us is important to these groups. Some other customer types are families with children, people with disabilities, or honeymooners. Travel counselors have found good markets with all of these customer types.

* Destinations. Travel counselors have specialized in a country or region of the world for a long time. This particular specialty is one of the most successful. A destination specialty can be anything from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

* Product type. A counselor may choose to become an expert on cruising or train travel, adventure or spa vacations, luxury or economy tours. There are many types of travel products from which to choose.

If you are to be an expert in your chosen specialty, it is necessary to learn and understand everything about your product(s) and your market. Take advantage of any training that is offered in your specialty. Vendors, tourist boards, and travel associations are likely places to look for training. ASTA offers one-day and two-day niche marketing certification courses. Courses focus on adventure travel, the mature adult market, and family travel.


Sales by telephone, with no in-person contact, also follow the same process. Telephone sales do, however, have some special considerations that are addressed here. Many travel professionals spend considerable time doing business by phone; for many, it is a majority of their time. Just because we frequently do business by phone does not mean that we do it well. In fact, sales are lost with alarming consistency because the travel professional did not present himself or the company effectively. In addition to product knowledge and sales expertise, it is also important to master the use of the telephone.

Approximately 55 percent of a communicated message is nonverbal or, in other words, visual. Thus, over half the message is lost when we do business over the telephone. This loss must be compensated for in other ways. The telephone salesperson has only his voice and the use of language at his disposal. He must, therefore, be adept at using words, word pictures, and vocal inflections to convey his message. Put a smile into your voice. Combined with the first opening words of a call, the smile you transmit to the customer sets the whole tone of the conversation. Your voice can convey more than you ever imagined. Your voice can reveal insecurity; it can display annoyance or impatience; it can irritate or discourage. On the other hand, it can express confidence and inspire and motivate.

1. Be enthusiastic. Reflect some of the excitement you feel about your job. (Sometimes you may not feel enthusiastic, but train your voice to convey it anyway.)

2. Concentrate on the conversation. If your thoughts are elsewhere, it isn't hard for the customer to detect the lack of interest.

3. Approach your job after proper rest. Fatigue and mental stress also show in your voice.

4. Make a real effort to vary the pitch of your voice. A communicated message is 38 percent tone of voice.

5. Speak at a comfortable rate and articulate your words.

6. Develop skill in using descriptive words so your customer can visualize the product or service you are offering.

7. Keep in mind that each caller is somebody special.

Each time the phone rings, you become an actor on stage appearing before a critical audience. You must play your role effectively. A large part of your effectiveness comes from the use of good telephone etiquette. Following are a few basics of telephone etiquette.

1. Be prepared before you answer a call. You cannot efficiently handle a caller if you are fumbling for pencil and note paper or a clear spot on your desk.

2. Answer calls promptly. When the phone rings, it demands and should receive immediate attention. Answering by the second or third ring is preferred.

3. Use proper "on hold" techniques. If it is necessary to place a caller on hold, always ask, "Would you hold for a moment, please?" Explain why, wait for the caller to respond, then thank her. When you resume the call, always begin with, "Thank you for waiting." Never answer a call and depress the hold button without acknowledging the caller.

4. Never pick up an incoming call and then finish a conversation with someone in the office before greeting the caller.

5. Be a good listener. It is an irritation to the caller to be asked to repeat information she has already given. Take notes.

6. Avoid interrupting the caller. Let him finish his own sentences. You may think you know what he is going to say, but don't anticipate. He may surprise you!

7. Enunciate clearly and speak slowly. Your caller may be hearing your information for the first time. Present it slowly and clearly.

8. Speak directly into the mouthpiece. If you cradle the receiver against your shoulder, your words may be muffled.

9. Never use slang or industry jargon. It doesn't make you look smart, and it just confuses your caller.

10. Always thank the customer for calling. Sales is a process that you can easily master. Develop good selling habits early in your career and you will be rewarded for a long time.
closed-ended question

An inquiry constructed to
allow a response of only
"yes" or "no."

open-ended question

An inquiry constructed to
encourage the respondent to
provide as much
information as possible.

fact-finding question

An inquiry that requests
specific information from
the respondent.

feeling-finding question

An inquiry that requests the
respondent to provide his
perceptions about a product
or service.


A suggestion or offer of a
travel product to the client
based on the information
learned by the travel
counselor during the
qualification process.


A reason expressed by a
customer for not buying a
product or service.

buying signals

The positive cues given by a
customer who has made a
decision to purchase a
product or service.

niche market

A particular travel specialty.
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Title Annotation:SECTION VI: Selling and Servicing the Travel Client
Publication:A Guide to Becoming a Travel Professional
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Previous Article:Chapter 18: International schedules and ticketing.
Next Article:Chapter 20: Customer service for the travel professional.

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