Chapter 9 Selling cruises.
* Analyze six types of experienced cruisers
* Apply the cruise sales process to the travel counseling process
* Interpret cruise brochures
* Propose an effective cruise solution to most clients' needs
* Overcome barriers to the cruise sale
* Carry out a cruise reservation
Who sells cruises? The most obvious response: travel agents. But there's a more subtle answer to that question. People who've been on cruises sell cruises. The number-one reason people buy the cruise vacation experience is word of mouth--someone told them how great it is. (Other motivators, in order of importance, are a travel agent's recommendation, an ad, a brochure, and an article.)
Who Buys Cruises
Let's take a look at the other side of the equation. Who buys cruises? As we indicated in Chapter 2, only about 13% of the North American market has thus far been on a cruise. To help travel agents and its member lines understand people who have already cruised (and probably will again), CLIA decided that it might be useful to identify their demographic and psychographic profiles. They identified six categories of cruise consumers. Here they are, with some facts about how they think and buy:
* Restless Baby Boomers constitute the largest segment of cruisers (33%). They're in their 40s and early 50s, are thrifty, family oriented, and a little wary of new things. Because they're still supporting children, they respond positively to the cost-saving value of a cruise. Their lives are complex, so they like the simplifying, all-inclusive nature of cruising. They also perceive cruising as a fun family vacation.
* Enthusiastic Baby Boomers are the second-largest category of current cruisers (20%). They're a little younger than our previous category (they're in their early 40s). Like older Baby Boomers, they're fun loving and family oriented. They're a little more adventurous and gregarious than Restless Baby Boomers. They see cruising as an entertaining way to do many things and meet many people. The romance of cruising very much appeals to them.
* Consummate Shoppers represent 16% of today's cruisers. They're age 55 and over, well traveled, and like the pampering and fine dining available onboard cruise ships. Because they're thrifty, however, they very much want to feel that they're getting the best deal for their dollar. More than most, the ship is as important to them as the destination.
* Even more than Consummate Shoppers, Luxury Cruisers (14% of current cruisers) value ships that provide fine dining and ever-present pampering. Unlike Consummate Shoppers, though, cost isn't a major issue for them. As long as they perceive value, they're quite willing to pay for the best. In young middle age (they average 52 years old), they're cultured, well educated, experienced, and active.
* Explorers are a small (11%) but influential segment of the cruise market. They see a cruise as a vehicle for discovering the world. Destinations are far more important to them than the ship itself. They're well educated and use their sightseeing to learn even more. They're older (average age: 64) yet still very active. They plan their cruises far ahead of departure, not so much to get a better deal (they're quite well-off) as to get the vacation that they want.
* Ship Buffs are the study's smallest segment (6%) and the oldest, too (68 years old). The most cruise-savvy of all, they possess an unusual knowledge of ships and itineraries. They love being taken care of, to be comfortable and pampered. They like longer cruises and are very flexible in their cruise choices.
The Cruise Sales Process
Understanding who buys cruises is an important step toward effective sales. So, too, is knowledge of the product. But that's not enough. It's essential for travel agents (and cruise line reservationists) to be familiar with effective sales techniques.
Unfortunately, travel agents sometimes see themselves as service people or order takers, rather than salespeople. They think that their job is to respond to client requests, rather than to lead their buying behavior. Why? Because, like many people, they have a very negative image of a salesperson: aggressive, exploitative, greedy, and self-serving. Imagine the stereotype of a car salesman. That just about says it all. Agents don't want to be stereotyped as such.
But the sales process need not be manipulative. In fact, today's consumers recognize and reject old-fashioned "hard" sales techniques. They prefer sellers who are sensitive to their needs, who wish to establish ongoing business relationships with them, who, as a result, don't do things to people, but for and with them.
This paradigm suits the selling of travel well. A cruise vacation evokes pleasant emotions. Relaxation, pampering, joy--that's what a cruise is about. The sales process should parallel those feelings. The cruise vacation experience doesn't start when a passenger gets on the ship. It begins in the client's mind, when he or she hears a friend's positive comments about a cruise, when a brochure is skimmed, an ad is seen, an article is read. And it can really take hold right there in the travel agency, when a wish is about to become reality. (For the differences between experiences and commodities, see Figure 9-1.)
So let's examine the entire sales process through the eyes of a travel agent. Let's examine what the best travel counselors do.
Opening the Sale
Most people decide if they like someone in six seconds.
So concludes a Stanford University study. A salesperson has only a fleeting moment to achieve two things: create a favorable impression and put a client at ease.
Let's assume that the prospect has visited his local travel agency. (That's more probable for a cruise purchase, which is a more complicated purchase than, say, an airline ticket.) What should you do if you're the travel agent?
* Stand up and greet the client. Your action communicates your eagerness to take action for the client.
* Establish eye contact with the client.
* Smile, conveying your pleasure with the opportunity to help.
* Give your name, then obtain the client's name. (The exchange of names helps personalize the sale.)
* Shake hands. (A genuinely warm and open gesture.)
* Invite the client to sit down with you. If your office layout permits it, have the client sit to the side of your desk. It's a much more friendly gesture than having a customer sit across from you.
FIGURE 9-1 Commodities versus Experiences Many consumers seem at ease with buying certain travel products, like air tickets and car rentals, without the help of travel agents. But they seem reluctant to book a cruise or tour on their own. Why? It has all to do with the difference between commodities and experiences. Commodities are products that are so simple and similar that price becomes the prime determining factor in the purchase. Air, for instance, is a commodity, since--all things being equal--a flight on Continental isn't much different from one on Delta. Experiences, on the other hand, are products that are complex and different--price is only one factor in the buying equation. Most people feel they need advice before making a purchase. This difference explains much, including why people seem comfortable using the Internet to book flights but not cruises. Most of the latter are sold through travel agents.
Opening a phone sale is a greater challenge. You and the client can't see each other. Your voice must convey everything. Here's how:
* Use the four-part greeting: "Good morning. [Your agency's name]. This is [your name]. How may I help you?" Experts have determined that this four-part greeting is by far the most effective. A few cruise specialist agents even customize its end, dropping the "How may I help you?" in favor of something like the disarmingly friendly "How can I help you with your cruise vacation?" Note also that both of these endings elicit an open-ended response, leading to conversation and clarification.
* Smile. Yes, smile. Phone callers can somehow perceive a smile over the phone.
* Communicate energy and enthusiasm. The client is excited about the possibility of cruising. You should mirror that fervor with your own.
Qualifying the Client
A standard term in sales jargon, qualifying means asking questions to uncover a client's needs. The types of questions you'll ask, though, will depend on why the customer came to you.
Travel agents deal with three general scenarios:
Scenario #1. Clients have only the vaguest idea about what kind of vacation they want. Maybe they only know they want to go someplace "warm" or experience something "different." For such clients, you must ask many questions to discover what's right for them. An early question should be: "Have you ever cruised before?" If the answer is yes, you should try to probe the reasons that motivated them to select a cruise. Their answers should enable you to classify your client in one of the CLIA survey categories. Is your customer an Explorer? a Luxury Cruiser? perhaps a Restless Baby Boomer? Your conclusion will help you steer the sales process in a direction appropriate to the client's needs.
What if this customer has never cruised? Does such a client fit the same categories as a cruise "veteran"?
Somewhat. CLIA commissioned a study of those 87% of the population who've never cruised. Certain categories emerged that were very similar to those in the other study. But new categories appeared, too. That's understandable--certain personality traits may have inhibited them from buying cruises before.
The survey discovered that some people probably will never cruise. But it also concluded that nearly 70 million people have an interest in trying out a cruise. (See Figure 9-2.) Figure 9-3 lists the five psychographic types the study identified and what could appeal to them about a cruise vacation.
Scenario #2. Clients have a rough idea of what they want. They may be interested in a cruise, but they don't know which itinerary and ship is right for them. Or they may have already selected their destination (let's say the Far East), but don't realize that a cruise might be a great vehicle for experiencing Asia. As with Scenario #1, probe with questions that will profile the client's traveling style. Try to classify them in the appropriate category. The insights you achieve will assist you when it's time to recommend.
Scenario #3. Clients know exactly what they want. They've come to you to save time, get a good price, or verify their own research. And they have a specific cruise in mind. These customers are using your services because they are too busy. Even though they seem to know what they want, you should still ask a few questions. Perhaps there's a cruise product the client knows little or nothing about that would fit their needs better. Or even a "hidden" need that the customer doesn't realize. Precise questioning will also underscore your commitment to getting to know this client.
FIGURE 9-3 Prospective cruise clients Here are the five kinds of prospects who haven't yet cruised but would potentially find a cruise vacation appealing: * Family Folk (31%) are younger, practical, and down-to-earth. They're cautious with their money and have traditional values. They think that cruises are too expensive and/or offer little in the way of family activities. Sales Strategies: Explain that many cruise lines offer a wide spectrum of family options. Stress cruising as a form of escape from routine. Do a cost comparison, showing how a cruise can be more affordable than a land-based family vacation. * Comfortable Spenders (25%) are older, wealthier, active, and seek the finer things in life. They're ambitious and worked hard for what they have. They may not realize that many cruise products can match and even exceed their high expectations. Sales Strategies: Underscore the luxury and comprehensiveness of cruising. Recommend lines that offer fine dining. * Want It Alls (17%) are younger versions of the Comfortable Spenders. Ambitious and hardworking, they like to indulge themselves with quality products, services, and experiences. They tend to be impulsive and often live beyond their means. They believe that cruises are too structured or not upscale enough for them. Sales Strategies: Explain how luxurious, pampering, and stress-free a cruise can be--that it's a unique experience. Contact them regarding last-minute promotions. Remind them that cruises are trendy. Mention to them that they've worked hard--they deserve a cruise. * Cautious Travelers (15%) favor familiar travel experiences. They're somewhat timid and wary. Safety is a concern with them. They're never cruised because they perceive cruising as a little too out-of-the-ordinary. Sales Strategies: Emphasize that ships are safe and secure. Suggest familiar, mass-market itineraries. Explain how a cruise cushions them from "overly foreign" experiences. Point out how a cruise takes the stress out of a vacation: no looking for places to eat, no driving long distances, etc. * Adventurers (12%) are the direct opposite of Cautious Travelers. They like to experiment, learn, and explore. They're willing to spend a good amount of money on a product that promises such benefits. They've resisted cruising because they think it's too regimented and confining, with little emphasis on education and too much on entertainment. Sales Strategies: Explain how flexible a cruise vacation is. Recommend itineraries with unusual ports. Suggest a cruise line that offers learning opportunities and/or adventure.
What if the client has telephoned with a specific cruise in mind and wants only a price? Telephone shoppers can be trying. You know your chance of getting the sale is low. They'll just keep calling agencies until they get the best price. Just give them a quote. No need to ask questions. Right?
Wrong. Asking questions before quoting a price will set you apart from other agents. In effect, you're not just trying to sell a cruise. You're selling your agency, what's unique about it, what benefit there is to doing business with you, showing that you care enough about them and their trip and that you're willing to take the time to explore their needs. You might also offer to try to match the best price quoted once the prospect has finished shopping. If you made a solid, favorable impression, this shopper might just call you back to buy.
Another tactic: Give a reason for the shopper to actually come to your agency. One effective strategy is to offer to loan them a video on the cruise line they're considering. If they borrow one, they'll have to return it. That means two visits to your agency. And research shows that a sale is much more likely in person than over the phone.
Here's the flip side to Scenario #3. The client knows what he or she wants, but it's not a cruise. Should you therefore dismiss a cruise as a recommendation option? No! Maybe this client is someone who'll never cruise. Perhaps, though, he or she is indeed a cruise prospect, but just doesn't know it. Be alert. If your questions reveal that the client fits one of the five prospect profiles and if their mental barriers to buying a cruise prove false, then a cruise may be precisely what satisfies their needs.
Two kinds of questions help you determine a client's needs: closed-ended and open-ended.
Closed-ended questions require simple, factual responses. They're essential to ask in all three scenarios we describe above. Here are the classic ones:
* Who is going on the trip? (It's essential to get the client's name, phone number, etc., for potential future follow-up.)
* What do you have in mind for your trip?
* When do you want to go and for how long?
* Where do you want to go?
* How much do you want to pay? (A better phrasing is "Tell me your price range.")
The answers are generally entered onto a reservation sheet (see Figure 9-4). In addition to filling out this form, you should take notes of everything the client says. It helps keep you alert and conveys how important you consider the client's responses to be.
Taking notes is especially important when asking open-ended questions, the kind that elicit complex and telling responses. Good open-ended questions provide you with important clues to a client's needs. They're especially important to counseling customers with vague ideas of what they want. Even customers who have a rough idea or know exactly what they want should be asked a few open-ended questions. Here are seven classic open-ended questions:
* How do you picture this cruise in your mind?
* Describe your typical vacation.
* What's the best travel experience you've ever had and why? What's the worst?
* Have you been on an escorted tour? at an all-inclusive resort? Did you enjoy it? (An affirmative answer means they may like a cruise, too.)
* What do you like to do while on vacation?
* What did you do on your last vacation? Where did you stay? Do you want this vacation to be similar or completely different?
* Have you been on a cruise? What did you most like about it and why? What did you least like and why?
You can also pose "lifestyle" questions. Some of these seem to be closed-ended, but they yield open-ended results:
* Where do you live? (An important clue to a person's lifestyle.)
* What do you do for a living?
* What kind of car do you drive?
* What's your favorite place to eat and why?
* What kinds of hotels do you prefer? (Since a cruise ship is like a floating resort, the answer to this question will give you important clues as to which ship and line to recommend.)
* Do you like to drive while on vacation? (A yes answer may indicate that the customer likes independence on a trip or perhaps is a budget traveler.)
So as not to seem prying, pose your lifestyle questions very carefully. And be alert to what may lie behind each response. For example, a young woman who says she lives in a tony part of town, practices law, drives a BMW, likes to eat gourmet cuisine, stays in Ritz-Carltons, and hates driving while on vacation is probably a "Want It All" and a strong prospect for a luxury cruise. Don't assume, though, that an attorney who lives a modest, conservative lifestyle wants a budget trip. This very well may be an Adventurer or a Comfortable Spender.
[FIGURE 9-4 OMITTED]
Recommending a Vacation
You've asked plenty of questions. You've collected many clues. You've placed your client in a clear-cut category. And you're pretty sure that a cruise will be the right recommendation. In fact you have several possibilities in mind.
Before you make your suggestion, however, take a minute to review what your client has told you. This will serve as a reality check for both of you. Then make a single, best recommendation. (You can have one or two alternates in mind.) Show how it solves each need and want that the client expressed. Describe your recommended cruise vacation's features, then its benefits. (See Figure 9-5 for an explanation of the difference between the two.) Paint a picture in the client's mind as to what the cruise will be like, and put the client in that picture. This will make the client mentally rehearse the trip. Buying a cruise will become far more likely. Sell the value of a cruise vacation--don't fall into the trap of selling by price. And make your client feel good about a cruise-- that's precisely what is wanted in the vacation.
What if your recommendation doesn't "click" with the client? Find out why, clarify any misconceptions, then, if necessary, go on to your backup recommendation.
The Cruise Brochure
Cruise brochures aren't simply sources of information. They're powerful sales tools as well. They fall into five categories:
* The All-In-One Brochure. This kind of brochure encompasses every itinerary and ship that the cruise line has. It may be subdivided according to geographic region or individual vessel. As you can imagine, it's usually a thick document.
* The Specific Ship Brochure. This brochure lists only those itineraries that a single ship follows. The vessel is generally unique in the line's fleet.
* The Specific Region Brochure. Increasingly common, each brochure explains what the line offers in a distinct geographic region: the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Europe, Asia, etc. Usually only the larger cruise lines publish these kinds of brochures.
* The Seasonal Brochure. Most often employed to ignite sales at a certain time of the year, this brochure might highlight, say, all the winter cruises that the line offers.
* The Targeted Brochure. This brochure is highly specialized. It touts a special promotional sailing, such as a reduced-price trip, an around-the-world cruise, a cruise targeted to members of an organization, etc. It may simply be a slightly customized version of a regular brochure.
Though variations do appear, brochures have a rather standardized, predictable, three-part format.
1. A sales presentation sets the mood and tone of the promotion piece, while presenting the broad benefits that this company's cruises offer. This section includes the cover (usually with the brochure's effective dates), a table of contents, photos, promotional text, and perhaps an overview map.
2. The cruise itineraries section shows the reader where the cruise line travels. (Some cruise lines call this "The Invitation To Choice.") Here's where you'll usually find each ship's sailing schedule, individual itinerary maps, promotional and informational text, photos, deck plans, and fares. (Sometimes fares and deck plans appear in the third section.) If the cruise line offers pre- and postcruise land options, these will be listed here, too.
3. The back-of-brochure information section contains descriptions of airfares, transfers, amenities packages (e.g., for a honeymoon), insurance, payment and refund policies, helpful hints, frequently asked questions, and other general information. A common industry saying is "Clients read brochures from the front to the back, but travel agents read them from the back to the front." In other words, a client is initially interested in what a cruise is all about. Travel counselors already know this. They're initially more concerned about information and policies.
The cruise line's chief vehicle for information and promotion, the brochure can also serve as a cogent sales tool in the hands of a travel agent. Here's what you should do-- and not do--with brochures if you're a travel counselor:
* Once you've arrived at your primary cruise recommendation, bring out a sales "file copy" of the brochure. Use its photos to illustrate the benefits of your recommendation. An alternative is to share a new brochure with your client, "personalizing" it with Post-its, highlighting, and underlining. Make the experience depicted as "theirs."
* Just as you shouldn't give more than one initial recommendation, you should share, at first, only one brochure with your client. If your first choice doesn't work, go to your backup one--and a second brochure.
* Above all, don't give your client a stack of brochures to take home, telling him or her to peruse them "to figure out which one you like." A brochure is a device to help you recommend and close the sale. Once you close the sale, then give them the brochure for reference. If you can't possibly close the sale, then perhaps it's all right to offer the take-home literature. But remember: If the client is out of sight, you may be out of a sale.
* For the same reason, brochures shouldn't be displayed on racks accessible to a client. A customer may read them while waiting and be led to the wrong product. Or the customer may leave with them if the agency's service is sluggish, never to return.
Note also that electronic, Internet-based cruise brochures (or Web sites that are brochurelike) have several advantages over paper-based ones: They can be instantly updated, easily accessed and sent, and have entertaining features (like a live video feed from the ship). Some of the same cautions that apply to paper-based brochures are relevant to electronic ones. Sending a client to visit the Web sites of a half-dozen cruise lines but not giving any advice or recommendations (or ever following up) will erode your ability to get a client's business.
Some clients find it difficult to make decisions. Their minds swirl with concerns. Isn't this too expensive? Won't I feel confined? or seasick? or bored?
It's time to overcome their resistance. In Chapter 2 we discussed 15 objections to cruising. Figure 9-6 reviews them, with possible responses. Become thoroughly familiar with them. At one time or another, no matter what segment of the cruise industry you're in, you're sure to encounter these barriers to a sale and will need to know how to respond.
No matter what objection a client gives, you should always reinforce your "counter" by reminding the client of the extremely high satisfaction rate that cruises achieve among consumers.
The pattern is the same in virtually every retail industry: The highest satisfaction is almost always with the most expensive product. The top-of-the-line auto, the dishwasher with all the bells and whistles, the most expensive suit in the store--these are what please customers best.
It's the same with travel products. That's why you should always offer the clients the best product within their budget range. (In fact, you should offer them something that costs a little more than their top amount, since clients usually give very conservative figures about what they're willing to spend.) This is called upselling. Some examples:
* An ocean-view stateroom instead of an inside one
* A stateroom on a higher deck
* A stateroom with a veranda instead of one without
* A suite instead of a standard cabin
You can also offer the client something in addition to the cruise itself, but related to it. This is called cross-selling. Like selling up, it's used all the time in other industries. "How about fries with your hamburger?" "Would you like our extended service warranty?" "Do you want your car waxed after it's washed?"
Some cross-sell opportunities in cruise sales are
* Travel insurance (this should be an automatic offer, since it protects both the client and the agency from potential hassles and losses)
* An amenities package (e.g., wine in the stateroom upon arrival)
* Pre- and postcruise packages (tours, lodging, etc.)
* Air to and from the cruise (either purchased from the cruise line or independently)
* Meet-and-greet services, if the air wasn't purchased through the cruise line
A reminder: Upselling and cross-selling not only enhance the profitability of a sale, they almost always improve the client's cruise vacation experience, too.
Getting the Business
What's the most important thing a seller of travel should do? Close the sale. The obvious reason: A salesperson is employed to make a profit for the company. The more subtle reason is to make a customer happy. Few travel products make people happier than a cruise. Remember that high satisfaction rate.
Unfortunately, some clients are indecisive. They're afraid to make a commitment to cruise. Even worse, some salespeople are afraid to ask for the business. They fear they'll be rejected. Their efforts, they think, may lead to failure.
There's nothing sadder than a salesperson who does everything right, then falters. He or she greets warmly, qualifies thoroughly, recommends with intelligence, and overcomes resistance with skill. But then, when it's time to close....
Perhaps the momentum of the sale will cause the client to close the sale. Out comes the credit card, in goes the booking. No need to ask. Other times customers give you subtle signals that they're ready to buy. They might do the following:
* Lean toward you
* Ask you a question that shows that they're already imagining themselves on the ship (e.g., What kind of clothes should I wear? What will the weather be like?)
* Become especially excited as they speak
* Nod their head in a small "yes" motion
* Push away some object that sits on your desk and that formed a symbolic barrier between buyer and seller
At such times--or even when the client seems "neutral"--you should deploy at least one of these closing techniques:
* Explain that it would be better to put down a deposit now, since the availability of what the client wants may disappear. (One line's research shows that 95% of people who make the commitment of a deposit actually buy. Without a deposit, that rate drops precipitously to 35%.)
* Just before you ask for the sale, review how your recommendation exactly fulfills your client's vacation needs.
* Point out that an advance deadline is approaching, after which the cruise promotional offer may or will disappear.
* Ask the client why he or she is hesitating. If the concern seems misconceived, explain why.
* Give the client a series of choices as you reach the end of the recommendation stage: "Do you think you'd prefer an ocean-view stateroom or an inside one?" "Do you think the four-day or the seven-day cruise best fits your needs?" The more choices the client makes along the way, the easier it'll be to make the final choice to cruise.
* Sometimes a simple "So shall I reserve it?" or "So let's do it!" is all that you'll need to say. Because you carried out the sales process so well, the client will be ready to buy.
Are closing techniques manipulative? No more than helping someone across the street. Unless, of course, crossing the street isn't where they want to or should go. If your client is one of those few for whom cruising is really wrong, you'll know long before you get to the close. You'll already have gone off in another sales direction.
The Nuts and Bolts of a Reservation
How does a cruise booking actually unfold? It's quite simple, though at first it can seem challenging to both a travel agent and a cruise line reservationist.
First, though, you should know a few things about how staterooms sell:
* The first products that sell out are suites, followed by large staterooms (often with verandas).
* The next are the least-expensive ones, especially inside cabins.
* Midship cabins sell first (less walking and less motion perceived).
* Each cabin on a ship is "sold" several times. Someone books a cabin, then has to cancel. Others book a cabin, but ask for and get a better one when it becomes available. And cabins are held on an "option" but are eventually "released." (More about options soon.)
Before making the reservation, a travel agent should first complete a cruise reservation form. (See Figure 9-4 for a sample.) This maximizes booking efficiency. He or she should also carefully review the back-of-brochure information section.
The travel agent has three main avenues for booking a cruise: the telephone, the computer reservation system (CRS, also sometimes called the GDS, or global distribution system), or the Internet. The Internet still accounts for only a portion of cruise bookings. It may, however, someday dominate the cruise reservation process. The CRSs in agencies are a very viable way to book cruises, too. Since each CRS system has a different set of procedures, we won't go into detail here on how a cruise computer reservation is done. A little agency training, plus following the formats and prompts that appear on the screen, make this a relatively easy thing to learn.
For now, phone transactions remain the most popular way to make a reservation. Brochure and reservation sheet in hand, the agent gives the reservationist all the information requested. (He or she should inform the reservationist--at the beginning of the call--if the client is present.) The cruise line reservationist, in turn, confirms all requests if available, recommends alternatives if necessary (the agent should have these in mind as well), and discusses the booking choices available. Three are commonly offered (see Figure 9-7 for a fourth possibility):
1. A confirmed category, stateroom number, and price. Many first-time cruisers are surprised that this is possible. Hotels don't offer room preselection at all. It's best not to provide exact cabin selection from the brochure to the client, though, until the reservationist or computer gives the inventory available.
2. A guarantee, run-of-the-ship reservation, or TBA (to be assigned). The cruise line confirms the date and price but doesn't give the precise stateroom number. It guarantees a cabin at the category desired or possibly higher. Guarantees are offered when the category requested isn't available (but other, higher ones are) and cancellations in the category requested are anticipated. If the cancellations don't materialize, the client gets the higher-category stateroom for the same price. Guarantees aren't a good idea for certain clients who may desire or need a specific location and type of cabin. Examples: the physically challenged, seniors, honeymooners, and people who desire a specific cabin location or bed arrangement.
3. A guaranteed upgrade. The specific stateroom isn't assigned, but the client is promised a cabin at a category higher than what he or she paid for.
FIGURE 9-7 Guaranteed shares On some lines, passengers traveling alone may have a fourth booking choice: the guaranteed share. On most modern cruise ships, a stateroom is designed to hold two or more passengers and prices are basis two. If a cruise line sold such a stateroom to a single passsenger at the per-person double occupancy rate, it would potentially lose money--it might have been able to sell that stateroom to two passengers. Therefore, most cruise lines add a single supplement to the fare (anywhere from 10 to 100% of the per-person rate). To avoid this supplement, a single passenger may be allowed to book a guaranteed share. The cruise line will try to find another passenger (of the same sex) also traveling alone to share the same stateroom; each passenger would pay the double occupancy rate. Even if the cruise line can't find anyone to share the stateroom, the passenger won't have to pay the supplement.
Once the booking choice is determined and availability is confirmed, the agent has two options:
* Get a deposit. Whether refundable or not (it generally is), a deposit solidifies the customer's commitment. As we explained, if you don't get a deposit, the probability that the sale will occur drops dramatically.
* Offer an option. This means that the cruise line will hold the reservation without a deposit (usually for about five days). Options are advisable only for the customer who seems to absolutely need time to think about it or talk it over with a travel partner. The travel agent should give the client a deadline that's ahead of the cruise line option date. That way if the client is a day or two late in getting back to the agent, the sale won't be lost. Agents who haven't heard from a client usually follow up with a reminder phone call. If the option won't be exercised (the client decides not to go), the travel agent, out of courtesy, should call the cruise line to cancel. If it will be exercised, then the travel agent should contact the cruise line, in case the deposit arrives after the option date. (The cruise line will extend the option date, just in case.)
But let's assume the client immediately says yes to a wonderful cruise vacation. Here's what happens:
1. The client pays the deposit by credit card, cash, or a check to the agency. If it's by cash or check, the agency deposits the funds, then sends an agency check to the cruise line. (Cruise companies usually don't accept the client's personal check.) Credit card policies differ among cruise lines. The CLIA Cruise Manual and the cruise line brochure usually outline credit card practices.
2. The agent informs the client when final payment will be due. (That's explained by the reservationist and in the brochure.) It's best to express it as an exact day of the week and due date (e.g., Monday, June 6), not "six weeks prior to departure."
3. The cruise line sends a confirmation of booking and/or invoice to the travel agency.
4. The client makes final payment to the agency, which in turn moves the funds on to the cruise company.
5. The cruise line sends the documents to the agency. (See Chapter 4 for what they include.) As protection against loss, the agent photocopies the essential elements of the documents, then presents the documents to the client, either in person or by mail (preferably registered). If it's a last-minute booking, the documents will be held for the client at the departure pier.
6. The client cruises!
Is the sale "closed" when it's over? Not if you're a good salesperson. You know that you're creating a loyal client, not just a sale. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it costs six times more to attract a new customer than to keep a current one.
One of the proven ways of keeping that customer is through follow-up. There are four kinds of follow-up situations:
1. Follow up on an unclosed sale. If clients only want an option, or even less than that, remind them before they leave the agency how great their cruise could be. Perhaps loan them a cruise video. Call them within 24 to 48 hours to get their decision. If they say yes, great. If not, gently ask them why. You may be able to clarify things. If they still say no, thank them for the opportunity to have counseled them. You never know. They may someday return, this time with the will to buy from someone who cared.
2. Follow up a closed sale. Send a thank-you note. Leave a bon voyage phone message. If the commission warrants it, arrange for an onboard amenities package for them. Show them that you appreciate their business.
3. Follow up when they return. Send a welcome-back card, perhaps with a satisfaction survey enclosed. Call them to see how they enjoyed their cruise. Have a welcome-back gift delivered to their door.
4. Follow up at the same booking time next year. You know when these clients will think about their next vacation. Why not contact them at the same time the following year? Offer to discuss their next vacation plan. It just might well be a cruise.
Though this chapter is lengthy, its subject--cruise sales--could easily fill a book. And it does--several. Here are publications that focus, entirely or in part, on travel agency cruise sales:
* Cruises: Selecting, Selling and Booking, Jules Zvoncheck
* Selling The Sea, Bob Dickinson and Andy Vladimir
* Selling Cruises, Claudine Dervaes
Questions for Discussion
1. Give at least three traits for the following buyers of cruises:
(a). Restless Baby Boomers:
(b). Enthusiastic Baby Boomers:
(c). Consummate Shoppers:
(d). Luxury Cruisers:
(f). Ship Buffs:
2. List five things you can do to make a good impression on a client in person and three things if the sale is over the phone.
3. What's the difference between a closed-ended and open-ended question? Give at least three examples of each.
4. Explain at least three ways a feature differs from a benefit.
5. Name and describe the five kinds of cruise brochures. What three sections does each kind probably have?
6. Give at least one counter to each of the following objections:
(a). "Cruises are too expensive."
(b). "Cruises are too formal."
(c). "Cruises are too regimented."
(d). "I'll feel confined."
(e). "I'm afraid of seasickness."
7. Give four ways that you could upsell a cruise client and four cross-sells that you could offer.
8. What are the four kinds of possible bookings?
9. Outline the major steps in a phone cruise booking.
10. Cruise professionals often say that a ship sells from "the top down and the bottom up" and "from the middle to the ends." What does this mean?
In this chapter, we examined the five kinds of people who are likely prospects to take a cruise. Review the profile of each type, then try to think about someone you know who fits each category. If you can't think of someone you know who fits any of these categories, substitute a famous person or even a well-known character from a book, play, or film.
List the person in the middle column. In the right, explain your selection.
Category Person Why? 1. Family Folk 2. Comfortable Spenders 3. Want It Alls 4. Cautious Travelers 5. Adventurers
Read the agent-client scenario below. Try to identify the things the agent does right--and the many things she does wrong. Write your analysis in the space provided.
AGENT: "Travel, this is Mary."
CLIENT: "Yes, someone gave me your name. I'm interested in taking a vacation...."
A: "OK--where do you need to go?"
C: "I don't know. I was actually looking for some advice. I've got, like, a week and a half off in May, in the spring, and, I don't know, like maybe Florida."
A: "Well, personally, I'd probably consider a seven-day cruise--a cruise package to the Caribbean. You only have to pack and unpack once. And it includes all your meals and all your entertainment."
C: "Don't you get seasick on a cruise?"
A: "There are a lot of things you can do to combat it. Nowadays, they have these little patches you can put behind your ears, and that cures any kind of motion sickness. I have a friend that used one, and it was great. There are all kinds of things."
C: "Now, aren't cruises expensive? How much are the cruises?"
A: "Generally, for, like a seven-night cruise, with meals and everything included--it starts at about one thousand dollars, or twelve hundred dollars per person."
C: "Well ... I guess I can afford something like that. What's the advantages of that over, say, going to Florida or something?"
A: "Well, it's the type of thing you can really sit back and relax, and all your meals are included--you can literally eat all day long. They've got lots of activities aboard the ship--and you can get sun at the same time. Uhh, you stop and see different ports--so you do more traveling."
C: "Well, where do the ships go for the most part? Which one would you do?"
A: "I like the Eastern Caribbean, but they have all different destinations. They leave out of Miami, they go down to St. Thomas, St. Martin--different islands in the Caribbean--different itineraries. Uh, there are some very interesting ones. Uh, there are different islands--you may be there for a couple of hours, you may be there all day long, depending on the itinerary. But at least you get out, and get to explore, and get some fresh air. If you want, you can swim in the pool. You know, you have a lot of things to do, and it's all included in one price."
C: "OK, maybe a cruise would be a good idea."
A: "Well, if that's what you want to do, I mean, you know, if that's what you want to do--maybe you want to see Epcot, you want to see Disney World, Universal Studios, I guess a cruise is different from all that--it's a different type of thing. Yeah, definitely, it's probably gonna run you about the same, by the time you get your hotel, your car, your transfers, uh, admissions, your meals, your entertainment--uh, adding all that up, it's pretty costly."
C: "Well, what do you get, like, free on a cruise?"
A: "OK. What would be included in the price would be all your meals--you can eat nonstop all day long--you've got all kinds of entertainment onboard-- lounges, discos--or quiet areas--library and movies. Then at night, you know, they've got different shows--Las Vegas reviews, with singers and dancers, all kinds of different entertainment. Ummm, different contests every night. The only thing that would not be included would be any special services, such as a massage, or if you want to get your nails done or your hair done. And your liquor, your drinks. But generally the prices of the drinks aren't that expensive. The prices are comparable to what you get on land. They don't really jack up the prices for the drinks."
C: "Well, that sounds good."
A: "Like I said, there's all kinds of entertainment. You can do as much as you want, or as little as you want. You want the sun--you want to explore different points in the Caribbean, umm, it's kind of an all-inclusive type of package."
C: "Well, again, it sounds like a pretty good thing. Let me talk to my wife about it."
1. What has the agent done right?
2. What has the agent done wrong?
Marc Mancini, Ph.D.
Professor of Travel
West Los Angeles College
FIGURE 9-2 Future potential next 5 years Future Potential Next 5 Years Interested in Cruising Next Five Years (1) 68,840,000 50% # of People Among Target Audience * Definitely/Probably Will Cruise Next Five Years (1) 43,552,000 31% * Target Audience from Sample Definition (133,300,000) (1) Based on Target Population Source: CLIA study Note: Table made from bar graph. FIGURE 9-5 Features vs. benefits Most salespeople fall into the trap of mentioning a product's features, but not its benefits. Benefits inject energy and reality into a sale. Here are the differences between each: Features Benefits * Answer the question "What?" * Answer the question "So what?" * Represent facts * Represent the payoff * Sometimes have the word you * Almost always have the word in them, sometimes not you in them * Are usually impersonal * Are personal For example, a ship may be "fast" (a feature), but the real advantages of the ship's speed is that it can stay longer in one port before moving on to the next. Or it will reduce an itinerary's at-sea days. (Both are benefits.) If a stateroom has a verandah, that's a feature. The benefit: Your own private and intimate experience of the itinerary's destinations. FIGURE 9-6 Overcoming barriers Objection Counter 1. Expense * Cite cost as per diem * Compare to a similar land-based vacation * Stress inclusiveness and value * Recommend a cruise line that mirrors their budget * Suggest a repositioning cruise 2. Boredom * Show a daily activity log * Cite their favorite activities * Cite testimonials from other clients * Recommend an active cruise * Mention the people-meeting nature of cruising 3. Old people * Recommend a cruise with a younger passenger profile * Point out brochure photos of younger people * Explain this was once true, but no longer * Cite a testimonial from another client of about the same age as your client 4. Formality * Recommend an informal cruise product * Explain alternate "casual" dining options * Look up dress requirements as stated in the brochure's information section 5. Regimentation * Recommend a flexible cruise product (e.g., upscale cruises, sailing ships, and adventure/ education cruises) * Cite the "do-it-all-or-nothing-at-all" nature of cruising * List flexible features (e.g., multiple dining options) * Suggest independent pre- and postcruise packages 6. Limited port * Select itineraries that offer maximum port time time * Suggest shore excursions as an efficient way to experience a port * Offer pre- and postcruise packages 7. Confinement * Recommend a ship with a high space ratio * Recommend an ocean-view stateroom or one with a verandah * Sell up to a larger stateroom or suite * Reinforce that ships are really large, floating resorts 8. Forced * Underscore the do-it-all/nothing-at-all nature socializing of cruising * Recommend a product with many dining choices and/or open-seating dining * Sell up to a product with all open-seating dining * Suggest a stateroom with a verandah 9. Navy * Stress the features inconceivable on a experience military ship (e.g., entertainment, pampering) * Emphasize that this isn't a seagoing military base, but a seagoing resort 10. To * Cite healthy, "spa" dining options much food * Point out exercise opportunities 11. Ship safety * Explain how safe today's cruise ships are and how the few problems that have occurred have been rapidly contained * Underscore the fact that security is emphasized on today's vessels 12. Terrorism * Explain how cruise lines take aggressive precautions to avoid such problems * Point out that the lines avoid trouble-plagued ports and regions * Say that a ship is a highly controlled environment, where unusual situations are quickly noticed 13. Too far * Underscore that it's worth it * Choose a closer embarkation port or one that requires fewer plane changes * Remind them that, once there, a cruise maximizes their vacation time 14. Motion * Explain how ship stabilizers minimize motion discomfort/ getting sick * Inform them of Sea Bands(r) * Recommend that they discuss this with their physician; pills or Transderm Scop patches may be prescribed * Recommend a river cruise, where motion is rare * Book during a time when winds and waves are minimal * Cite the aggressive efforts cruise lines are now taking to keep their ships highly sanitized 15. Level of * Give more information knowledge * Help them visualize themselves on the cruise * Describe how they'll feel on a cruise * Loan them a video about cruising
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|Publication:||Cruising, A Guide to the Cruise Line Industry, 2nd ed.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 8 Profiling the lines.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 10 Cruise marketing, groups, and incentives.|