Any agent who has been in the travel industry long enough to have more than a couple of clients has had this experience: you talk with a client about a trip and really think they are going to book, only to provide a quote and then never hear from them again. They don’t respond to emails, texts or voice messages. It’s frustrating. And it’s a waste of your time.
So, why does this happen? Much of the time it isn’t them, it’s you. Sorry, I know that’s hard to hear, but it is true. There are times when nothing you could have done would have saved the booking. But in many cases there is one common root cause: they don’t “get” your value. And because they don’t get it, they don’t understand why booking with you is any better than booking online or with someone else.
Here’s a typical scenario: A client reaches out to you about a trip. You ask “booking” questions: destination, budget, dates, who is going, etc. You tell them you will get back to them with a quote, and you do. Then you follow up in a timely fashion. Nothing. You follow up again. Nothing. So, what happened?
When the client reached out you were so focused on the destination and the details associated with it, you didn’t spend enough (or any) time connecting with them. You didn’t educate them about you, what you can do for them, and why they should work with you. Agents who are masters of this phase of the process know that they have to take control of the conversation and get to more than the basic details and instead really connect with the client. By the end of a conversation with an agent who is really skilled at this you wouldn’t even THINK about booking with anyone but them.
This isn’t arrogance – it’s confidence. It is about understanding that you are developing a relationship with a client.
First, keep this in mind: you don’t work in a call center and while you probably don’t feel like you have all the time in the world, you need to have a more relaxed conversation with the client. Personally, I don’t think it is possible to have a beneficial “conversation” over email, text or via a messaging app. I suggest you strongly consider requiring new clients to have at least one phone call or face-to-face meeting with you.
Ask them questions and really get to know them. Don’t just go through a checklist of details, but ask open-ended questions about what they are planning and what they value in travel. Even if they come to you having already done a lot of research and feel like they know what they want, ask why. You aren’t questioning their decision or what they value, but asking them to tell you more about what led them to that decision. Ask questions and share your input. All of this is critical to connecting with them and demonstrating your expertise.
At the end of this first meeting is when you have the “this is how I work” conversation. Explain your fees if you have them. Explain what you do for clients. Focus on the value you bring and make sure they understand how you benefit them.
In many cases clients want to rush past this conversation. They just want to give you the details and move on. But you have to take control redirect the conversation. If they push back on this or won’t talk to you via phone or in person, don’t be afraid to turn them away. If your gut is telling you the client isn’t a good fit for you, it is absolutely OK to say, “I don’t think I am be the best match for your travel needs” and refer them to someone else.
Truly connecting with the client will pay dividends in several ways. First, if you charge professional fees the client is going to be much more likely to pay it. Second, you are much less likely to have clients go radio silent on you because they understand your value and what you bring to the table. And finally, after the travel takes place the client is a lot more likely to refer you to others and to come back to book with you again.
Next time you have a new client contact you, really think about your process. Is it more “get to the point and give me the details so I can give you a quote”, or is it more “let’s get to know each other and see if we are a fit”? If you find yourself more of the first type, you can start tweaking it to make it more of the latter. You’ll find yourself with happier clients who are glad to pay your fee and refer more people to you. And because you are working with clients that appreciate you and pay you well you will be happier. Everyone wins!