Summer 2020: How to Sell To Callers Who Normally Book Elsewhere

As predicted, it’s the leisure travelers who are the first to hit the roads again and most resort areas are experiencing a significant rebound in demand for summer and early fall. One key difference, however, is that long standing vacation traditions have been disrupted and displaced. Those who typically spent their summer vacation on a cruise, visiting Europe, or going to a theme park are still going to travel, but to somewhere closer to home and ideally, to destinations featuring more open spaces. 

Certainly many “regulars” will rebook, however, the current disruption is creating the opportunity to find new guests. Smart leaders will recognize this is a huge opportunity, as this summer’s first-time guests can potentially be future repeat guests. They’ll certainly be anxious to share new experiences on social media. Following are three sales tips for converting callers who traditionally vacation elsewhere.

Engage In Conversations, Not Transactions!

What is transactional selling? It can be characterized by treating a vacation planning inquiry as if you worked in a “website help desk” for people trying to book online. Transactional agents limit their questions to those necessary to search inventory, such as dates, people, and bedding requirements, then stick to talking about rates, fees, and payment terms.  

Conversational selling occurs naturally when we realize the voice on the other end comes from a real person, not just “caller 13” of the day, and instead recognize that they are the person in charge of planning their family’s most important calendar event this year.

Here in the post- COVID-19 world, more than ever we as humans are craving heartfelt engagement.  The good news is that this does not take a lot of extra effort, nor call handling time.  Just pause to react to what callers are sharing. For example, one call “story” that our KTN workshop and webcam training participants are telling me is occurring quite frequently these days is this.  Families are getting together for memorial services to remember those who have passed away recently, because traditional funeral services could not be held due to the pandemic.  Transactional agents gloss-over this detail, but conversational agents will pause the conversation, exclaim something such as “My goodness… My heart goes out to you and your family. That must have been especially sad not to be able to be together. I’m so happy that you are going to have this opportunity. Let me help you make it easy to plan this.”

Another essential way to engage in conversations is to ask questions to keep callers engaged and to ensure that what you are saying is relevant. Traditional questions are still important, such as “Have you stayed with us before?” and “May I ask what’s bringing you here this summer? Are you celebrating anything special?”  As my frequent readers know, at KTN we have long advocated for everyone to make a habit of using this question while clicking “search” in your reservation system: “As I’m checking those dates, what questions can I answer for you, such as about our location or amenities?” Beyond that, ask questions throughout the call to keep it engaging such as “Tell me more about what you’re looking for so that I can help you find the best options” and “How does that sound so far?” 

Sell Your Destination First, Before The Room, Suite Condo, Or Vacation Home

Vacation guests spend most of their time outside the accommodation, yet too many agents talk only about the room, suite, condo or VR home.  Perhaps this is because many of us have a hard time imagining the place we live as someone’s dream vacation destination. Yet despite all of the information available online, nothing is more effective than the enthusiastic recommendations of a local area expert. Carve out a bit of time to visit tourism websites and read online reviews of local attractions.  Learn a few pointers about activities you never do personally, such as golfing, hiking trails, boating, fishing, kayaking canoeing, birding, and adventure sports.  Work with your team to develop a list of “local insider’s tips” such as the best times of day to visit, menu recommendations, the name of a waiter to request, and activities for kids of various ages.  

Sell Memories, Not Space and Time!

I often ask our workshop participants: What is the most important thing people get from vacations?  Food? Souvenirs? Tee shirts? Of course not, it’s the memories!  Many of us are fortunate to have had parents who took us on summer vacations during our childhood. As one of four kids in a barely middle-class family, we didn’t travel far nor fancy; we all packed into a station wagon that pulled a very small travel trailer. Yet decades later the memories are clear as day; dipping my feet into a cool mountain stream while searching for crawdads; the smell of firewood and taste of toasted marshmallows; fishing for catfish or bluegills with my dad.  Years later, I did all I could to create similar memories for our own children. Their tee shirts are long donated and the souvenirs they bought have been discarded, but the memories ring true for us all.  It seems to me that those adults who were not so fortunate to have such a childhood are even more dedicated to creating such memories for their kids. 

How do we sell memories?  Spend more time talking about what “you” and “your family” will see, feel, and experience and less time reading the list of features. Use a working vocabulary of words that speak more to the heart and less to the brain, such as “unforgettable,” “memorable,” “delightful,” “enchanting,” and “enduring.” 

  • Doug Kennedy 
  • June 9, 2020

During this webcast, Doug Kennedy will present reservations sales training tips to help your team sell to these first-time visitors who just might be your future repeat guests.

Value of a new customer

Opportunity to get more bow significant higher than normal

Resorts agents are spoiled by so many repeat guests who know the activities and know what they want

New guests much harder to convert but worth the effort 

  • Now, more than ever, an engaging, conversational style will help unmask the caller’s vacation daydream “story.”
    • Zappos
    • Delta agent
    • Human connection means  more than ever.
  • The importance of selling destinations as a good choice this summer, which requires you to see it through the eyes of a tourist not a local. 
    • When was the last time you did the local stuff?
    • Just a beach? (pics). Just a lake? Just a trail?
    • Getting excited about things you never do!
  • Providing local insider’s tips and recommendations.
  • Soft closing techniques to nudge indecisive callers along towards commitment. 
    • Actually true!

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