Recently, I was speaking to a colleague about a new sales person he had just employed. The sales person was complaining the company did not have a presentation brochure. If only the company would produce a professional presentation, the sales person assured his boss, the sales would come flying through the door. My friend wanted to know what I thought, and I told him.
I told him to get a new sales person.
I’ve said before that sales and marketing knowledge will surpass product knowledge in a few short years in the travel industry. The best travel consultants of tomorrow, the ones earning six figure commissions, will be professional sales people. They will know the travel industry for sure, but they will know more about professional marketing and sales.
The art of selling is not about your products, your history, the places you have been or the people you know. You could have an exhaustive brochure on every aspect of your company, you can be the absolute expert on a dozen destinations, cruise lines and Disney, and still miss the sale by a mile. It happens all the time. In fact, it is very typical for a sales person to spend their time during a sales opportunity attempting to educate their prospect on every aspect of their products, their services or the history of the company.
But an encounter with a potential client is not the time to prove how much you know about the travel industry. Instead, its an opportunity to find out what your client really needs.
Launching into a sales presentation is a sure-fire way to lose a client. Doing so misses the point. Your job is to form a relationship based on your perception of your client’s needs. Your earliest conversation is an opportunity to find out what you don’t know about the client. Meet their needs and you have a client.
Recite a dozen facts that hold little interest to him and the client will begin to look at their watch. Your client is interested in your history, your experience, your company, only to the extent those things benefit him. You cannot know what will benefit your client until you know what your client needs.
Here’s the key: Quit telling and start listening. Quit selling. Hold a conversation. Form a relationship.
Certainly your expertise is important – but you have to fully understand what the client’s needs are before you can begin to apply your knowledge. If you fail to show a real interest in your client, you will sound like you are trying to sell something. Authentic sales requires a real skill set – the ability to craft your presentation not out of a can, but in response to the needs of your client.
My friend’s sales person did not need to know any more about the company than he already knew. He did not need a new presentation brochure. Good sales collateral is important, but it’s ancillary. A professional sales person will get up, get out the door and spend all of his time learning about the client. Then, and only then, can the appropriate sales presentation be crafted.
If you are a bit reticent to be deemed a sales person, get over it. The best of you know you are in sales, and product knowledge is a passion – so is client knowledge.
Client knowledge- that’s the hard part. And that’s the only part about which your clients really care.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.”