How to Master the Art of Persuasion in the Travel Industry

Wouldn’t it be great if it could be as simple as folding your arms, squinting your face and stamping your feet to get what you want? I think they call that precocious. But we barely make it past first grade when we realize that tactic just will not fly.

No, persuasion is an art form. Any court prosecutor will tell you the same. Knowing how to use your words and with the right cadence to sway a jury — well, that’s pure poetry. And clearly why lawyers get paid the big bucks. 

But winning a court-case is just one arena that benefits from the art of persuasion. Whether we are negotiating the price of our new home or arguing over sushi vs. Italian for dinner, mastering the art of persuasion can be a handy tool.

And in the travel industry, the ability to articulate goes a long way in both closing a sale and in handling customer service issues. 

To get better at the craft, there are four steps you’ll need to consider. 

Step One – Decide what you want. 

Step Two – How will you know if you’ve achieved it?

Step Three – Who do you need to convince?

Step Four – Why do you need to convince them?

Decide what you want

Maybe what you want at the end of a consultation with a client is a credit card, but it doesn’t always have to be. Booking travel isn’t often a whim decision. While I’ve seen it happen, typically the sales process takes several appointments, and a number of discussions, before a client is comfortable enough to commit.

Perhaps the goal for your first consultation should be to get to know the client better.

Part of which is learning what they want out of their holiday and getting them to narrow down their options to a specific country, date and budget. That could be your objective.

Or maybe their stated budget isn’t sufficient to include all the things on their’ “must-do” list. Hence, your goal might be to show them the value in increasing their budget or removing an item or two? Because eeeissh, what’s a trip to Tokyo without front row seats to a sumo tournament. Your persuasive skills will need to detail the benefits of watching two oversized men battling it out in loincloths.

Closing the sale isn’t always going to be your primary objective in each interaction, so it’s a good idea to decide what your intention is before you start the dance.

How will you know when you achieved your goal?

Sure, when someone starts blurting out the sixteen digits of their credit card, you may feel pretty victorious, but how will you know your skills of persuasion have worked if closing the sale isn’t your primary goal? 

It’s helpful to write your objective near the top of your notepad so that if you get off-track, a quick glance will get you back on topic. This is especially helpful when discussing a customer service issue and the topic of conversation becomes heated. It’s so easy to get sucked into drama that 1) has nothing to do with you and 2) doesn’t lead you to a positive result.

Who do you need to convince?

Sure, Barb and Floyd travel together. They are the cutest couple EVER and seem to get along swimmingly. She finishes all his sentences. He picks the lint off her coat. — But typically…one of them wears the pants in the relationship.

This is good information to have. It will save you time later. I’m not saying Barb doesn’t care if Floyd does or doesn’t get in a round of golf on their upcoming trip. Let’s just say that after 50 years of marriage…she may not care quite as much as she does that she gets in her time at the casino. And if it’s Barb who will be making the holiday decisions, best to determine that early on.

Why do you need to convince them?

What’s at stake? What’s in it for Barb and Floyd? This isn’t about you. It’s about them. Once you’ve figured out what your clients’ want, composing a persuasive argument becomes so much easier. There is always a way to find a common goal. And then you’ll get what you want too. 


Ask, Ask, Ask

Which brings us to one of the most under-used skills, and that is the ability to ask good questions. You are probably thinking, well, that’s obvious. Of course, we know we should ask a lot of questions. But do you know that many advisors think they are fantastic interrogators when the reality is, in fact, very different.

I suppose it’s not unlike the way we underestimate the time it takes us to do things.

“I’ll be there in just a minute.”’

At the risk of sounding sexist here, every husband under the sun knows there is no chance in hell that ‘a minute’ should be taken literally.

I’ve noticed when coaching advisors that they typically will start with a few questions…

Where do you want to go?

When do you want to go?

What’s your budget?

But within minutes, they’ve put down their pens, taken a deep breath, and launched into their sales pitch.

Whoa, Nelly! 

Timing is everything

I get it. It’s exciting to share our wisdom with our clients. We have the best intentions. But launching into our sales pitch before we’ve done our homework is a critical mistake.

It’s human nature to want to jump in. We want to solve things. We want our opinion heard. Often, we’ve travelled to the destination du jour but unless we intimately understand who Barb and Floyd are and what they want, all the firsthand experience in the world won’t matter.

We have to sit back, ask the right questions, and then shut up and listen.

Next time you do a consultation, take a note of how many questions you ask before you interject yourself into the fray. I’m guessing the number might surprise you.

I use a template of questions to keep me on track. There are over 60 questions on my list. And no, I don’t ask them all for fear of sounding creepy and stalky, but I do ask a lot. 

  1. The more I know about my client, the better equipped I am at fitting the right travel arrangements with their needs – not mine.
  1. The more questions I ask allows me to see Barb light up when she talks about her love for classic art and I’ll notice that Floyd’s eyes begin to twinkle when he describes his favourite holiday that included couple massages on the beach.
  1. I begin to hear the words that they use and I can then mirror those same words to help me create my sales pitch. Mirroring is a very effective part of the art of persuasion.

And finally,

  1. The more questions I ask, the more Barb and Floyd really start to trust that I have their best interests at heart. Everybody likes to talk; Everybody wants to be heard.

Take your time. It’s a dance. The most successful advisors are the ones who know how to ask the right questions to not only build rapport and trust but to gather enough information to effectively build an itinerary that perfectly matches the needs of the client.


People do things for their reasons, not your reasons.

I have coached many advisors who consult from their own point of view. Not because they are egomaniacs or narcissists, but mostly because they haven’t asked enough questions. They have no other frame of reference, so they consult on what suits them.

For example, I am an Aman junkie. I love Aman properties. You can read my review on the best hotel I ever stayed at <HERE> but just because I am a huge fan of the clean lines and Zen underpinnings, does not mean that my clients, Barb and Floyd, will also love the Aman chain. 

By asking the right questions, I might quickly learn that Barb prefers a more historical hotel brand like Raffles, known for hosting foreign dignitaries and aging Hollywood film stars. Barb loves the detailed finials on the four-poster beds – I suspect Floyd does too. 😉 

Not my thing, but it also ain’t my trip.

Knowing what your clients’ want

Now that you see the importance of clear objectives, before you open up your tool belt of persuasive tactics and wield them like a master ninja, It’s equally critical to know what your clients’ are really after.

Sadly, it’s not always clear from the start. Not because Barb and Floyd are trying to be intentionally obstructive, but sometimes they may not know themselves. AND, sometimes what clients say they want will differ from what they actually want. Yet another reason to get good at asking the right questions. 

The better you are at determining what their wants are, the better you will become at crafting your sales pitch and delivering exactly what they need.

Mastering the art of persuasion may take some practice, but it is well worth your efforts. 


Btw…I totally love two-way conversations, so if you feel like leaving a comment below, I would be tickled.

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3 years ago

Asking questions is the best way to dive deep into finding out about people. Oh, and you have to listen to what they say. 😉

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