As Kevin Spacey’s character says to the young female reporter in Season 1, Episode 1 of House of Cards…
“Words matter very much, Ms. Barnes.”
Don’t they say that a picture is worth a thousand words? I’ve always felt that cliche made words seem irrelevant or invaluable. I mean…after all, if you need 1000 words to equal just one photograph, words can’t be that important, can they?
Especially in the travel industry, where we rely so heavily on quality photography to evoke and inspire wanderlust, It would almost seem that words don’t matter at all.
Oh, but they do. Make no mistake; our word choice counts.
We use so many words on the daily that can weaken our ability to market and sell, and often, we aren’t even aware that we are using them. Like a “Ummm” or an “Er” while public speaking, these words can secretly sabotage our position.
I’ve made a list of some of the most innocent-sounding words that tend to be the stealth deal breakers. I’m not suggesting that in isolation, any of these words would cost you business, but when piled on top of one another or used repeatedly…they could very well affect your ability to close a sale. And often, if you were to ask a client post-mortem why they didn’t end up booking with you, they might not even be able to put their finger on it themselves.
That’s just how sneaky these little, seemingly innocuous word varmints work.
Just so you know…I’ve put this one first because I use it all the time too. It’s just how I normally talk so it’s just hard to eradicate it from my vernacular. Ugh. But adding “just” to any statement makes you sound unsure of yourself. And that’s just not what you want.
Have you ever caught yourself making a follow-up phone call and beginning it with…” Hello Barbara, I was just checking to see if you and Floyd have made a decision about that trip we spoke of the other day?”
Better would be…” Hello Barbara, did you and Floyd get the chance to discuss that trip we spoke of on Wednesday? Were there any further questions that came up that I can answer or are you and Floyd ready to secure your spot with a deposit?”
The word “just” makes you sound as if you are apologizing for whatever you are about to follow-up with next. If you had body language to match, it would be the cringe. Adding that 4-letter word to any sentence immediately weakens your position. So if you suffer from this habit, like I do, practise striking it from your vocabulary permanently.
The word “only” can be off-putting. It often comes up when we are trying to justify the price of a service. Saying that the cost of a week-long stay at an all-inclusive 4-Star property in Cozumel is only $XXXX, runs the potential risk of making the client feel like $XXXX isn’t a lot of money when it very well could be – to them.
I will admit that this is a tricky one. Because appropriately used, I think it can be effective to put into perspective the cost of an upgrade. I might say something like…” Fun fact, do you know that for only $20 more per day, I can get you an upgrade to the ocean view room? Would that be worth your consideration?”
Honestly (or any variation of “honestly” like truthfully or seriously or frankly) get tossed around so frequently in sales. It gives the impression that you aren’t honest in general. Why else would you need to add that disclaimer? “Honestly,” it’s better to remove it altogether 😉 – see…this stuff is HARD. – We use these filler words so often that we don’t even realize we are doing it. Yet, these words leave a lasting negative impression in their wake.
“I Feel Like”
I hear millennial agents falling into this trap of offering up their “feels” when consulting. It sounds something like this, “Barb and Floyd, I feel like this itinerary is the best fit for the two of you.” Again, these are throwaway words that weaken your position. When it comes down to it, Barb and Floyd probably don’t really care how we feel unless we plan on paying for their holiday.
I feel like you could sound so much more confident with your consulting if you stuck to the facts and removed your feelings about anything.
True story…while writing this piece, I found myself using “obviously” several times. I had no idea I even used this word so frequently, but obviously, I do. Come to think of it, this article is turning out to be more of a personal cry for help to yours truly than to anyone else, but if you can get something out of it as a bonus then…👏👏👏
What is often obvious to us, because we work in this business and deal with travel all day long, is not obvious to our clients. Small innocuous sayings like…” well, obviously you’ll need a visa for Vietnam” is often not obvious to our clients.
Or “ obviously, we are dealing with a time zone change.”
Or how about, “Well, obviously, the booking fee is not included.”
If you don’t work in the travel industry or have acquired the super-elite status on your frequent flyer program, most of what we consult on is not obvious. The last thing you want to do is make your client feel stupid. They need to relate to you and trust you like a friend. So we need to be careful with this one because often, we don’t even know we are using the word – it’s almost like a nervous tic.
It’s the value of their investment, not the price or cost. One could argue that a two-week cruise is not an investment technically, but in the world of using positive marketing spins…it sure is. A honeymoon is an “investment” into a couple’s future lives together.
The amount someone spends on insurance for a trip is an investment in their piece of mind. You can’t book a price tag on that after all.
“Hopefully, Maybe, Perhaps”
Again, these are simply filler words that need to be removed from our speech. Replace, “I hope so,” with “I am confident that…” Nobody is expecting you to be Kreskin. (a clairvoyant who became a famous TV celebrity in the 1970s for those unfamiliar with the reference.)
And like hopefully, maybe and perhaps, a close relative is the phrase, “I think.” This, too, shows a lack of confidence. You either know, or you don’t know, and if you don’t know, you’d better find out. This is what your clients are paying you for. When asked…” Is that the best cruise ship we can book for our budget.” I’ve heard agents respond, “well, I think so. I haven’t been on it myself, but I’ve heard.”
Ugh…no, no, no.
If it’s not the best cruise for the client’s budget, then sell them the one that is. Sadly, nobody really cares what we “think.” They are after what we “know.”
“Free, Cheap, Inexpensive”
Any word that sounds like it could save me a buck is like flypaper to me. You might think that’s a good thing, but I am not your ideal client. I am a self-identified cheapskate – not with others…just with myself. I can stretch a penny like there is no tomorrow, but that’s a story for another day.
If you use words like “Free, cheap and inexpensive” in your marketing, you will probably attract people like me. And that’s not what you want.
Complimentary or value-added sounds a bit more Emily-Post-worthy. I explore this topic of selling to a luxury market more in-depth in my article…” Overcoming Your Limiting Beliefs When Selling Luxury Travel.”
And probably more to all my fellow Canadian agents out there, even though we pour our apologies out as freely as shots of Jägermeister at a bachelorette party…we must resist the urge to use apologetic language when we sell.
Don’t say,” I’m sorry; I wasn’t able to get that room category you wanted.” Or, “I’m sorry that the price has since jumped $200 per person since we last spoke”…Never apologize for things you can’t control. It makes it appear as if you could have controlled them. You can empathize with your client, and in fact, you should, but don’t apologize.
Better would be to phrase things in this way…” I can appreciate that you and Floyd weren’t ready to make the decision two days ago. Spending 20K on a holiday is a big deal. And now the price has gone up by $200 per person, but the good news is, we can secure the booking today to avoid any further price hikes.”
Empathy goes a long way when delivering bad news to a client but be careful not to take ownership in your attempt to sound empathetic. We don’t want to come across as sounding guilty.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t apologize if you indeed made an error. Failing to do so could also have catastrophic consequences on future sales and your reputation. By all means, if you’ve made an error, own it. Most people will offer up their forgiveness willingly if the offender is transparent and repentant.
Honestly, If you got nothing from this article, I’m sorry about that. Obviously, that wasn’t my intent. I just wanted to offer up free advice because I feel like that’s important to build trust so that hopefully you’ll be willing to pay any price I suggest once I launch my travel industry courses. Seriously, I think you’ll find them useful – if you’ll only just give them a chance. 😉
For a limited time, I am offering complimentary 30-minute coaching sessions for anyone who is either currently in the travel business looking to uplevel their results; for former travel professionals who lost their job as a result of COVID-19 and are wondering where to next; or for anyone who has never worked in the travel industry but are looking for new career opportunities and need advice –Schedule Appointment