Seth Godin warned when you compete on price; it’s just a race to the bottom. Yet I see it happen all the time, especially in the travel industry. If you work in this biz, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t blame our clients for wanting to get the most out of their dollar. You and I are no different, and this industry has taught people that if they wait around or ask enough times, the price seems to drop magically. So why not ask the question?
I’ve heard so many stories from my travel advisor friends of situations where a client took their quote down the street and had it price matched – Or they found a similar deal with a big box store at $1000 cheaper.
I don’t know about you, but I know better than waltz into the Apple store and declare that I’d like the newest 15” MacBook Pro, and I’d like a 25% discount. I’m pretty sure all of those blue, T-shirted Apple geeks would have a field day at my audacity. Everybody knows that Apple doesn’t give discounts. I mean…you could buy a refurbished Apple product but let’s be serious, nobody wants that. We want the latest, greatest Apple product on the market, and we know, without even asking, that we will have to pay top dollar. And we do it because there is perceived value in Apple products.
Yet in the travel business, we’ve created this environment where people expect that the price can always be negotiated. Heck, my Uncle Bill and Aunt Ethel went to Punta Cana last weekend, all-you-can-eat and drink for $399. It costs me more money to stay at home than pay those prices. Nevermind the fact that Uncle Bill hasn’t left the latrine in the past 48 hours, but those are just small details that add colour to the story.
The hard truth is, if closing a sale comes down to whether or not you discount your prices to get the booking, then you didn’t effectively communicate your value in the first place. We all need to be more like Apple.
You want to be in a situation where you are providing so much value that your clients would never dream of asking you for a discount because, like Apple, your services are unmatched, and they are willing to pay for them.
“Well, how do you do that” becomes the question.
Resist the urge to be an order taker
This is a tough one to break because it is easy to simply sit back, take notes and then place the order. And it happens all the time. Generally speaking, by the time most clients have decided to take a vacation, they have already been planning for some time. They’ve been researching the internet. They’ve been combing through Facebook communities. They have a stack of dog-eared Travel & Leisure magazines on their nightstand. However, most people are a wee bit afraid of booking things online. So, they reach out to find a trusty travel advisor, with their vacation wishes in hand, ready to book.
Now here’s where things get tricky. If you book each service just as requested, offering no recommendations or suggestions than what they could have found on the internet themselves, what value have you provided? The chances of a less than friendly game of tug of war over price matching become a sad reality. To the average client, they think, heck, I did all the work. Why shouldn’t I ask for a discount? OR, they feel no obligation to stick it out with you when an e-blast from a competitor hits their inbox, offering a $10 rebate the following week.
Don’t fall into the order-taking trap.
Ask the right questions
Your first consultation with a client is the most important. It’s where you will showcase to your client how much value you can offer.
There are two things that you will always have over the internet – expertise and connection. In the first consultation, you have to nail this down. First impressions are everything.
Ideally, your clients will come to you through your various marketing efforts. Better yet, they’ll come through your email list where you have already laid the foundation of the type of travel advisor you are. This is a huge part of the battle. The connection and expertise will already somewhat be built. But some clients may come to you completely cold – meaning, they are not on your email list and don’t know anything about you.
Either way, this first consultation can make or break the rest of the booking process. A lot is riding on it. You should have a list of open-ended qualifying questions that you ask that will help you tailor the perfect travel arrangements to their desires. What did they love about their last vacation? What drove them nuts? Why have they chosen a specific destination in the first place? Ask, ask, and ask. It’s the nuances about your client that you pick up in that initial consultation that will help you customize a holiday that they just won’t find on the internet.
It’s in asking these questions that you begin to establish the trust factor and a rapport with your client. The more you know about them, the better equipped you are to offer suggestions that they probably hadn’t thought of themselves.
And bingo…now, you are a perceived asset.
They will begin to feel as though you’ve got their back and that you listen. And once you have the qualifying questions completed, you’ll have enough info to secure yourself firmly behind the car’s steering wheel. This is critical. If the client believes that they are in the driver’s seat, you are negotiating from a position of weakness, and even if you keep the booking, it’s likely going to be fraught with issues.
Become an expert in your field
I talk about this a lot throughout many of my posts. And that’s because it’s just so important. Realistically, it’s challenging to be able to offer expert advice when you aren’t an expert. When you play a generalist role, a Jack of all Trades, you become no more knowledgeable than the average client. That’s a tough position from which to build confidence. Not to mention that Bill and Ethel have already been researching their destination for at least a few months. They already have an advantage. You have to be able to offer them some sort of insight that they hadn’t thought of themselves. They begin to think…hey…this woman knows her stuff. We feel good about working with her.
Be sure you are attracting the right client in the first place
Let’s back up a wee bit. There are always going to be the people out there that, no matter what will always value discounts over quality. You know the type. They’ll wake up at 6 AM to stand in line on Black Tuesday to get 15% off last year’s television, which is about to be discontinued due to lack of sales. But 15% is 15%, they think. These are the same people who will respond to marketing that shouts, “We’ll Beat Any Price!” They love the words FREE, CHEAP, DISCOUNT, SALE – they are drawn to them like flies to flypaper. So my advice is to stop decorating your online office with flypaper, even if it’s “on special.” These aren’t the clients you want, so don’t use these words in any of your advertising to attract them. Yes, those words may get the phones to ring, but you aren’t a telephone operator or a helpline. You’ll find yourself chasing your tail, and there is little to no loyalty in that game.
These are the same people who will take the cheapest room in the hotel to save themselves five bucks and then call you at 3 AM to tell you that they got the cheapest room in the hotel and can’t you do something about it? Forgettaboutit. Those aren’t the clients that are your kind of client.
Offer unparalleled value
Be the exception. So many people in the service industry do a good job. They go home at night, have dinner with their loved ones, tuck their kids into bed, and think, yeah… I did a good job today. However, it’s the exceptional person that goes above and beyond. They are always offering more in value than they expect to be paid in return. I highly recommend reading “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg. He details the five rules of success.
And the first rule is the “Law of Value.”
When you offer exceptional value, people rarely question the price.
Be like Apple
You are worth every penny, and as such, not only do you not offer discounts, but you charge booking fees. That’s the price of entry to get your level of expertise and the privilege of booking with you.
By this point, you’ve completed the initial consultation. You’ve asked all the right questions. You’ve built rapport. It’s time for you to walk your client through the bookings fees and what those fees represent in value. You can set your booking fees up in a variety of ways. I will go over this in more detail in next week’s post. It’s important to charge them. You are worth it. And once you accept that as truth, believe it to its core, so will your client.
If you found this article helpful, why not share it with a friend? The benefits of competing on value over price are not specific to the travel industry. Don’t we all know people who struggle with price objections?