ne of the seminars at the Travel
Agents of the Carolinas meeting in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this year
was led by Cruise Lines International Association instructor Bob
Kwortnik. The topic: Selling to Special Interests/Niche Markets.
Kwortnik first defined "niche" as a market that encompasses a
group of consumers sharing similar interests, needs and purchasing
patterns. He said the biggest benefit of being a niche specialist
was making more money, because niche clients spend more.
He emphasized the following primary selling skills: putting
clients at ease at the outset, being enthusiastic and spending the
time to qualify clients because "the more you know about a person,
the less you have to 'sell' them."
A must for Kwortnik is asking clients open-ended questions.
Sample questions are: Why did you decide to take this trip?
What's the best travel experience you ever had and why? If money
were no object, what would you like to do? What do you enjoy doing
in your leisure time? What kind of hotels do you prefer?
In addition, he said, agents cannot sell only the products they
like. "Travel agents tend to put their set of qualities on a
client," he said. "Remember, it's not your job to recommend but to
assist in the purchasing decision."
"It's also important for agents to pay attention to the way
clients communicate and use that style, whether it be visual,
auditory or kinesthetic [relating to touch]."
After reviewing what the client says he or she is looking for in
a trip, he said, the agent should sell the concept of the
experience as opposed to the product itself.
"Remember that you sell emotions, not things. All too often we
sell features and not the benefits of buying a particular product
and visiting a specific destination," he said.
In order to hone in on a specific product, Kwortnik suggested
not showing more than two brochures at a time and not answering
more than two questions before asking one of your own.
He concluded with tips on closing the sale. One option is the
"trial close," in which agents ask clients what they think of the
In the "choice close," agents ask clients which options they
prefer. In the "direct close," agents state that the cruise line
requires a deposit and ask how the clients would like to pay.
In the "assumptive close," agents should say, "It seems like
you're very interested in what we've been discussing; let me check
on availability." The "scarcity close" emphasizes the need to make
reservations to ensure the preferred type of accommodations at the
Finally, Kwortnik advised, keep in touch with your clients. "You
will lose 25% of your clients if you don't pick up the phone and
remain in contact with them."
-- Michele SanFilippo
he Institute of Certified
Travel Agents will hold its next educational program for certified
travel counselor or certified travel associate designations at the
Marriott City Centre in Salt Lake City, June 7 to 9.
ICTA employs an "immersion program" that takes CTC and CTA
"students" away from the distractions of home or office for an
intensive, two-day course of study.
Other program destinations this year include the Doubletree
Nashville, Aug. 16 to 18, and a Holland America cruise ship sailing
the western coast of the U.S., sometime this fall.
The dates and
the name of the ship have not been announced.
The program employs instruction by ICTA staff members and a
regimen of self-study and group interaction along with learning
exercises and games that get participants to reflect on trends in
The immersion program has proven popular since its inception in
June 1998, and last year's sessions were sold out, according to a
spokesman for the institute's education department. Its success,
she said, derives from combining "the flexibility of self-study
with the dynamics of group interaction and the exchange of
The cost of the program is $195, which covers the workshop, the
course materials, the CTC or CTA exam and all meals during the two
days. ARC provides scholarships covering the cost of the program
for eligible candidates.
Accommodations are not included, but participants may receive
reduced rates for their hotel stay, the spokesman said. Air fare
and flight arrangements also are not included.
For more information about the program or the requirements for
an ARC scholarship, contact Michelle Kierce at (800) 542-4282, Ext.
140, or visit ICTA's Web site at www.icta.com.
Breaking the rules
ith 21st century technology,
communication has become as easy as breathing. Too easy, perhaps.
It was bad enough in the "old days" when a job seeker typed his or
her resume on company letterhead, or, even worse, the "Thank you
for your time" note.
Today, using company e-mail is the equivalent and it, too, is a
major faux pas.
Prospective employers are not just turned off -- they back away
from a potential employee who may use their supplies and/or time to
further his/her career (Or, at least, a prospective employer should
think twice about these issues).
person who job hunts on company e-mail also going to send out
personal holiday cards in company envelopes with company postage?
Just how much personal business will be conducted on company time
or subsidized by the company?
Most larger companies, such as the Fortune 500, have rules
against this sort of conduct. They are included in the published
rules & regulations of employee handbooks, and most employees
have to sign a statement to the effect that they accept these rules
and they understand breaking these rules may cause dismissal from
Recently, we had a candidate who was with his firm for seven
years. He told us he was fired because he violated the company's
e-mail rules. He had sent a "no-no" joke to someone in the company
His former employer monitors e-mails and he was fired. When we
called his references, every supervisor he had said, "He was
great." But he was fired. We have tried to assist him, but we have
to tell our company clients why he was terminated, and this causes
Is there any time when it is acceptable to use e-mail for
personal use on company time (especially with a company e-mail
address)? The answer is no.
In my office, our staff puts money into the "kitty" when they
use our postage machine for personal mail. That's how it should
After all, the company has to pay for the postage; why would an
employee be entitled to it for nothing? Unless, of course, a
company provides it as a perk, this use of company supplies is not
I surely wouldn't hire someone who sends his or her information
on the current employer's letterhead or company e-mail. That is not
the type of employee I want.
P. Jason King is president of Yours in Travel Personnel
Agency Inc., a nationwide travel industry recruitment source based
in New York. Visit the Web site at www.yoursintravel.com.