Fundamentals of selling

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."

The Travel Agents of the Carolinas conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C., earlier this year featured several education-packed seminars. 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 choices discussed.

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 current price.

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

Immersion-based learning

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.

ICTA logo.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 industry.

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 ideas."

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).

P. Jason King.Is the 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 the firm.

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 via e-mail.

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 a problem.

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 be.

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 acceptable.

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.

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