Israel: Selling

Selling what you love is the key to doing it well, according to Pearl Lang of Cleveland Travel in Boston.

"I started selling Israel after living there for three years," she says. That was 12 years ago, and she has been sending clients there ever since.

She began with Cleveland Travel three years ago and now is the in-house expert in tours to the Holy Land.

Knowing the destination thoroughly is the first critical step to an initial sale, she says, and success leads to happy clients coming back. "I know Israel very well and have developed a personal following of first-time and return visitors," she says.

The next step, especially with returnees, should be to look for clients' particular interests and to zero in for individualized treatment, she says.

Keeping information updated is the next step, Lang says, so she goes to Israel about once a year.

Local advertising seems to work, so her firm is currently running ads in the local Jewish newspaper for a Unitours (800-621-0557) plan that honors Israel's 50th birthday.

Knowing that honesty is the best policy, Joanne Skehan of Adventure Travel Superstore tells all her clients that her own acquaintance with her dream destination started with a nightmare.

After six years in the business, she decided to go on a Tal Tours fam trip to Israel only to face warnings from people close to her about it being a dangerous trip.

"I fought with my family and friends who said I shouldn't go," she remembers, and faced an interrogation by an El Al security guard that scared her into almost turning back. But once she arrived, she found "everyone takes care of you; they all made us feel protected."

She shares the story because it's important to hit the security subject head on. "The number one thing people want is to feel safe," she says.

"They need to be more prepared for security procedures. They need to say, 'Thank God [Israelis] are that thorough. That protects all of us.'"

Then she assures them, "You will find more concern about security and protection in Israel than anywhere else in the world, and that balances out the threats."

After addressing security, Skehan says, "clients need details explained" by the agent. "Show them printed itineraries and pictures of hotels and motorcoaches," she says.

Then "share your own experiences. People want to know if it's really possible to float in the Dead Sea or to be pampered at its spas or to visit the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered."

Skehan, part owner of her agency, is organizing her first groups to Israel, one from the Fraternal Order of Police and another of Seventh Day Adventists, and finds that the enthusiasm with which she remembers her experiences easily convinces people.

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