How consumers view commissions could cost sales

MIAMI -- Earning commissions may be counterproductive if consumers view commissions as a conflict of interest, a speaker told agents at Cruisefest here.

At a seminar on "Thriving in a Zero Commission World," Nolan Burris, president of Visionistics Enterprises, said agents shouldn't be afraid to go commission-free -- on all products -- and charge a fee for their services.

Burris suggested setting out a menu that explains, in detail, what the customer gets for the fee. This arrangement sends the signal that the agent is working for the client and eliminates any lingering doubts about the agent's loyalties.

Burris, a former travel agent, urged agents to think: "I can sell the pants off any agency in town, because [other agencies] get paid to find a higher price."

Agents who do work on commission should strike preferred supplier deals and tell clients about them, Burris said.

"Examine every decision from the customers' point of view," he said.

As for setting fee levels, Burris said the key is for agents to know their costs per transaction by product type, and their break-even point.

One agent at the seminar, Dan Gordon, manager of Morris Travel in Augusta, Ga., agreed, "We have to start charging what we're worth."

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