Laura Del Rosso
Laura Del Rosso

When selling cruises, don't make assumptions about what's appropriate for clients or about a cruise line's current onboard demographic because you might lose an opportunity for a more profitable sale and a good product match for your clients, said Craig Satterfield, a veteran cruise agent who recently published his how-to book for travel agents.

"I think we have all made an assumption about a travel product to later find out we were totally off the mark," he writes in "Confessions From the Cruise Scholar." Agents often hear from other agents about a cruise product being a party ship or one that's appropriate only for seniors, he said. Or you may assume that your clients are on a tight budget and can afford only the least expensive cruise.

In both cases, you could be wrong. A cruise line that had a reputation for drawing seniors may have radically changed its onboard focus to include features for families. Agents can make assumptions about a new clients' wealth only to find out later that they could easily afford an expensive vacation, he said.

"Assumptions can be costly to you by making an assumption that nobody would want a particular cruise or resort only to lose the customer to another agent who keeps an open mind and has prequalified the potential client better than you," Satterfield said.

Research into current cruise products and not relying on other people's assumptions about those products is critical, Satterfield said. That doesn't mean knowing the size of the cabins or how many swimming pools and restaurants are available.

"When I get a chance to do ship inspections, I don't run around measuring the dimensions of the Grand Suite," he said. "I like to sit in the atrium area and watch as the paying guests board the ship. You can learn a lot from this simple observation."

Satterfield watches as staff members greet guests and how many remember returning guests by name. He observes how some lines greet guests at the dining room door, escort them to their table and offer after-dinner mints or candied ginger as they exit the dining room.

Don't plan to know every detail of every ship sailing in the world, he said. It's too tough a task. Start with ships and lines that are your preferred suppliers and your favorites and learn them intimately, focusing on the special touches that make them stand out.

When your clients return from a cruise they will likely rave about some aspect the experience, typically a friendly bartender or a great waiter. It's rarely about the swimming pools or the hardware of the ship that the lines often tout to set themselves apart from the competition, Satterfield said.

That's why it's important to understand cruise products and how they have evolved and changed, rather than relying on assumptions, he said. A cruise line that was known as a party line for young people may no longer have that focus just as a client who once enjoyed only taking those party cruises may be ready for a luxury product, Satterfield said.

"The idea of stereotyping, that is to make generalizations regarding the reputation of cruise lines and individual ships can be very dangerous to your business health. Making an assumption about the worthiness of a new client is even more so."

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