By: Stuart Ellis-Meyers
I love everything America Outdoors!
After speaking for you all at no less than three amazing America Outdoor conferences, I truly love, respect and admire everything AO! I love the way that all AO members truly care and are expert enthusiasts who have found a way to live and professionally work within your personal passion for the great outdoors. You are truly the gateway to people to enjoy priceless outdoor vacation experiences that without your guidance and resources would be impossible to find.
Do you remember how your business started? I remember starting off mine in my bedroom. That was 16 years ago. I made the choice to rise every day early at 6am (here on the Westcoast) and cold call through to 5pm. Then emailed and made follow up to re-contact notes and proposals with interested prospects well past midnight. I lost 17lbs during that process choosing rarely to eat because I was single minded and 100% mission focused on starting my own speaker business. After making 1,100 ‘cold calls’ everything started to warm up. The law of chaos and probability math i.e. the more contacts you make the more success you will have – worked to my advantage as any natural law does. In this case I focused the power of attraction through massive new contact work. I started my business in April selling 18 hours a day. The result by year one was $ 60,000.00 in profit.
One of my clients was a large multinational tour operator where they sent me off to training up well over 150 of their reservation agents situated in 3 different locations across North America. The work exceeded all expectations because we made the training all about celebrating each of their central reservation sales agent teams sharing how each could grow their sales using honesty, integrity and truth. Once the ink had dried on that contract I asked Doris to marry me and she said yes. 16 years later I am still living the dream of being married to the girl of my dreams while speaking at now 800 conferences and special events as far away as Australia and recently Paris, France.
I also found out very early in my tourism sales career when working in salaried positions that candidly most reservation call centers were choosing to put their priority into (1) reservation accuracy/quality control & (2) how to use and keep up with a constant reservation software updates. All too often the majority of agents received little or no concept or formal training in sales communication. The result was one agent would lazily burn through 100 calls a day to order take generate 10 sales while someone else was taking 34 calls and closing 17 of them.
So here are three instantly usable insights that you can use to immediately increase your current average central reservations sales agent sales performance by 23%
AO CENTRAL RESERVATION SALES MASTERY ACTIONS
Action # 1
First Impressions & Local Strengths & Weaknesses’ Competition Analysis
Have someone ‘not known’ get on a speaker phone to call into your competition and act as a potential client. Record the call with your smart phone. Measure the first welcoming or not so welcoming impression response as they answer the call. Once you get through the phone system prompts emotionally measure the level of enthusiasm or boredom in their voice. I worked a pre-conference project for a well-known retail travel group where I did this exact work. The responses I recorded were surprisingly communicating ‘ho-hum’ boredom and responses such as ‘I am a little busy can I call you right back’! I also found in many cases retail travel agents has failed to realize through constant phone answering how their voice over time and repetition had become dull, lifeless and sounded more like an onboard United Airlines attended flatly saying words like ‘welcome onboard’ sounding more like ‘welcome I am board’!
1. Get your reservation agents together and play back some of these recordings of your competition. This is a no-lose situation. If you find a great competing agent response, ask your people to emulate this in their own unique way. If another competing recording agent sounds flat and disinterested or in some way blatantly ruins the call with mediocrity, then once again playing such a recording to your people can be a revelation on what to focus on and what to avoid.
This might sound very basis but think about this. You spend a ton of money and hard marketing/service experience work to make your central reservations phones ring. You put on pre-sales specials and do everything you can all year round to optimize your social marketing and web offerings. Then at some point in the selling cycle a potential client calls in to your shop while shopping around to your competition. Ask yourself… what is our first impression on the phone like?
2. Task your reservations manager and lead agent with the focused and measurable responsibility of also being your company’s Director of First Impressions. All they have to do is to spend 10 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon to stop, get away from their office and listen in to how the phones are being answered throughout the day. Tragically I have seen too many reservation managers who are completely unaware of how some of their people are wonderfully voice representing their organization while the agent in the next cubicle is being monotone and without knowing sounding completely bored!
Action # 2
The Bonnie Effect
Mission! Focus on getting the next appointment
Direct in the field research reveals that most senior and new hire agents have no chosen mission when answering a call. Without seasoned sales training most agents end up ‘order taking’ by answering caller questions and ultimately letting the prospect go without getting any type of commitment. I worked with one top selling reservation agent who out of a 1-800 team of 38 agents was always in the top 10% of all sales production. She was not popular, disliked and positively narcissistic! Here is her secret that I was able to reverse engineer by simply listening in on her calls.
While just about every other agent was OK with letting a ‘shopping – I am not sure’ type of client go Bonnie would always and I mean always ask for the next meeting. She would capture all of the order taking details i.e. number of people, date(s) etc and then she would simply ask and get permission confirmation for her to call the prospect back in the next 4 to 5 days. Bonnie would say’ may I suggest that you speak to everyone else going on the trip? I have secured space for you on a tentative basis – how about we speak again Monday or Wednesday next week. How does 10am or 2pm work for you?
This one follow up step accomplished the following for Bonnie:
- she received a confirmation of qualified interest with caller, because those that were truly not interested would not accept a follow up call commitment
- she was able to confirm and get past the order taking details and instead focus on finding out who the group decision makers were
- gave the caller a short space of time to make this travel/vacation decision a priority
Because of Bonnie’s Mission and focus – every day she walked into work knowing that she had at least 6 hot prospect appointments. While every other agent was starting their day with no appointments they had to resort to hoping that they received goods calls of interest from the 1-800 queue system.
Last words. We showed the client how Bonnie was closing more than 80% of her appointed clients. As a result, their reservation call center team adopted Bonnie’s approach. Within 3 months Bonnie had a way tougher time being the number one sales achiever!
Inspirational Keynote Mental Health Speaker Living with Tourette Syndrome
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