No matter how much you know about your destination or tourism product, you need sales skills to bring in new business and turn the meetings you’ll have at IPW into revenue streams for your company.
Some people look at the phone as if it’s an anchor - a heavy object that is dreadful to pick up. For some, you’d think they were being forced into a pit of snakes fear factor when faced with these one-on-one micro meetings we see at trade shows. Both of these reactions revolve around the fear of rejection. Granted, note too many people are brave enough to willingly put themselves in a position to be rejected (repeatedly). However, those who do will find all sorts of long-term rewards for enduring the temporary pain.
With the right attitude and by paying close attention to what happens, each rejection becomes a learning experience. You’ll learn what not to say, when not to approach. The key here is to turn these around so you can master what to say and when to approach. With each rejection, take a quick moment to analyze the situation so that you can benefit from it. Rather than letting a bad meeting ruin your next, you should be saying, “Well, that didn’t work. What’s a better way to say it next time?”
With a bit of finesse, you’ll soon find those 6, 7, 10 and 20 minute meetings more productive and you’ll experience fewer rejections. To save you some time on this learning curve, here are eight points you (and your tourism representation team) need to consider before you get to IPW or the next trade show you’ll be attending.
Work on the greeting. Don’t just launch into your pitch without taking a breath or allowing the travel trade buyer a chance to participate. Your greeting should err on the side of formality. Start with something like, “Good morning, Ms. Smith.” Everyone else is saying, “Hello.” You can be different, professional and distinctive.
Introduce yourself and your company. “My name is Steve from Fire Starter Brands. We represent a number of destinations and products that your guests will love.” We’re not getting too specific and I’m not spilling the beans on the product details yet. This ‘tease’ invites the operator or product manager to lean in and listen more closely to the information you’re about to share. Curiosity is your ally here and it prevents the buyer from shutting down the conversation with “No thanks. We don’t go there” or “We’re happy with what we’ve got” before you even get started
Express gratitude. Take a moment to thank the prospect for giving you their time and attention, especially when you know they’ve got 100+ appointments back-to-back at IPW. Let them know that you’re not going to waste their time. “I appreciate you making the time for me.” People are more likely to pay attention and trust the supplier who values their time as opposed to the person who wants to “take a moment to talk about…”
State your purpose. Better yet, do this in the form of a question. “If I can show you a way to (make your trip more profitable, get better online reviews, get more repeat business, save $x), would you be interested in learning more? This is very likely to get a yes response. At this point, you’ve already created an opportunity and you’ve gotten their permission to provide additional information. You’re not selling your destination or tourism product yet — you’re selling what that product can do for the buyer.
Schedule the next step. Ask the buyer what they recommend as your next steps and when you should be reconnecting with them. Try something like, “I’ll be sending some sample itineraries and marketing support materials as soon as I’m back in the office. Would it be ok to call in a couple weeks to get started on the API connections?”
Give the alternative-of-choice question. If you’re there at the show and there are plenty of networking events, give the buyer a couple options to spend more time with you and build that relationship. Offer them a couple options, “Ms. Jones, would you like to meet for breakfast tomorrow to hash out the details? Or would it be better to meet for a cocktail before tonight’s event?” Notice, you didn’t say “when can we meet?” When you provide the prospect with the alternative of choice, you take control of the next steps. Note: asking for an odd hour reconnect gets you noticed. There’s something to be said for planning a 2:15 meeting as opposed to a 2 o’clock call that shows that you’re punctual and that you respect the prospect’s time.
Thank them for their time and, in advance, for the next call. Reconfirm the date and time of your next appointment or the timeline for your follow up. If you need directions or their contact details, ask for them. Let the prospect know how much preparation you’ll be doing to make that call the best use of the time you share. Give your contact information by saying, “If anything else comes to mind that I should be aware of prior to our meeting, call me at 646.736.1305 x101.”
Follow up. If your next steps are more than a couple days in the future, send a letter of confirmation immediately. Yes, a printed letter - very few people do this now and it really stands out. If the meeting is tomorrow, send an email confirmation. Keep it short and upbeat.
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About the Author…
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches millions of travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of over 6,000 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising, teaching and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.