Couple kissing under the bridge
Q – How do I keep people from taking advantage of my free advice and then booking their travel through an online website?

“One of my biggest frustrations as a travel agent is getting on the phone with a bride or groom and giving them great tips for their honeymoon, and then they don’t book with me! They go online and book the trip themselves.

How can I keep these “looky-loos” from wasting my time?”

A – Set limits on your time and attention and win them over with a firsthand experience.

This is a tricky balancing act. On one hand, the best way to prove your value is to give people a firsthand experience of what it’s like to work with you. On the other hand, your expert advice is part of what you’re selling, and if you give it away they may take it and run.

Here are some ways to book more without wasting your precious time.

1. Qualify and filter your leads right away.

The first thing to remember: not all leads are created equal.

Not everyone is going to book their honeymoon or wedding destination travel through an agent. There are plenty of people who’d just as soon do the research themselves and go the Travelocity route.

You need to know who your ideal clients are and identify them FAST before you invest time in a lost cause.

Who are your ideal clients? What questions can you ask that will immediately identify them?

Build this into a pre-consultation questionnaire or ask them immediately when you get them on the phone. This allows you to sift out the ones you don’t want right away.

2. Create an informational report or video to win them over without investing your time.

You could get on the phone with every person who contacts you and share just enough of your expertise to get them interested, but might take HOURS of your time.

Instead, put together an informational report with your best tips to demonstrate your expertise to potential clients. For example, if you specialize in destination wedding travel to Cancun, write a report called, “7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Wedding in Cancun.” Make it available to couples on your website in exchange for their name and email address, so you have permission to follow up with them.

Invest your time into making the report ONCE and then use it repeatedly to build a relationship with clients, no extra time necessary.

3. Craft a winning sales pitch.

Most travel agents let the client control the conversation by simply answering their questions, which usually revolve around price and features. This keeps them focused on price and does nothing to demonstrate the real benefits of working with a travel professional.

You need to be the one asking them strategic questions that position you as an expert and allow you to gather the information you need to craft the perfect sales pitch for each client.  In particular, make sure you ask questions that reveal the hidden pitfalls of not dealing with an agent.

The steps goes something like this:

  • Ask questions to reveal what the bride or groom wants and doesn’t want.
  • Feedback those responses exactly so that they know you understand.
  • Make a recommendation based on what they’ve told you.
  • Give them an incentive to book TODAY.

Practice this conversational flow until it’s easy and natural. Then guide the people who contact you to the natural conclusion: booking their travel with you.

4. Add a limited time offer incentive to speed up the booking.

The more time that passes after your communication with the bride or groom, they less likely they are to book with you.

Give them an incentive to book TODAY so they don’t shop around for cheaper travel options.

An example might be an extra discount when they book within 24 hours, or a free bonus that expires. Don’t forget to tell them that you can only guarantee these travel prices right now; that’s legitimate scarcity that encourages them to snap up the deals while they can.

5. Charge a retainer fee for your services (but don’t call it that!)

Some travel agents are able to successfully weed through the couples who are only looking for freebies by charging a consultation fee. Oftentimes this “service fee” can be applied to the booking charges afterward.

Here’s the challenge: charging people for a consultation will significantly reduce the number of leads you connect with, which makes it harder to increase your bookings.

Charging a retainer or consultation fee is a great way to increase the quality of your leads and avoid wasting your time, but don’t call it a retainer or service fee! To a bride or groom, that’s code for, “wedding markup” and it sounds like a rip off.

Instead, create a high value name for your consultation and list the benefits they can expect at the end. It needs to be a consultation that sounds valuable to the couple and gives them specific results.

Here’s an example of a high-value consultation you might offer your potential clients…

Your “Destination Wedding Romance Consultation” includes:

  • 7 question “Find Your Perfect Location” quiz to identify the perfect destination for your wedding style and personality
  • 30 minute telephone or skype consultation to determine your travel needs and a customized venue profile
  • Travel Romance Analysis: 3 best match venues based on your style and budget
  • You’ll come away with an action plan for your perfect destination wedding location.

Regular price = $500 / Only $50 today (May be applied to the travel booking of your choice)

Do you see how we boosted the value with a compelling name and description? (And I know nothing about destination travel!) This way you get paid for your time and have the best chance to get the booking.

How do you deal with competition from travel websites?

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