Expert Tips on Closing the Sale

The art of selling travel is one that takes time to master. Agents must be devoted to researching destinations, building contacts, and earning their clients' trust. But what about those final few minutes—is there something you say or do to ensure that you'll close the deal and make the sale?

We asked the pros for their best advice: What's your deal clincher? What are your tips on turning lookers into bookers?

 Pascale Gherardi reminds agents to respond immediately to clients

Joan McCarty

Specialty Travel Inc. St. Petersburg, FL

"Since most of my clients book their cruises 12 to 18 months prior to the actual travel date, I close the sale by offering our EZ PAY PLAN," says Joan McCarty, owner of Specialty Travel Inc. in St. Petersburg, FL.

Audrey Hulsey says to always follow up with a call to your prospective clients

"Basically what it amounts to is monthly payments that we automatically charge to their credit cards," she says. "By allowing them to pay off their bill this way, we become a part of their budget and before you know it, their second trip is under deposit before they have actually taken their first trip. It has worked like a dream for many years now."

Linda Farina

Denlin Travel Parsippany, NJ

"Basically, I just try to make sure I find them the best deal out there," says Linda Farina of Denlin Travel in Parsippany, NJ. She does this "by checking everything possible, and then letting them know why I think the trip they are booking or looking at is good for them.

"And if I don't think it's good for them," Farina adds, "I tell them why and suggest something they might like better. I always assure them I will check all of my resources and encourage them to contact me if they think they find a better deal or would like to do something else. I guess keeping the lines of communication open with the client and really listening to them is the most important thing for me."

Audrey Hulsey

Pegasus Travel Omaha, NE

Audrey Hulsey of Pegasus Travel/American Express in Omaha, Nebraska, says to always follow up.

"I do a lot of repeat business, so usually when someone comes in, I know they are going to book a vacation," says Hulsey. "But the one thing I have always done is follow up with a call.

"Whenever you meet with someone," she explains, "find out what they are looking for and tell them exactly what they should do. When someone is interested in a destination, tell them how they should spend their vacation—and have plenty of back-up suggestions, differently priced hotels, et cetera," she says. "If you show a potential client that you know enough about where you are sending them, you will close the deal before they leave."

And if not? "If not," she says, "make that follow-up phone call. It's scary that there actually aren't a lot of agents who call their potential clients up after a meeting."

Vickie Baehner

The Travel Store Brentwood, CA

Part of getting any desired result often depends on how the process is begun. Vickie Baehner, independent sales, The Travel Store, Brentwood, CA, makes a point of answering every e-mail inquiry promptly. And how fast is that?

"I try to get back to them right away with five or six pertinent questions," she says. "This tends to bring them in and shows them I have some expertise in the area they're interested in."

Baehner specializes in wine travel and Tahiti. "One of the most important things is to be enthused about what the client is interested in," says Baehner. "This forms a bond with the client."

She doesn't like to hard sell her clients or discount her bookings to get her clients to commit to the sale, although she'll sometimes use availability and scarcity to seal the deal. Her preferred method: "Narrowing down questions really helps—the faster you get to the point where you and your clients understand what it is they really want, then they can hardly say no."

Pascale Gherardi

Voyage by Pascale New York City

Suppliers have their tactics as well—ones that with a little tweaking could be useful for agents, too.

"I like to suggest a conference call with the client and the agent," says Pascale Gherardi, formerly of Island Destinations, and now the owner of Voyage by Pascale in New York, which only works with travel agents.

"Sometimes when agents are not familiar with the property, it really helps when closing the sale," she says. "I always give them some tips about the hotel or the island, relating to my own personal experience and visits. It makes people really comfortable that I have firsthand knowledge or experience with the product."

Pascale also sends an e-mail to the agent detailing the property and price, along with some photos of the hotel or destination. "I offer to put a hold on a unit to allow clients to take [their] time to decide," she says. "They feel no pressure, but know that they are protected while they make their choice."

Lastly, "I answer the phone whenever it rings!" she professes. "Quick answer, quick turnaround. Eighty percent of the bookings are made if you provide an immediate response. If you are not available, they will go somewhere else."