How to Sell First-Timers on a Cruise

John Lovell: “When you’re focused on the customer’s end-to-end needs, the commissions will take care of themselves.”
John Lovell: “When you’re focused on the customer’s end-to-end needs, the commissions will take care of themselves.”

The Solution: Demonstrate your unique expertise, problem-solving skills and ability to add value

Arvid Olson, agency owner, Travel Leaders, Palm Coast, FL, says it’s absolutely critical that first-timers pick the right cruise to match their lifestyle, making sure the following are the perfect fit: the ship, stateroom choice/location, onboard activities, entertainment, cruise itinerary and value. But how does he reach them to get that message across?

“Millennials are seeking value, excitement and new unique cultural experiences,” Olson notes. “Their time is precious and they do not want to spend hours searching for what they think is the right vacation and then waste their treasured vacation time with a poor experience if they make the wrong choice.”

“The majority of our millennial clients are either referred by a past client or they find us online through various search sites,” he says, noting that Millennials typically look for a particular specialty and “so we participate in Travel Leaders’ Agent Profiler and are active online with social media such as Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Yelp and others.”

Marni Becker, director of cruise sales, Protravel International, NY, also says most of her group's new clients are obtained by referrals from friends or family members of existing clients. “Other ways are really day-to-day contact when out and about,” says Decker, who adds that even Millennials are mostly corralled via referrals from family members.

Once potential customers contact Olson’s agency, they’re put at ease knowing the cruise specialist has the expert knowledge to find the right ship and itinerary at a good value. Potential clients also are informed that the agency has options on travel insurance, group pricing and benefits that they may not find elsewhere. Most importantly, the agency lets the clients know that its cruise specialists are problem solvers so if something unexpected develops pre-, post- or during the cruise, the agent has excellent communications “avenues” directly to the major cruise lines.

Becker adds that “as with other clientele, the most important thing is selling yourself, your knowledge and your connections. That can dissuade them from a few clicks on the Internet.” She said that booking cruises isn’t easy. “When you start to put some questions in their minds about all the things to consider, it's usually a lot easier to convince them that you have the answers,” Becker stresses.

Cruise Lines Say Don’t Sell on Price, But Then They Do. How Do You Fight Back and Get a Decent Commission?

The Solution: Sell ancillary products and focus on providing expert, end-to-end service.

Many agents tell us they’re simply balancing their business better—developing a luxury focus (for at least a portion of sales), selling ancillary or land-based products or increasingly selling river or small-ship cruises with more inclusive, higher fares. That helps balance out more modest commissions from selling lower cost or entry-level cruises.

That said, John Lovell, president and CEO, Travel Leaders Franchise, Leisure and, says the priority should always be the clients, added value and service, and then the money will flow. “Each cruise agent should be focused on providing expertise and end-to-end service that’s inclusive of air, hotel and all of the other portions that add value to the cruise experience itself,” Lovell says. “When you’re focused on the customer’s end-to-end needs, the commissions will take care of themselves.”