Interested in Making a Sale? Never Assume.

At a young age we are instructed by our parents to never judge a book by its cover, to never cast judgment before really getting to know someone.

If the axiom bears any truth, why do so many people today make assumptions based on a glance rather than a discussion? In sales, this not only is flat-out rude, it too is a money killer.

Two examples come to mind: one unrelated to me, one personal.

The first comes via my mother, who is always up for sharing a good parable. Her friend, we’ll call her Jane for the sake of anonymity, is quite well off, but does dress a bit on the frumpy side and after three kids and a stressful job, her weight is far from optimal.

In any case, one day she decides it’s time for some new clothes; off to Saks it is. Surfing through the racks of high-end goods, something occurred to her: not one salesperson had lent assistance, or even asked to be of assistance. Instead, there were derisive glances that silently asked, “What are you doing here, lady?”

She got the message. On her way out of the store, she intrepidly strode up to the offending salesperson. “You just missed out on one of the biggest commissions of your life,” she said.

Closer to home, I have had my own war stories about offending sales personnel. Most recently I got a full taste of it at a jewelry store on New York’s Upper West Side. As much as I’d love to pass along the name of the store, I’ll show restraint.

It was a Saturday afternoon, warm out, so Khaki cargo shorts and a T-shirt were the threads du jour. Walking in, I instantly knew what I was in for: Older affluent women were gallivanting around asking for feedback on an ascot or cloche hat. Yes, just my kind of place.

I was in the market for an engagement ring. Sidling up to the counter, I eyed a particularly fetching ring and inquired of the Miss if I could take closer inspection. What do you think happened next? “Surely, sir, let me just get the key to the case and I’ll be right with you.” I wish. No, it was first a contemptuous stare, then, “You’ll just have to wait a few minutes.” Wait, did she think I wasn’t serious about purchasing the ring? I mean, unless tradition has changed, buying an engagement ring is the first step to marriage. I suspect that because I wasn’t dressed in a three-piece suit and looked young, I wasn’t a serious buyer. In the fanciful words of Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes: “Commission bye-bye-o!”

Related to Travel
So what does this have to do with being a travel agent? Well, everything. Today’s traveler can’t be compartmentalized. The multi-millionaire head of an Internet company could be the unkempt kid in flip-flops and jeans, who is eager to take a blowout vacation with a group of his college buddies. If he walks into your travel agency, are you going to neglect him or not take the time to qualify him? Big mistake if you do.

The moral is to never assume. Until you get to know your customers, backwards and forwards, you’re never going to truly know what they really want in a vacation or what they can afford. To that point, don’t be afraid to upsell. A young couple might want to take a Carnival cruise, but don’t let them settle on an inside cabin when, with little effort, you can convince them that an outside stateroom is the way to go. Moreover, just because they scream Carnival, doesn’t mean they don’t want Princess.

Perception, quite often, isn’t reality.


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