Are you a very good cruise selling agent or agency, but you just can't seem to crack that top tier—the highest-producing echelon of cruise selling? Here are useful tips from top cruise executives and agents on how to increase sales.
Have a Clear Strategy: Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of North American sales for Royal Caribbean International, says "agencies really differentiate themselves if they have a clearly defined sales and marketing strategy." They also measure their agents' "close ratio." If five agents in the office don't close any sales to Alaska this month, they're probably not going to sell any Alaska in the future, says Bauer, so it may be time to re-train and then re-evaluate.
Embrace Technology: Capitalize on cost efficiency with technology. "Structure yourself to have 'speed to market,'" Bauer stresses. That means having an up-to-date web site, a terrific database that's segmented and an e-marketing strategy that doesn't simply blast e-mails to the world. If a cruise line needed your agency to send an e-mail to a targeted distribution channel to fill cabins today, could you? Could you get it out within the hour?
Sell on Experience: "To be a great travel agent, you have to experience what you sell," believes Sally Goldwasser, owner and president of Unique Travel in Delray Beach, FL. Goldwasser e-mailed us from Europe, where she was inspecting hotels after a cruise. "I make it my business to do site inspections at any luxury hotel that may be in the area I am traveling in. I contact the general managers of hotels my clients are staying at and try to give clients some insight."
Pick the Right Ship: "There is a ship for almost everyone, but if it's not right in size or activities, [the cruise] could be a disaster," Goldwasser notes. Theresa Perez, a top-producing travel counselor for AAA Auto Club South in Naples, FL, says "the best agents know the differences (both big and small) between Crystal, Regent Seven Seas or Silversea without having to look through a brochure."
Know the Client: "I have grown my business by interviewing the clients as much as I can, knowing their likes and dislikes, and understanding their previous travel experiences," says Perez. Get as much information as possible, match the client, exude professionalism and be honest. "Over time, your reputation will bring referrals," says Perez.
Retain Existing Clients: "There are individual agents in the United States who do over a million dollars of business a year and they are acutely focused on client retention," emphasizes Jan Swartz, senior vice president of sales and customer service for Princess Cruises. "They take an existing client already booked on a Princess Cruise and 'pre-promote' the onboard sales offer."
So, the clients—if they then book a future cruise onboard—get up to a $150 credit and a reduced deposit that's fully refundable; they don't have to even select the future voyage. "It's basically free money to the passenger with no risk," says Swartz. "Our top-producing agents do well in excess of 30-40 percent of their business through clients who sign up for the future cruise offer while onboard."
Use Resources and Recognition: "Every cruise line says 'agents should use their regional sales director,' and yet I can't tell you how truly important that is," says Marilyn Conroy, senior vice president of sales and marketing, the Americas, for Silversea Cruises. She also advocates using recognition programs. "If we have an agent who is [ready to move up the ladder], we use our agency recognition program." It's important for agencies to make their agents feel valued, and that, in turn, increases production.