Turning Lookers Into Bookers

The mania of switching to better, larger flat-screen TVs hasn’t been lost on our household and so the other day, we found ourselves in a big-box electronics store, “just looking.” We’d done plenty of research so when a young man asked if we needed assistance we responded, I thought, with some fairly intelligent questions. The young man showed us a TV and said he had some earlier models at a lower price. I told him we might be interested but when I turned around, he was gone. After searching the store to no avail, I assumed he’d gone home to take a nap.

A few minutes later an older gentleman came by and offered help. He was so knowledgeable and consultative that we decided to purchase the TV (the latest model), plus a nice package of ancillaries we hadn’t thought of till he advised us that we needed them. It took a while, but my sense is that for a slow Sunday afternoon, this salesman ended up doing pretty well. As for us, we were thrilled with the sales process.

My favorite part of the transaction, however, was when the young salesman came drifting by us, eyeing the computer screen to see how much we were spending. He walked really slowly, as if he were going to accuse the guy helping us of stealing his clients. I wanted to ask him why he’d left us so abruptly, but I already knew the answer. He’d mentioned the word “discount,” I’d taken the bait and he’d assumed we weren’t worth his time. I think he learned his lesson. It reminded me a bit of that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts, laden with shopping bags filled with new clothes, goes back to the boutique that wouldn’t serve her the day before (when she was dressed like a hooker) and says, “Big mistake” to the snooty saleswomen in the shop. Well, sort of.

As travel agents, you can’t give everyone all of your time, so you should develop an ability to sift out the lookers from bookers. Our first salesman missed some important signals. A couple walks into a store at 3 p.m. on a Sunday; the store wasn’t attached to a strip mall or any other store, so we weren’t bumming around, waiting for a movie or for our reservation at Red Lobster. No, we’d actually gotten up out of our living room and driven to this store with the intent of either conducting some heavy-duty research or buying something.

What are other signs that someone is a looker and not a booker? Their indication to you that they’ve done their research and now want your professional opinion about all of the options they’ve unearthed. Another is that their first questions aren’t about pricing, but rather which product delivers the top experience.

When the client asks you about the experience they’ll have on a trip, it’s time for the selling to begin. Be consultative. Indicate that you’re listening to their concerns and their needs, and then confidently present your recommendations. Don’t be afraid to upsell them at this point. They’re looking for you to guide them to the purchase that’s best for them. Discuss add-ons to the trip they may not have considered but that you believe they’d enjoy. The reality is people enjoy the sales process if they feel they’re getting great advice and being treated respectfully.

When a looker approaches you but doesn’t ask you to beat the $99 rate your competitor down the street is offering, assume they’re a booker and going to buy. Within just a few minutes, they’ll assume they’re going to buy as well. Here’s a hint: Throw in a freebie along the way. That will thrill them even more. In our case, the salesman gave us a cable that was listed at $59.99 for free. I don’t think it was worth that much but we responded as if he had handed us the keys to a free new car. Remember, it’s unlikely a consumer would be in your store or agency if they didn’t want something from you. It’s up to you to determine what they want and to educate them on all of those wonderful things they didn’t even know they wanted.

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