Opinion: Do you employ salespeople or clerks?

Opinion: Do you employ salespeople or clerks?

There is a reticence in the travel industry about seeing staff as sales people but this could mean opportunities are being missed on a daily basis, warns Bobby Morrell of Reality Training

Before we embark on any training programme our entire training team, a dozen people, mystery shop our client’s customer service. We often do this before our initial meeting or proposal.

Posing as potential customers we judge their service level against the most basic criteria. How did the conversation start? Was there any structure? Were we asked any decent questions? How did they get product knowledge across and how did they persuade us to buy?

On a recent call to a higher end holiday brand here are just some of the notes:

Plenty of product knowledge.

No greeting
No questions other than the date.
No structure to the call (customer led)
No enthusiasm
‘Appeared to be bored with his own product’.
‘Not bothered that this was the customer’s first experience.’
‘No interest in the reasons for this choice of holiday or this choice of brand.’
No contact details taken? (for a £6k+ holiday enquiry?)

This experience is typical of the conversations we have and an indication of the number of missed opportunities happening daily in this industry.

In certain cases we are surprised by a level of skill displayed by the individuals we speak to, either face to face or on the phone. We would definitely describe these people as salespeople. I’m not sure their employers would though.

Many brands don’t like the use of the words sell, sales, selling, salespeople, sales managers. Some ask us to avoid them in our training. We always check – ‘You would like to sell more of your product?’ – ‘Oh yes, just don’t call it that please.’

Where does this come from? It comes from an old-fashioned idea of what selling is. That selling is in some way, dishonest. And yet, all of us, when we are sold to by a professional, enjoy the experience and generally spend more.

So if we accept that we are actually employing salespeople then surely giving them the tools to do this is essential? The lines between sales and service do not exist anymore. Service people sell something, salespeople sell something. The skills, outcome and objectives are the same.

What does a Clerk do?

The skills of a ‘clerk’ are different. A clerk will be there to convey information. It makes little difference to the clerk if the person buys or not. If the customer wants to buy then they will give the clerk their order, and this experience will be different to how it would have been if they had placed the order with a salesperson.

The clerk is indifferent to customer retention, the salesperson will try to make sure that you come back. The clerk will efficiently get on with their next task whilst the salesperson will try and deliver exceptional service so that you feel good about your booking.

The clerk will listen to your choices and act on them rather than suggesting other ideas that may enhance your experience.

The clerk will never spend this amount on a holiday themselves and so don’t have the emotional intelligence to handle a price objection or query. The clerk will expect you to ask to book, rather than asking for the booking themselves.

Sometimes it costs more to employ a salesperson than it does to employ a clerk. In challenging times who is more likely to deliver you results?

The Reality Sales Tracker App has been created to help travel sales employees have more effective sales conversation. It’s free and available from the App Store.


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