Clare Dudley, managing director, Ponders Travel, Cambridge, advises how to suggest upgrades without being pushy

After a really busy peaks, it can be hard to remember the quieter times of the year. But before Christmas, Brexit, the election and terrorism had a huge impact on sales. Now the coronavirus is deterring customers from making bookings.

With all the uncertainty of the past few years, there’s been no obvious sales pattern, and I can imagine many agencies feel like someone has literally turned the tap off with regards to new enquiries.

One day in early December, our team were quite nervous about how quiet it was, so we held a team meeting to discuss if there were any good sales on the horizon and asked ourselves what we could do to stimulate sales or enquiries.

Add ancillaries

It’s always a good idea to revisit techniques that have worked in the past, so I looked back to many years ago when I was running a small branch of Bakers Dolphin in the southwest around the time of the Gulf war, which created a huge downturn.

I recalled we were challenged by our sales director to increase our ancillary sales on bookings already made (and on new bookings), and told that every penny helped.

Before then, I would never have believed something so simple and low revenue could make so much difference to our bottom-line profit. We got behind the plan, knowing that everyone going on a holiday would at some point be purchasing at least two ancillary products.

“We ended up adding over £3,000 to the sales value – £450 extra commission, which I’m sure you’ll agree was well worth doing.”

Although we all worried we were being pushy trying to get the client to spend more, we reminded ourselves they would be buying these services anyway – so we were being helpful, not pushy.

We used simple messages – and ended up being one of the company’s most successful shops.

After I’d told my team about this lesson I’d learnt, they suggested it would be a good idea to look at what our clients had booked to see if we could build on existing sales.

So, for cruise clients we looked at the itinerary they were travelling on and set about suggesting pre‑bookable excursions. Some of our fabulous trade partners pay 15% commission for these. One booking we had for a family of nine took us up on our offer and we ended up adding over £3,000 to the sales value – £450 extra commission, which I’m sure you’ll agree was well worth doing.

Suggest upgrades

We also all agreed, after taking part in tailor-made training with Reality Training, that we should not be scared to build on the base price of a quote. They gave us a valuable tip: think about what we like from a holiday and put this into quotes.

For example, when sending a price for a room, we now also include the price for a room with a view and say something along the lines of ‘When we are on holiday, we love to sit on our balcony, overlooking the pool, watching the world go by, so we thought we would let you know how much this room type was too, just in case you are the same as us’. This works well and takes away the feeling of being pushy.

“We all agreed, after taking part in tailor-made training with Reality Training, that we should not be scared to build on the base price of a quote.”

We now believe that these sales techniques for ancillaries is something we cannot afford not to do. I hope this theory can work for you too in this quiet period.


Star-clippers

Here’s a story we can dine out on

A regular client who had just come back from their first Star Clippers cruise got in touch to tell us about an interesting encounter they’d had with other passengers at dinner on board the 14‑night sailing from Bali to Singapore.

After asking ‘Who did you book through?’, as many people do while on holiday, my clients discovered the fellow passengers they happened to be seated with were very longstanding clients of ours from another part of the country.

This story made me feel so proud of what we have achieved, and I have a feeling it helped endorse our company and what we stand for.