AN agent cannot live on late deals alone, but sell enough last-minute bargains and they sure make a difference to your bottom line.

Interest in late deals has been picking up since the end of World Cup 2006, so now’s the time to hone your selling skills. 

Instead of relying on passing punters with a spur-of-the-moment urge for a cheap week in the sun, use every resource available to tell customers about your last-minute deals.

Late offers are available for most destinations, but because operators use them to shift lingering rooms, the biggest discounts are to those places with the highest capacity, such as Spain, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.

Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides said the time is right to sell last-minute summer breaks: “Late deals are now in place and they will be available for September and October.”

So what do you need to know? Read on and find out how to shift those lates.

1. Be seen

There’s nothing like your shop window to advertise your wares – and it’s free. But learn from the designer shops. They have attractive window displays to make passers-by stop and stare. Make sure you do the same.

2. Push it

Once a customer has booked their main holiday, tell them what special deals you have at the moment. If they have to wait until next summer for their two weeks in the sun, seven nights in Benidorm for £99 might seem too good to miss.

3. Press relations

Get friendly with a journalist on your local paper. They might be glad to run some editorial and advertise some last-minute deals at the same time. Libra Holidays product manager Darren Hitchcock said: “Editorial seems to have more influence on clients than an advert when it comes to trying to persuade the customer to take a last-minute holiday.”

4. Make a data

Use e-mail to contact everyone on your database as soon as any new late deals come in, but target your letters. Clients who like to laze on a beach are unlikely to be interested in a cruise around South America.

5. Point of sale

Display your late deals on every desk in the shop so clients can’t help but spot what’s on offer. But just in case, make sure your sales consultants point them out too.

6. Never say never

It’s never too late to sell a holiday. Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides said: “Our reservations staff are connected to agents at the airport, enabling the flight tickets and accommodation vouchers to be issued at the point of departure. It’s never too late.”

7. Net gains

Use the Internet to find the best deals. Libra product manager Darren Hitchcock said offers can be updated immediately online so the best deals are always available. “Hoteliers and suppliers like our Hotel of the Day or Week sections as they can offer special deals on dates when occupancies are for a set period.”

8. Talk talk

Offer your local radio DJ a cut-price weekend break in return for talking about holidays between the records. Of course you must make sure he or she knows what late-availability you have on the books.

9. Add value

Spice up your special offers by adding airport parking or a taxi transfer to the package. BCP marketing director Eric Campus said the company will offer late deals that agents can sell on to clients when it has spare capacity. “Recently we offered two weeks parking for the price of one at Gatwick, which equated to just £3 a day.”

10. Sell the saving

Make sure any print or radio ads or window displays sell the saving as much as the cost. Remember, you are looking to inspire an impulse buy and everyone likes a bargain. Thomson Cruises has up to £150 per couple off the price of a summer cruise, Libra has £78 per person off a seven-night self-catering holiday in Limassol.

11. Switch-sell

If clients looking for a holiday hesitate on price, show them your late-availability. Thomas Cook commercial manager Ian Derbyshire said: “If a customer looking at a holiday later in the year is put off by price, find them an equivalent holiday in lates. By travelling sooner, they can make substantial savings and you’ll make a sale from a customer who was about to walk away.”

12. Early bird

It doesn’t always pay to wait until the last minute for the best deals. Hurtigruten is offering wannabe explorers savings of up to £1,435 per person on its December 5 cruise to Antarctica. Other departures to the White Continent have free cabin upgrades and no single supplements.

13. PowerPoint

Pay for a couple of PowerPoint lessons and use it to design a professional presentation for the agency window. A few moving graphics – people having fun in the sun – will make sure clients stop and look, but don’t forget to lure them in for more information.

14. Wheel deal

If appropriate to the holiday, add car rental to the total price and present it as a complete package. Clients will be pleased to have the mobility and you’ll be pleased with the extra commission. Jetlife America product manager Zia Bapuji said: “The inclusion of one week’s car rental within some of the flydrive packages gives agents more selling angles to tempt the customer.”

15. Product knowledge

Hold a hasty training session when the next batch of lates comes in to make sure everyone in the agency knows the destinations they are trying to sell. There’s nothing like first-hand familiarity to secure a sale.

16. Late evenings

Plan to stay open late every couple of weeks so clients can drop by to discover the latest bargain holidays. A free glass of wine and nibbles will help to lubricate the credit cards.

17. Hurry up

Don’t be frightened to add a bit of urgency to your ads – ‘only two left’ or ‘must go today’ are wonderful ways to force a decision. Jetlife America’s Bapuji said: “A countdown like ‘only five more days to go’ helps to close the deal.”

18. Word of mouth

Make sure you mention the latest lates to everyone you meet, including friends and family. After all, they all need a holiday too.

19. Special interest

Get to know your local special-interest groups, such as gardeners, bird-watchers and walkers and let them know when relevant lates come in.

20. Luck of the draw

Run a competition during cruise or other holiday evenings, offering a late-availability short break as the top prize and discounts for the same break for clients who book on the night.