Know your product
Many customers looking to book a cruise are returning passengers who have cruised for years and have extensive knowledge on the subject. It’s vital that you are clued up so they feel confident about booking with you.
Online training, such as the modules provided by the Association of Cruise Experts, is invaluable. Many agencies also offer internal training sessions so it’s worth speaking to your manager about any in-house courses.
Likewise, take full advantage of the sales tools provided by cruise operators. They have a vested interest in helping you sell their product and aim to make it as easy as possible to do so. We frequently have visits from cruise company representatives to update us on new products.
Finally, it’s important to get some firsthand experience. Ask your line manager about possible ship visits to help familiarise yourself with your product.
Switch-sell: land to cruise
Cruise-and-stay holidays are a great way to persuade a customer to try a cruise as it gives them the best of both worlds.
Many customers returning from a cruise-and-stay package are amazed by the high standards and variety of entertainment onboard the ship and find that the land-based part of their trip pales in comparison.
Another strong selling point is the number of destinations that customers can visit on one cruise – and for one price. People are becoming more adventurous and the chance to check out a variety of destinations, while having a familiar base to return to, is a strong plus for many customers.
Customers looking for a short break may enjoy a mini-cruise instead of solely spending time in one city.
Cruise holidays can be subject to dated stereotypes, such as being suitable only for older people or for enforcing strict dress codes.
There is a cruise to suit every type of customer and it’s your job to match the right package with the right person. Some people prefer formal cruises, where dressing for dinner is the norm, while others are looking for a more relaxed, casual experience.
If you have properly researched your product range, you will be able to set right any misconceptions they have. Modern cruise ships have a broad range of amenities which appeal to an extensive variety of tastes and children are also particularly well-catered for.
Cruising can be one of the most cost-effective holidays, so it helps to show customers exactly what’s included in the price – all meals, entertainment, services and any free classes or activities – and compare it with a land-based holiday.
In many cases, added-value extras are also included, such as drinks packages, car parking or transport to the UK departure port.
Parents can relax onboard because kids’ clubs are generally open longer hours compared with those in resorts.
Furthermore, a cruise can be a great place to make friends, with modern ships offering a host of places to eat, drink and be entertained.
Show some passion
I’ve found that enthusiasm is infectious; if you are passionate about your product, your customer will be too. I’m proactive and keep in touch with my customers, calling them if I see something they might like, or alerting them to a special deal on a cruise they’ve enquired about; they appreciate the personal touch.
I’ve had many repeat bookings as a result of simply picking up the phone. Our in-house customer management system helps me keep track of who I need to contact and when.
I truly believe that there is a cruise for everyone, so getting to know your customer, and understanding their needs, is essential.
Finally, and most importantly, always be truthful. Never sell something on a lie. Your customer will be upset if their holiday is not what they expected and will not rebook with you. Word of mouth is the best way of advertising.
Gillian Irvine is a senior sales consultant and cruise specialist at Barrhead Travel
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