By: Jeanne R. Hart
What is a lead? A lead is a suggestion or piece of information that helps to direct or guide; it’s a tip or a clue. But why is it important in the motorcoach travel and tourism industry? Where do you find leads? And how do you capitalize on and get a sale from those leads?
If would be nice if we could simply sit by the phone, take orders, and make sales. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. With the competition that is out there today in the travel and tourism industry, it is more important than ever to prospect and find new potential busine
Finding the Lead
Leads can come from all types of sources, and your destination manager is your best resource. Get to know your local and state DMO. Make them your best friend and make sure that they are familiar with your property and know what you have to offer. Participate in local familiarization (FAM) tours and attend networking events so that you become a recognizable leader in your community.
Look for leads online. By browsing a potential client’s website, you can find out what type of destinations they visit and the activities they are interested in. You can determine the average age of their clients, the type of tours they offer (shopping, casino, history, etc.), whether the tours are custom or preplanned, and where they visit the most. Assuming this potential client is not visiting your destination or attraction, think about what you can add to your existing product that might entice a visit to your area.
Ask other operators to share what worked for them and what they think might work for you. Your associates can share your information and refer you to operators that they know are traveling to your area.
In addition, attending regional and national trade shows provides great opportunities to meet new clients and renew relationships with existing clients. The attendee list is your ultimate lead list. Contact everyone on the list and keep after them until you’ve exhausted every alternative reason for them to need you. At the conference, ask your associates to spread the word about your company, and when you get a chance, sit down at a table of strangers and make new friends. For ABA’s Marketplace appointments, ABA provides basic company profiles and the company writes a description of its services prior to the conference. Read the company description carefully, as it often reveals information about the company culture. The profile will also tell you if the company is a motorcoach or tour operator, or both, and if they offer preplanned itineraries or custom, or both. It will also give you the age group that the company focuses on and its major areas of travel.
Finally, don’t forget your family and friends. They travel, use transportation companies, and often have experience with group trips.
What to Do Next?
With so many other companies competing for new business, how do you get your company to stand out? The best way to establish your company and your product is with a strong brand.
You are your own best tool for selling your product. Promote your company through email, phone calls, and snail mail (yes, if done properly, it still has an impact). Make sure you put your picture on all of your correspondence so that the customer associates you with the product/company. This includes your business cards, the signature line of your email solicitations, and thank-you notes for business received or follow-up from your appointments. Wear company logo attire at meetings and conferences—or at least a piece of clothing that gets you noticed. For example, for my first several years of doing appointment shows, I wore the same pink jacket during my appointment day. The second year I attended, I heard an operator say, “Gettysburg, I need to talk with you! I recognized the jacket!” I wore that pink jacket for the next several years before switching to Pashmina shawls, which have now become my trademark.
One of your main correspondence pieces should be your profile sheet. This sheet, which serves as your company’s bio, should be attractive, easy to read, and include pertinent information, such as location, hours, price, and contact information. Include your picture on this as well. Always have sample itineraries available and use photos that represent your uniqueness. For example, every hotel has rooms with two queen beds and awesome pillows; show something that makes your hotel different from others in your area, such as being located right beside a family-friendly amusement park or a restaurant that caters to groups.
Making the Sale
When it is time to make contact with the client, a phone call is preferable to email because it is easier to gauge the client’s response and mood. Ask questions about anything you couldn’t find online. Summarize how the features of your product benefit and satisfy their objectives, address any objections, and offer to prepare a proposal. By now, you know your brand, your website is updated, and you are able to explain your product in two or three concise sentences (your elevator speech). Follow up with the customer within 24 hours of sending a proposal to address any questions or concerns and offer a contract. You can never ask for the sale too often—if you don’t ask, you don’t get the business.
Jeanne R. Hart is tour and travel sales manager at Gateway Gettysburg hotels (Courtyard Marriott and Wyndham Gettysburg) in Gettysburg, Pa.