Travel buyers need sales skills too

While selling can take any number of forms, travel buyers should be aware that sales skills are something they need to focus on too, according to Jo Lloyd of Nina and Pinta.

Speaking at the recent ABTA Conference in Rustenburg, Lloyd explained that buyers need to acquire sales skills in order to sell the travel suppliers they plan to partner with or solutions they are planning to roll out to their internal stakeholders.

Lloyd pointed out that historically, there have been several “sales revolutions” over the years that have influenced the techniques employed by salespeople. In the past, selling was focused on product, but today, there has been an evolution into solutions selling.

“How you sell and the nature of the relationship with your customer changes significantly depending on whether you are product or solutions focused,” she says. “If you are product based, the nature of the relationship is characterised by responding to an order and the selling skill required is product knowledge. The customer expectation is that they get a quality product or service at a good price.”

When moving towards a solutions selling environment, the skills required are vastly different, says Lloyd, who added that this becomes very relevant when starting to talk about corporate travel. “The skills required are boardroom-level engagement with your customer. You don’t need to be talking to the ceo, but you do need to be talking strategically. Also, the customer expectation is that you will provide insight into the customer’s business, not your product.”

Discussing some of the gaps in terms of sales skills, Lloyd said one of the common issues she sees is a rush to discuss product. “The problem is that you then become very transactional in nature.” Another common challenge is the ability to articulate value beyond the price. “How do we quantify value if it’s not in a transaction fee, airfare or hotel night? But this becomes very important, as if you can’t articulate your value, neither will your customer and again, the relationship will become very product focused.”

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