Avoya HBTA Top LB Jan 2018

What is Your Story?

Simply Sales With Scott

What is Your Story?


Scott Koepf MCC, CTC
Senior Vice President of Sales
Avoya Travel

In the last column I noted the importance of two primary things that are necessary to reach your potential success in travel sales. Attitude and Systems. A good positive attitude is easy to understand. Maybe it is because of a never ending parade of motivational speakers or a long list of self-help books or beautiful posters with feel good sayings. While it might seem cliché, it is simply true. You won’t be successful unless you believe you can be!

The other foundational element of success is not as cut and dry. Systems are typically not talked about as much in our industry or if they are we tend to equate systems to technology. Technology certainly is important but only if it makes your systems more effective. So what are the key systems to sales success? There are many and some of which may not seem to be specifically sales related. In the retail business, which we are in, marketing and sales intersect and blend throughout each customer interaction. So if we define a system as anything that can and should be written down, practiced, constantly improved and implemented with discipline then whether it falls under marketing or sales it needs to be created.

A system can be a set of strategies to achieve a goal or a process made up of separate steps or a scripted approach to a necessary element to building customer trust. The first system we will dig into then is not so much a system as a positioning statement. However, that sounds boring or complicated. There are many articles and books on personal branding but let’s focus on a term that may be easier to grasp and integrate into both your marketing and sales systems – Your Story.

The entire sales process should have the end goal of developing the trust of your customer but it is important to introduce Your Story right up front. As we are going to walk through the entire sales process it is important to establish what you sell. This addresses the ultimate question that the customer is asking of you (usually not verbally or even consciously, but they want to know) – ‘Why should I do business with you?’ Your Story is the answer. I am not suggesting that you write a two hundred page autobiography (unless you want to). Instead just think of a two or three sentence answer to the ultimate question.

It should meld past, present and future in a compelling and unique summary as to why finding you was the best thing that could have ever happened to them! Over the top? That should be the least of your worries! Remember you are in a very competitive business and your potential customer has probably visited multiple websites, is not even sure that travel agents exist and certainly have no idea how to choose one. So you need to help them make the right choice – you!

You may have heard of this referred to as an elevator speech or a Unique Selling Proposition. No matter what you call it – just have it. I like calling it Your Story as it should speak to your personality and what the consumer will experience with you that they won’t get elsewhere. In other words your story should not be ‘I have 78 years of experience, been to every country established before the turn of the century and will provide excellent customer service’. The first two points are nice but are not said in a way that focuses on what it means to the customer. It is your story but the point is not about you – it should leave the customer thrilled and convinced to choose you. The third point in the example sounds good but is not unique. I have yet to meet a travel agent who thinks their customer service is below average. Remember when it comes to customer service, good is not good enough.

Rick Berra wrote a book that I think truly spells out the change that has occurred in our world in the last few years. He makes the point that in the past it made sense to under promise and then over deliver. That way customers will be pleasantly surprised and will become loyal fans. Today you don’t have the opportunity to do this as an under promise will not be acted on in the first place. So the title of his book describes what you need to do in today’s market ‘Over promise AND Over deliver’. It is imperative to tell people right up front that you plan on providing an experience that will blow their minds! Of course, you need to deliver on that experience (which means you need to document that experience and carry it out systematically) but don’t hesitate to tell Your Story early and often.

One great example of the power of story is found not in our industry but in a business that I know well. Dolls. As the daddy of three girls, I spent hours playing dolls and for the most part the dolls were interchangeable and in essence, a commodity. That is until American Girl Dolls came on the scene. They brought dolls to the market in two ways. First you could buy a doll that had a specific story to tell. Each doll lived in a certain era in a specific place and there are volumes of books that you had to get about – you guessed it – Her Story! Of course it was important to buy the right clothes and furniture and, and, and…..brilliant. So the story is what sold the doll. But they were savvy enough to also offer another option which allowed for a doll to be completely customized for purchase. Hair color and type, skin color, freckles, eye color and more. This allowed for a doll to have her own story! The company has grown exponentially because of the power of a story.

Of course, American Girl Dolls also delivers beyond the purchase (the Over deliver part) and I highly recommend you visit one of their stores where you will see how to provide a unique and exceptional experience.

They do not have a repair shop for arms held on by a thread but instead have a hospital with gowns provided. Appointments are accepted for the doll hairdressing studio and the piece de resistance – a restaurant where every doll is served and interacted with by well-trained waiters.

Spend some time crafting your story so that customers will be in giddy anticipation to experience all that you will offer. All sales start with knowing what you are really selling and in your case it is YOU!