Ask a Stupid Question
How asking the wrong question leads to mediocre sales.
“If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Yet at ticket counters all over the world…from zoos and aquariums to museums and theme parks and every type of attraction in between our Ticket Teams continue to say five little words that can actually hinder our sales. What are these words? They are “How may I help you?”
At any ticket counter where there is complexity to the admission offerings – packages, upgrades, cross-sells – asking that question it tantamount to waving a white flag of surrender. When a ticket agent asks that question, they are basically telling the guest “You are in charge. Let me know what you want, and I will put your order in the system.” With that said, is it any wonder that more and more Sales (well, actually Cashier) positions are being eliminated in favor of Kiosks and Online ticket stores? When a ticket Kiosk can do the same job as a passive cashier it certainly seems to make sense; the labor savings in a year will justify the ROI.
But there is a big error in this line of thinking…The people we employ to be sellers are not machines – they are human beings – and as such, they are capable of much more than simply listening to the guest and then inputting an order into the ticket system. They are asking “How may I help you?”, because that is what they were trained to do. They are processing orders for our basic products such as General Admission and basic Membership/Annual Passes because that is all we are asking them to do. But, if we challenge our Sales Agents to interact with our guests in a better way – in a way that helps them (and their guests) communicate and exchange information more effectively – the results can be amazing! So, if not “How can I help you?”, what should they ask?
Where are you visiting from? – Most sellers are taught to ask the guest for their zip code at the conclusion of the sale (frequently this request is prompted by the POS). But at the end of the sale, it is too late. We need to know where they are from at the beginning of the interaction so that the Seller can recommend the best options (Every local should be a member or passholder).
How often do you come here? – While this may sound like a cheesy pick-up line, asking this and “Is this your first visit”, can result in very useful data for your Sellers. “Yes, this is my first visit” or “No, I’ve been here before” helps the seller know what information to offer to each guest.
What are you excited about? – At a theme park this could be a specific ride and at a zoo or aquarium it may be a certain animal (personally, I am partial to penguins!). Keying in to a guest’s excitement and sharing in it is one of the most powerful ways that your sellers can connect with their guests: “I know, I love penguins too! Did you know that we have a behind the scenes encounter where you can meet one up close?”
Who is with you? – Usually this can happen by observing the group in front of you; “It will be the 5 of you?”. The guest will then confirm that this is correct or offer the actual number, usually noting how many are adults, children, and senior. Depending on your facility you may also consider height/weight and physical ability requirements. For example, if you are a water park where many slides have a height requirement, you might sell your tickets based on height, rather than age.
How long are you visiting? – “How long are you in town?” is a great way to assess if you should be offering a single day or multi day product. If they are only staying for one day you could also confirm if they will be staying the entire day or only for a few hours. This allows you to make recommendations that are customized to the amount of time they have available.
Asking the right questions and listening to the responses allows our team to understand the guests needs and guides them to recommending the best options to each specific guest or group of guests. The key is to teach your team to ask questions that engage the guest and then to actively listen to, and use, the response given to create a unique experience for each visitor.