Ten Steps to Controlling the Sales Dialogue
Most ticket counter operations don’t sell tickets. That’s right, they don’t sell tickets at all—they “take orders”. This is because they fail to control the sales dialogue. Here is the traditional approach to ticket sales at most attractions and institutions:
Guest approaches ticket seller.
Ticket seller greets guest/asks “how can I help you?”
Guest asks for tickets—usually broken down with x Adults and y Children.
Ticket seller processes order, prints tickets, and provides tickets to guests.
In this example, the seller isn't selling at all. Instead, they are simply taking orders and in doing so, they are leaving a tremendous amount of money on the table. There is another way…
At a handful of zoos, museums, parks, and attractions around the country, an exciting transformation is taking place. More guests are choosing to purchase higher-valued packages, special experiences, and membership products because their Sellers have learned the secrets of controlling the sales dialogue. Through a process called The Conversational Selling Method, Sellers can better connect with arriving guests, identify their needs, and to share product value in a way that truly connects with guest needs. As a result, guests are happier, front gate revenue increases dramatically, and special experiences and activities become a routine part of the visit.
Below are the ten critical steps that sellers can use toward controlling the sales dialogue:
1. Make A Great First Impression
First impressions are everything and Arriving Guests begin to form their first impression of the attraction or institution as soon as they step foot on site. In fact, the first impression that Arriving Guests form as they first encounter our Sellers is foundational to controlling the sales dialogue. Ticket sellers who make a great first impression send a message to the guest in front of them that they are focused, respectful, and ready to serve. There are two key components to making a positive first impression: looks and actions.
Looks Matter. A Seller's appearance, cleanliness, and attention to detail impacts the first impression they will make with their Arriving Guests. For example, you would never want your guests focusing on a Seller's bright green nail polish instead of their words and enthusiasm. Having the right look means that a Seller's outward appearance does not create an unnecessary distraction and derail the conversation.
In contrast to looks, actions are the behaviors and gestures that Sellers use to engage with Arriving Guests. A warm smile and friendly eye contact send a message to Arriving Guests that the Seller is attentive to their needs. Imagine the message you send to your guests if your Seller was more focused on responding to a text message rather than engaging with the guest in front of them. For every transaction, Sellers must be not only physical present for but also mentally present.
2. Be the First to Speak
When Sellers are the first to speak, it affords them the opportunity to identify the guest's specific needs and to then recommend a specific product. By speaking first, Sellers can pause the Arriving Guest’s normal decision-making process in favor of considering other options (richer experiences that lead to higher levels of guest satisfaction). When Sellers fail to speak first, that means the guest does…which typically leads to the guests asking for your most basic general admission product. Sellers who fail to speak first or to regain control of the dialogue quickly miss the opportunity to connect on value and to generate higher levels of guest happiness. Everyone receives less and everyone loses--the Seller, the facility, and the guest.
Sellers can reclaim the conversation even when they are not the first to speak. Oftentimes, Sellers become distracted as the guest approaches the ticket counter which allows the guest to seize control of the conversation. When guest is the first to speak, it often sounds like this: "I need 2 adults, 3 children for the General Admission ticket.” (Not the direction you want the sale to go.) Sellers can quickly get the dialogue back on track by responding with "Yes! I can do that. Let me ask you a couple of questions first..." Then the Seller continues with the normal flow of sales dialogue.
If the Seller is still finishing up their paperwork from a previous transaction, the Seller must be attentive enough to take note as the next guest approaches the counter. The Seller should "pause" the conversation with "Hi Mam/Sir, I am finishing up with the previous transaction. I'll be with you in just a moment!" This gives the Seller the time to finish up and to begin the conversation with the new guest when they are ready. Controlling the Sales Dialogue throughout the transaction begins with speaking first.
3. Ask for Their Name--Then Use It
Sellers should always exchange names with their guest. This is not only great guest service but it establishes trust between Seller and their Arriving Guest. Trust is crucial to building relationships with anyone.
As we discussed in Step Two, it is important to be the first to speak. One way of doing this is to immediately introduce yourself as the guest approaches the Seller. For example, "Hi, my name is Marty! What's your name?" From time to time, guests will even introduced the other members within their party. Exchanging names with Arriving Guests is a great way to build rapport and to get on a first name basis.
4. Ask Qualifying Questions
There are specific questions that Sellers ask in order to guide the sales flow and keep control of the dialogue. During the Investigative portion of the sales flow, Sellers ask a series of F-A-S-T questions that are focused on identifying specific information:
First Time Here -> leads to offering more extensive/higher end products first in order to build a great first impression
Arriving From -> leads Seller to understanding whether to offer Day Pass or Annual Pass
See (What do you want to See?) -> leads to offering products that the guest is excited about doing
Time at Facility (or Time in Town) -> leads to offering products with longer investment of time (more hours/more days)
Making eye contact and responding either verbally or with facial expressions to what the guest shares demonstrates to the guest that the Seller has truly been paying attention.
5. Show You've Listened
In order to build rapport and establish a foundation of trust, Sellers should use the information that they have collected including the guest's first name, where they are visiting from, and what they are excited about seeing to build trust and establish a relationship. Sellers might say something like "Marty, you mentioned that the topsy-turvy coaster is your favorite ride here. I have to tell you, that one is my personal favorite too! We have a special pass that I can set up for you now. It will give you front of the line access for that ride." Showing that you've listened builds trust and strengthens relationships between people.
6. Recommend the Best Product
When Ticket Sellers have truly listened, they have the information they need to recommend products that are best suited for the guest in front of them. Collecting the right information, matching that information to the right product, and presenting the product with confidence and enthusiasm is the winning formula. "Because you are going to be in town for the next two days, I recommend our 2 day pass."
Personal endorsements seal the deal. There's nothing better than a Seller's enthusiastic endorsement but that means that Sellers need participate in the experiences. They need to be allowed to bring their families and to enjoy the facility on their own. Having the knowledge will allow them to make statements like this one: "I brought my family to see that IMAX just last week. It was so amazing and my children loved it too! I think your family will really like it too..."
7. Share Value & Benefit First
Sharing value is a lot like filling an empty canvas with a colorful, detailed picture. People appreciate having more information from which to base their purchase decision. However, at the point of sale, it is not always possible to spend more than a moment or two to share a product's value and benefit. The line needs to keep moving which means that Sellers must be efficient with the words they use, infusing energy and passion to draw their guest in and to connect them with the product. When this is done properly, guests have a better understanding of the product being presented. Because they have a richer understand of product value, more guests will say "Yes" based on that newfound knowledge. It's all about educating and connecting on the value and benefit of the product.
8. Wrap It Up with an Effective Assumptive Close
Once Sellers have connected on a product's value, it is time to close the deal. The assumptive close is an effective way to transition the sales dialogue from the guest's consideration of a product to actually agreeing to purchase it. I have observed far too many conversations in which the Seller fails to read the conversation effectively--the guest is ready to buy but the Seller keeps talking...and talking--sometimes to the point where they actually talk the guest out of the sale. In previous articles, we have discussed the importance of limiting our words. Less is truly more. At this point in the sales dialogue, the balance of words is absolutely critical.
Here is an example of an assumptive close that effectively moves guests into the mindset of purchasing the product: "You guys are going to have so much fun meeting our Lemurs today. There are only a few spots left so let's go ahead and book one for you now. Would you like the 11 AM or the 12 PM time slot?" Sellers should develop 2-3 different assumptive close scripts for use throughout the day.
The right body language makes an impact on an effective assumptive close as well. Here are a couple of key actions that your Sellers can integrate for a more meaningful assumptive close:
Lean In. As Sellers move to wrap up the "YES" and to move the guest into the "SOLD" column, leaning in toward the guest helps the Seller to confide in their guest. Doing so continues to build trust
The Head Nod. As the Seller makes their assumptive close, they should nod their head in the affirmative as a final gesture to drive the point home-this is the product for you and you should say YES!
9. Overcome Objections
When guests say yes to the product being pitched, there is no need to overcome objections. It is only when the guest says no to the product being presented that Seller should probe for the reasons behind the objection. Guests object for one of three reasons:
TIME - I don't have enough time to participate, enjoy, or use what is being recommended
PRICE - It's too expensive; can't afford it
VALUE - I won't use it because it's not meaningful to me
The reason for the Guest's objection isn't always rooted in real facts--sometimes they object for emotional reasons or because of a misunderstanding of the facts. The Sellers job is to probe, asking questions and seeking to understand why an objection has been raised. Great sales people overcome objection by validating the guest’s concern and searching for a resolution that puts the guest at ease. Sellers can validate the Guest’s concerns with statements like "I can definitely understand why you would think that, however…" and then clarify the project's value, benefits, and inclusions. In searching for a resolution, Sellers often shift their focus to a different product that better aligns with their Guest's needs. "Because you've got time limitations, this is going to be the better ticket for you. You'll be able to maximize your enjoyment in the short time that you have with us."
10. Close with Class
Controlling the sales dialogue begins and ends with the guest and their needs. Closing with Class means that we finish the dialogue the same way that we started it—with warmth, clarity, and accuracy.
The Sales Dialogue begins with the Seller introducing themselves and asking the guest for their name. In this final step--Closing with Class—the Seller uses the guest’s name one more time to reaffirm that the guest is going to have a great time. “Marty, I know you’re going to love spending time with our Lemurs. It’s such a wonderful experience!” The Seller’s body language matches their words as they continue to smile, make eye contact, and engage with the guest.
Closing with Class means that guests have a clear understanding of what they are purchasing before they pay for it. Earlier in the dialogue, the Seller highlight’s the product’s features and benefits. Closing with Class requires the Seller to explain the product’s “fine print”. These are the details such as the report time for the guided tour they signed up for, the foot-ware requirement for the zip lines, and the attractions that are not included in the front-of-the-line pass. Each of the things that guests need to know in order to have an enjoyable experience must be clearly stated before the guest leaves the ticket counter.
Ticket Sellers are a lot like bank tellers. If your bank teller short-changes you or fails to provide all the information that you needed to know, it doesn’t matter how friendly they have been. Accuracy matters and transactional errors can be fatal to guest service. Ticket Sellers must take the time to process each ticketing transaction with absolutely zero errors. This includes everything from making correct change and processing credit cards correctly to providing receipts and collecting proper zip code information.