Travel Services – Buying Is Just The Beginning

I have encountered many of what I would call classic buyers in my career selling travel services. By that I mean very professional people who know exactly what they want and how to get it at the best rate. They are well practised in procedures and buying protocol and have a clear plan. Good stuff, but is it enough? I do not think so.

I think there are better deals to be done and improved return if two other abilities are learned and brought into play. They are presentation and selling skills. Buyers should know how to buy but there are often other considerations that come into play when buying a service like travel. For example, unless you really are going to issue a mandate that is capable of monitoring and enforcing, there is likelihood you could lose 20% volume from the programme. You will also probably be buying from people who are frankly not up to dealing with professional buyers. This brings me back to selling and presenting.

Most travel suppliers are becoming more and more cynical and suspicious about the ability of buyers to deliver volume negotiated in travel deals. They are now starting to hold back a little and only give the best package to those that convince them they can deliver volume where there mouth is. The most mutually successful deals I have seen are where buyers are able to "sell" their ability to deliver in a way that has credibility. I once helped a buyer create their own volume delivery agreement which they gave to a delighted supplier and got a fantastic market leading deal.

The deal itself is the beginning not the end of the project. There are numerous ways people can get round a policy and I have seen them all. I could write a book about it! However many loopholes can be closed, or at least made harder, by the ability of the buyer to get to the right internal audience along with a strong sponsor and present their case. To me this is more important than the deal itself.

I have always tried to tell myself that to be successful I should out-sell the salesman and successfully communicate how clever I (the company) has been. After all, if you have used you selling skills to get an exceptional programme you might as well communicate the benefits to ensure everyone knows and acts upon it.

There is so much talk and activity around apps, social networking et al. that perhaps if we used some of these fast-developing tools to focus on compliance and rationales then companies would have greater control and diminished leakage. A better ROI than repetitive tendering and programme changes to keep a leaking travel bucket full.

This post was republished with permission from the blog of former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt.