Janet Parton column: why knowledge is power

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Janet Parton, director of sales at Cosmos and Avalon Waterways, shares her thoughts on the cruise industry. This month: the importance of learning.

It’s safe to say that knowledge is power. The more information we have about a product, or the more research we do into it, the more confident we are as industry professionals in selling it.

When it comes to cruise holidays, the options are vast. River cruise, ocean cruise, expedition cruise, small ship cruise, the list goes on. Then there are other questions our customers must consider, such as destinations, all-inclusive options, drinks packages, what happens with gratuities, suite options, what shore excursions are included, or whether there are any pre- or post-cruise optional add-ons.

As sales agents, we must be prepared to answer them all. However, the biggest question agents selling cruise holidays often face is: what makes one cruise line different from another?

For guests both past and present, it can be a minefield, and for sales agents it is our role to streamline the process, readily offering up information to ultimately educate the customer. As selling cruise holidays can be a daunting experience, how can cruise suppliers help?

Most suppliers invest in travel agent training and support, whether that’s through online training or providing sales teams to train staff face-to-face. Clia UK has a raft of information that is included in the Clia Learning Academy, designed
to give an overall view of specific cruise lines, destinations, oceans and rivers and providing tips on attracting newcomers to cruise.

I often hear travel agents outside of large cities say that they don’t regularly see suppliers. With this in mind, it is worth attending the many roadshow events up and down the country that are tailored to educating travel agents. My top tip would be to embrace these events and attend as many as you can. Talking to multiple suppliers and hearing about their products all in one evening is a great use of your time.

Unfortunately, despite the requests for suppliers to visit towns outside the big cities, attendance levels can often be minimal. I recently attended a roadshow event and the majority of travel agents present were from one travel agency chain. It is no coincidence that this agency is an expert in its field – it invests in its staff and encourages them to gain greater understanding.

If you see the potential in selling cruise holidays and you want to be an expert, you need to invest in training. There may be some minimal travel expenses, it may involve giving up one evening of your own time, but the knowledge you will gain from supporting these events can be invaluable.

We all have a common goal: to create happy customers and sell more cruise holidays. To do that, knowledge is key.

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