Economies are continuously changing; tourism is no exception. In order to maintain a competitive position, travel agencies are required to rethink the role of sales agents within the company. With the emergence of online sales and booking platforms the physical offices and face-to-face sales changed drastically. Nowadays, consumers book their trips through online travel agents. Information is easier accessible and travel agents less relevant. Therefore, the focus should be on online consultative sales.
According to Beltman and Peelen (2013), personal sales can be divided into two categories: transactional sales and complex sales. Complex sales, consultative sales in particular, have become much harder to employ due to recent developments. Travel agencies had to hand over purchasing and decision making authority to prospective customers (Young, 2011). Therefore, the sales person should now present himself as a consultant. Eventually, the aim is to add value by providing the customer with the information he is looking for (Beltman et al., 2013). Eventually, both complex sales and transactional sales have to be combined due to the expensive and time consuming nature of complex sales (Beltman et al., 2013).
Social Networking Sites provide sales agents with valuable information regarding the interests and opinions of prospective customers. According to Colleen Francis, “Facebook is the best arena for business to consumer sales” (Smith, 2013). Facebook is the most valuable platform for B2C sales due to its personal nature. Customers perceive the platform as their save haven on which they can freely share their opinions and ask their friends and relatives for advice. However, according to Sprout Social, 90 percent of surveyed consumers have used social media to get in contact with a brand. Additionally, more than 34.5% claimed to prefer social media over traditional channels such as phones or email (Sprout Social, 2016). Exercising consultative sales through ones Facebook page or other forms of social media can result in increased revenue (Bedgood, 2015). The sales force is recommended to engage with social followers and provide customer service through Social Networking Sites.
TUI provides an excellent example on the implementation of personal sales in the online environment. On their Facebook page, TUI provides (prospective) customers to ask questions, express their opinion and to engage in their social activities. When customers complain or ask questions, TUI sales agents will respond to these public messages and request further details to be sent to their private inbox. This method allows TUI to show their customer involvement and engagement and to provide suitable assistance to the particular customer. In one specific case, TUI provided discount of over 800 Euros to a customer after she pointed out flaws in the system.
Online consultative sales are a very good method to replace physical sales with. Exposing the company on SNS and being able to answer – often critical – questions of customers may result in increased sales and higher customer satisfaction. Facebook may be the preferred source for business to customer sales and provides the biggest reach. Even in our current depersonalizing economies, personal sales can be achieved by introducing online consultative sales.
Bedgood, L. (2015, May 27). 4 Ways to Increase Revenue with Social Media. Retrieved 9 October 2017, from http://www.business2community.com/social-media/4-ways-increase-revenue-social-media-01236612#JWfPE6OtPQ1ZPUBV.97
Beltman, R. & Peelen, E. (2013) Customer Relationship Management. pp. 278 – 282. Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.
BMS. (2013, July 1). Personal Selling in Tourism industry. Retrieved 9 October 2017, from http://www.bms.co.in/personal-selling-in-tourism-industry/
Smith, J. (2013, October 1). How To Use Social Media to Make Sales. Retrieved 9 October 2017, from forbes.com
Sprout Social (2016). Shunning Your Customers on Social? Retrieved 9 October 2017, from https://sproutsocial.com/insights/data/q2-2016/
Tabita, J. (2012, January 29). Transavtional vs. Consultative Selling: Knowing the Difference Makes all the Difference. Retrieved 9 October 2017, from https://www.sitepoint.com/transactional-vs-consultative-selling-knowing-the-difference-makes-all-the-difference/
Young, T. (2011, February 3). A Selling Revolution: How the Internet Changed Personal Selling (Part 1). Retrieved 9 October 2017, from https://www.vistage.com/research-center/marketing/a-selling-revolution-how-the-internet-changed-personal-selling/