The push or pull (in a tourist trap): I think you know which sales/marketing model works best

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On Lokrum Island, near Dubronick.  The nature preserve indeed provides some escape from the tourist traps (though of course you can eat and drink on the island, sometimes to excess).
On Lokrum Island, near Dubrovnik. The nature preserve indeed provides some escape from the tourist traps (though of course you can eat and drink on the island, sometimes to excess).

You don’t need to be navigating the Croatian tourist industry to experience the frustrating feeling of the tourist trap. Here, the problem is most noticeable when four cruise ships arrive in the port. The old city (tourist attraction) port is far too small to handle the big boats, so they anchor elsewhere, and buses laden with quick-visitor arrivals disgorge at the front gate of the Medieval walled city, to select their choice of restaurants, souvenir shops and paid-attraction museums.

We’re here for a week, staying in an apartment at a family-owned house, a 15-minute city bus ride from the old city. We discovered the place through booking.com, an online reservation service that combines user reviews with a great diversity of smaller as well as conventional hotel accommodation. (The booking.com service shows how the Internet democratises opportunities — there is no way a family could rent two apartments economically through conventional old-style tourism marketing).

We chose this place, largely because of user ratings, with the advantage of the ability to book 10 months ahead of time. (Our destination was determined, in part, by the availability of a pair of Aeroplan First/Business Class tickets for $750.00 each in taxes plus plenty of points).

So far so good. We’re paying the equivalent of about $130 a night for a clean, private suite with satellite television, basic kitchen facilities, air conditioning and even free laundry service — compared to the $360 for a single night we will experience at the Hilton near the old city.

But not everything is so good. We are visiting a tourist trap town, of course. And “value” and “good” have different meanings, with the usual touts, “special offers” and guide books and consumer rating services where reality doesn’t match the promises. Word of mouth, even with Internet rating services, doesn’t work perfectly when you don’t know the language and have no one here to confirm before making short-notice decisions on where to eat and what to do. We are stuck.

I’m not complaining — this is the cost of travel/tourism. Some things work, some don’t, and you go with the flow and make the best of the situation. But this experience reminds me why, at home and in virtually any other situation, we don’t like to be sold anything, and we are generally wary of trying new things unless we can obtain some first-hand trusted validation and recommendations.

These points correlate with a LinkedIn article posted by Greg Hyer, Social Selling is about Opening, Not Closing.

Hyer reminds us that conventional sales practices — where the goal is to achieve efficiency and close as much business as possible — really doesn’t work when you handle everything with that attitude.  (I painfully recall my last overseas vacation, and the Istanbul tour ending in the Turkish carpet shop, to be reminded of the painful agony of being trapped in a hard-selling environment.)

He observes:

I have spoken with a few sales managers over the past couple months that wanted to get a better understanding of social selling and if it can help enhance their current selling system. Their initial perspective is that introducing the use of social networks into their selling system will result in reduced productivity because reps will spend the majority of their time researching rather than making outbound calls. Their concerns are common among sales management professionals.

I explained to these sales managers that Social Selling is about opening new relationships, rather than closing business. Social Selling offers a number of principles that guide sales people while they guide buyers through the buyer’s journey. But, having a fundamental understanding of how Social Selling complements your current selling system is critical. Once you understand this, maybe this perspective will help you rethink sending that cold email, making that cold call or sending a LinkedIn invite with a pitch inside.

Sales professionals have become too accustomed to getting to the desired outcome that they forgot how much work it takes to develop a relationship with another human being. For example, I’ve received a number of LinkedIn invite requests that include a product pitch in the invite. And take a look at the discussions, or there lack of, in LinkedIn Groups. Even when someone has a legitimate question, those inexperienced in the ways of Social Selling use the opportunity to pitch rather than assess the question to determine a proper response, if one is needed at all.

Yes, this is the tale of two sales approaches. In our business, one rep is trying to make the numbers by calling as many people as possible, hoping some of them will purchase but (not surprisingly) has discovered that he receives very few return sales calls. The other attends association events, takes pictures, and sends them — with relevant articles and news ideas — and certainly NO sales pitch. The latter approach may seem to take longer, because it is indirect, but it generally works much more effectively. (We offer our sales representatives a starting salary or (if independent contractors) a modest retainer, to give them some time to build these bridges, and encourage everyone to spend at least a quarter of their working time on non-sales community service, but still, the weaker reps see their numbers are poor, so they, well, make more calls.)

I realize that not everything in business is nice and friendly; you need to make your numbers, you need to develop your relationships to build your business. And that all the good selling stuff in the world won’t offset a bad product/experience, except perhaps when you are in a country where ice cream sundaes are sold under the brand name “Slag”.

The local ice cream sundae product. "Slag" means, well, ice cream"
The local ice cream sundae product. “Slag” means, well, ice cream. It is quite tasty, and inexpensive. Some of the tourist stuff, however, is not so good.

(Here, a travel agent connected with someone working in the city’s official tourist office, who quickly referred us — and we bought. Alas, disappointingly, we were sold just another “tourist trap” tour.)

We aren’t all tourists, all the time, though, and we need to remember that the experience coupled with genuine creativity and sharing will work far better than hard-rock sales techniques.

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