In the Trenches: How to Sell Ourselves

If you live under a nicely heated rock (or in Southern California, as I do), you may not know that the U.S. has experienced a ton of severe weather so far this year. With it came a lot of disrupted flights. That meant we were busy at Cranky Concierge, to put it mildly. But, in at least two cases, I found myself talking potential clients out of giving us money. Deciding how to sell our services sometimes requires me to chose between making sales and ensuring customer satisfaction, and I’m never sure where to draw the line.

In one case, a potential client in Florida was scheduled to fly back to the Northeast. Her flight on JetBlue was severely delayed (more than eight hours), and she was afraid it would be canceled. She wanted our help. I knew that flights were jammed, and there was definitely no way to get her out on any other airline that day. So, I explained that she should just wait to see whether her original flight got canceled before signing up for our service. I didn’t want her to waste her money. (It turns out that the airline canceled her flight around midnight, but we never heard from her again.)

In another case, a potential client in small-town Missouri was scheduled to fly two days later to Cancun via Chicago. Her first flight had already been canceled, thanks to the snowy forecast in Chicago. She said she had to be in Mexico on the day she was scheduled to fly. I asked her how much money she was willing to spend, say, if getting there on time required flying another airline, and whether she was willing to drive to other airports.

The idea was to try to get the airline to put her on another airline, but when weather causes delays and cancellations, that’s not required of them. She said she wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on this, so I told her that we might be hard-pressed to get her there the same day. (I bet we could have asked her airline to put her on another carrier, but I probably undersold that option because it wasn’t a sure thing.)

Neither of these travelers signed up, although I imagine that’s because I effectively talked them out of it. Looking back, that may have been a mistake. We could have signed them up and done our best. However, I want people to know that when they do sign up, they’re likely to get positive results. On the other hand, maybe I could have helped these folks and was just being too conservative with my estimates on what we could have done.

It’s always a tough dance to know the right way to sell ourselves.

About Brett Snyder

Brett is the Founder and President of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. He also writes the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.
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4 comments
thetravelanalyst
thetravelanalyst

Interesting scenarios!  Perhaps a middle of the road approach?  Saying you are happy to sign them up, but being uber clear about expectations?

 

In many ways you're like insurance (in a good way).  e.g., the clients that sign up for flight monitoring might not have any issues with their flights, but they appreciate you and your concierges giving them a heads up on things.  I know that these particular scenarios were different in that they were dealing with a specific travel issue.  But you having their back might have given them more comfort that someone they trust is handling the situation to the best of his ability.  It calls for a more nuanced approach in that you don't want to overpromise.  But even by you being there and assuring them that nothing else could be done could have provided value to them. 

 

Just m $0.02.  These types of situations are tough.

Shane
Shane

I think you did the right thing in the Florida case. People probably don't sufficiently understand what you or a travel agent can do. They probably think you can give the special handshake and seats just appear. I hear a lot of that type of complaint among my colleagues about our travel agent, even though they all travel 10-15 times a year and should know better.

crankyconcierge
crankyconcierge

 @thetravelanalyst I think the monitoring is different in that it's a lot cheaper than urgent assistance.  The value is there (or at least I hope it is) even if things don't go wrong.  But for urgent assistance, it's a lot more money and there are specific, time-sensitive demands.  We are very clear when people sign up that they're paying for our time and expertise, not necessarily the outcome.  We do have our moneyback guarantee, but we want people to understand that it's meant for if they think we haven't done everything we can.  Of course, people have taken advantage of it for other reasons, and we honor it.  We put the guarantee out there for a reason so we won't back down.  But it does make it tough to set expectations properly.

crankyconcierge
crankyconcierge

That's a very good point, Shane.  Unrealistic expectations will leave nobody happy, and people do think we have some magic wand.  (We had someone call us this week asking if we could hold a Delta flight for someone.  Um, no.)

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