BLOOMINGTON, MINN.—After a day and a half packed with seminars about boosting sales and marketing, heads were spinning—much like the roller coasters a few steps away at the Mall of America’s Nickelodeon Universe. The challenge for owners and operators was to pick one or two revenue-boosting ideas and put them into action when they returned to work.
“There was a lot of reinforcement of what we are doing, but also new twists on how to keep it fresh,” said Scott Riccio, NorthEast Charter & Tour Co., Lewiston, Maine. “It gave me ideas to bring back and to say there is more we can do and there is more we can keep track of.”
After experiencing the inaugural United Motorcoach Association’s Sales Summit, Riccio has made plans to bring two employees back with him next year.
Industry experts covered a range of topics that touched on all aspects of the business, such as staying on track with inquiries, quotes and bookings as well as better ways to follow through with customers from first contact to reaching out after the charter is complete to get reviews.
“[Charter customers] are the ones in the trenches making things happen,” said Riccio, a UMA board member. “If I can give them more tools for their tool box, it should be more profitable for my business. The reality is this business is a huge team effort.”
Streams of income
Held at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the sales conference provided an opportunity for participants to also experience a popular motorcoach destination. The country’s largest mall rolled out the red carpet for UMA members, sponsoring a lunch and offering a rare behind-the-scenes look at its Enhanced Service Portal.
The conference was the brainchild of UMA Chairwoman Gladys Gillis. With predictions of an economic downturn on the horizon, she saw a need to help members strengthen their financial position, learning about new ways they can connect with customers and bolster sales.
“With the inversion of the bond markets casting a shadow into 2020 that suggests an impending recession, this industry must take action. Even if it is only one action. We must not be complacent,” said Gillis, owner of Starline Luxury Coaches.
Among the strategies discussed were ways to raise revenues with multiple streams of income. Diversification means not just counting on sales from charter or tour operations, but looking at different technology options like Busrates.com for leads, FlixBus to get into line runs and crowd-sourcing funds from Rally. Another income strategy is long-term contracts. Signing two-, three-, or four-year contracts provides a base income for an extended period of time.
Rethinking fees and discounts
Speakers also explored ways to add value, whether it is offering entertainment packages or chauffeur services to generate more fees.
“Limo companies are disrupting our industry by saying, ‘We provide chauffeur service, whether we do it in a sedan, a cutaway, a van or a motorcoach.’ That’s a different mindset from what this industry had been in the past,” said UMA President and CEO Stacy Tetschner.
Not only do UMA operators need to rethink upgrades and fees, but discounts as well, say industry experts. When a potential customer calls for a discount, the conversation isn’t about price, but really a request to understand the value they are getting for their money, said Christian Riddell, during the closing keynote, “Selling Your Prices Through Mastering Your Unique Selling Position.”
Riddell, president of United Bus Technologies, recommends rewarding sales people for not discounting.
“We don’t think much in terms of handing out discounts, which also means we find ourselves in the discount business. A 10 percent discount in pricing represents somewhere between a 50-to-75 percent reduction in profit,” Riddell said.
Companies are walking away from potential revenues by not following through with a sales strategy or not responding to online quoting in an acceptable time frame, said Jim McCann, with Spader Business Management, who led three session at the Summit. After “secret shopping” some 100 bus companies, McCann found that fewer than half of those he contacted via their websites responded with a quote within two weeks. Fewer than 20 percent of those that did provide a quote followed up to try to close the sale.
The conference also reviewed opportunities to build upon existing foundations, such as sales management tools and opportunities like Tweetdeck, HootSuite and Khoros to help track and manage social media platforms and increase customer engagement. Participants looked at Kipsu, a text platform that moves customer complaints out of the social media environment, and heard about ZenDesk, a way to increase the efficiency of the customer help desk. MailChimp, ConstantContact and Campaign Manager can be used to improve broadcast mail campaigns. HubSpot, Salesforce and Zoho CRM tools capture and manage all customer relationships. Dubb, Vine, Splice and Promo all help make video content easier.
“It’s a new world in sales and marketing. Technology tools are everywhere we look. While these tools will definitely help us thrive in the future, the sales process is still the foundation of it all,” Gillis said.