When Saying "No" is Just Plain Foolish

Ruthanne Terrero with Amanda Klimak


When a client asks you a question, determine what they’re truly trying to get at; you may help yourself make a sale.Years ago I was visiting with the general manager of a busy Manhattan hotel. As we stood in the lobby chatting, we saw a hotel guest approach one of his staff to ask a question. The employee shook her head, no, and the guest walked away. The general manager quickly went over to find out what had transpired; when he returned, he was upset.

“The guest asked her if we had a shoeshine service at the hotel and she told him, ‘No, we don’t,’” he said. “I explained to her that the guest didn’t really want to know if we provide that service here, he just wanted to get his shoes shined. There’s a place just next door we could have sent him to!”

At the time I almost had to laugh; his logic was so clear, I couldn’t believe the hotel staffer had so clumsily missed this request. But I also realized that this was the first time I’d ever heard someone speak of the importance of listening to what the client is truly saying.

Here’s another example of how not truly listening can hurt your business. Marilyn Conroy, executive vice president of David Morris International, recently shared this story with me as we were discussing the topic of poor customer service.

 “Three years ago, I purchased, for cash, two BMWs for my husband and daughter,” said Marilyn. “I kept the card of the sales person and when I wanted to trade in the cars I naturally called the same dealer and asked to speak to Les. The receptionist said, ‘Les no longer works for us,’ and I said, ‘What a shame, I wanted to replace my two BMWs!’ She said “Well, I’m sorry he’s no longer here,’ and hung up. She never suggested that someone else could help me! To compound the bad sales treatment, I then e-mailed the general manager of sales for that dealership and told him the story, as, frankly, I was shocked. Anyway, you guessed it, he never even responded!”

All of this made me wonder if this doesn’t happen often in the luxury travel advisor environment. A client might inquire if a certain hotel in Italy has a cooking school attached to it. There’s a pretty strong chance the answer is no, however, is that what the client was really asking? Are you certain that your colleagues would turn this inquiry into a sale by quickly recommending hotels that do have cooking schools? What if a client asks if a certain hotel in Europe is accessible for wheelchairs? If you know this person doesn’t require a wheelchair, the odds are they’re thinking of traveling with a friend or family member who does. Before sadly telling them that the hotel can’t accommodate their needs, the travel advisor should be alert enough to ask if they’re considering a family reunion abroad and then get busy suggesting options.

By the way, I am pictured here with Amanda Klimak, vice president of operations for Largay Travel. We sailed together on the Crystal Symphony for the cruise line’s 20th annual Gala for top-producing agencies. I always enjoy seeing Amanda at any event I attend; her outlook on life is extremely positive and she’s always planning something wonderful for her colleagues back in the office. And, of course, she is often traveling with two of my favorite people: Paul or Roland Largay. Thanks to all three of these wonderful individuals for setting such a great example for the luxury travel industry; they’re all active in participating in programs that benefit others and they’re also passionate about providing great travel experiences for their clients. For more on this great group, see pages 90-98.

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