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.
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.