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Gary Cheng, DMO Lead, shares his best hacks for securing deals

If you’ve ever seen Gary in person, the first thing you’ll be struck by is his 1,82 meter-tall frame. And your very first assumption would be right: Gary was a basketball player in his youth, and his competitive nature led him to great heights, leading him to eventually become the captain of his college team. 


Gary with his basketball teammates in his younger days.

In an hour-long conversation with Gary, he reflects on lessons from his youth, what exactly he does at Klook and what makes Klook different.

To start off, he shared his favorite quote by Steve Jobs: Keep Looking, Don’t Settle. He laughs and informs me that that’s not his favorite quote just because it’s Klook’s motto (Keep Looking is where the name Klook comes from) — the quote is actually from a life-changing commencement address Jobs gave to Stanford University’s class of 2005.


Gary's favorite quote. No wonder our ethos of Keep Looking spoke to him


Gary's path to becoming DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) lead at Klook reflects his curiosity well. He studied Medicine for 2 years, before graduating with Politics as his major of choice, then working in Marketing. He’s not bound by typical conventions, choosing instead to go where he’s called.


So, what does the DMO team do?

Today, Gary leads the DMO team at Klook, functioning as the primary link between Klook and local markets’ tourism boards. His role in the Covid-19 era is pivotal, having to provide support across all regions for conversations between tourism boards and our regional markets, creating impactful partnerships.

Gary summarised his role as such: “Tourism Boards and Klook have shared objectives. My job is to make sure Klook efficiently maximizes the value both sides get.” 

If you’re familiar with the advertising agency structure, the best analogy is that he sees himself as an account manager who is constantly upselling Klook, positioning Klook as the best solution for their marketing budget. 


What makes Klook different?

According to Gary, the answer is: our priorities and how the company is structured. 

The existence of the DMO team shows how much Klook recognizes the value of maintaining a close relationship with Tourism Boards. Given the successes Klook has experienced over the past year with Tourism Boards, having a DMO team seems intuitive in hindsight. However, Gary assures me that few other companies had the foresight to install a DMO team in their ranks.

Another aspect that Klook differentiates itself by is the use of a unique partnership model. Gary beamed as he explained that one of our USPs (Unique Selling Points) is that we have skin in the game — we don’t sell ads, we build partnerships. That means that if a Tourism Board decides to fund a $1 million campaign, the DMO team has the flexibility to co-fund the campaign for $1 million. In this sense, we are true partners with an equal stake in the project.


One of our most impactful partnerships in the COVID era: SingapoRediscovers with the Singapore Tourism Board


With both sides’ funding in the mix, the teams are incentivized to ensure the project brings in maximum returns, reducing potential disputes over how funding is used and giving both teams a focused goal to work towards.


How to secure deals

I asked Gary what his go-to steps to closing a deal were. This is his 3-step process:

Step 1: Identify the barrier to entry

Step 2: Turn their 1 minute into your 5 minutes

Step 3: Demonstrate skin in the game


“You’re selling to a person, not an organization."

Step 1: Identify the barrier to entry

As a marketer at heart, Gary goes back to the basics. “What,” he ponders, “is the purchase barrier?” Being able to diagnose this is essential in starting the conversation right. 

“We start with the question “why haven't they bought you yet?”. If your products are good, what is the reason why they're not using you yet? That’s the purchase barrier we must identify.”

“A common purchase barrier the DMO team faces is that the tourism boards think we are small. They think we’re still a tiny startup. So the first thing out of my mouth when I start the conversation is: Have you read the news? We just got another round of funding 2 months ago and now we’re a unicorn company with offices around the world.”


Step 2: Turn their 1 minute into your 5 minutes

The next stage is the elevator pitch. As Gary puts it, “every single thing you do and everything you say in front of a client has to be geared towards selling.” And he doesn’t mean hard-selling, with a 1-way conversation, where he presents offerings and USPs and hopes the client makes the right decision. Nope, he means listening to understand what the clients think, feels and needs, before selling a genuine relationship, then selling the right vision and solutions.

“When you go to the trade show and see someone at the tourism board’s booth, how do you strike up a conversation and use one minute to secure five more minutes? The goal is for them to stay there for five more minutes listening to you, prioritizing your time over the hundreds of people approaching them every day.”

“Selling is easy when people are listening, but most of the time people aren’t listening. The first step is to open their ears. If you’re successful in that first minute, you’ll get a bonus 5 minutes to really sell.” Practice your elevator pitch. It should be as smooth as possible, lowering the purchase barriers within that first minute.


Step 3: Demonstrate skin in the game

Once you have their attention, the final step is to show skin in the game. Nothing gets people on your side as fast as knowing that you’re in the same boat. Being genuine, according to Gary, is the hardest life hack to master when it comes to closing a deal. We need to develop real personal relationships with representatives for their own sake, not simply in order to sell. 

“Our way of working with DMOs is very different to some other companies — we don't sell them anything. We tell them about our plans to co-invest, which gets their attention. This is when they ask 'Okay, how are you investing? Do you mean you are putting real money into this partnership?' I can then bring out case studies with other Tourism Boards to show them our track record and answer any questions they have.”


Not ready to settle yet?

Keep looking



Posted by Chris Soh, Assistant Marketing Manager

Chris has a lifelong goal of visiting every single beach in the world. He aims to be the world's first official beach connoisseur.

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