By Dan Chappelle, Founder, The Wealthy Travel Agent Academy
I have witnessed some of the best & worst practices of professionalism from travel agents.
Unfortunately, a number of agents, especially new ones, will sometimes let their passion get in the way of good business sense and manners. Here are five things you can do to show what it means to be a travel professional in the eyes your suppliers & peers.
1. Have a plan
The ultimate way to show your professionalism is preparation – have a plan. This will set you apart from 90% of other travel agents. In addition to your overall business plan, having several strategic plans including one for growing preferred supplier relationships are essential. It don’t have to be a book, actually the one page strategic plan works best. The plan is your map, since you will be asking your preferred suppliers for co-op, they will become your business partners. You should include realistic sales projections, target prospects, marketing program, and financial commitments from both parties.
2. Have skin in the game
Make sure you are prepared to pay at least 50% of the cost for any advertising or event. If you are not willing to invest in your own idea, why would you expect the supplier to do so? Treat the partnership for what it is and don’t take advantage
3. Invest in your professional education.
This is my soapbox. Selling travel is your chosen profession. Be prepared to invest your own time and money to gain the knowledge needed to become an expert -you will be a much better salesperson for it.
If your sales skills are lacking, a coach who specializes in travel sales might be good investment. Not only will you learn more, you have someone to hold you accountable. I coach a number of travel professionals, but I also work with a business coach who specializes in what I do. I believe in emulating the success of others and a good coach will help to move your business forward.
4. Never ask for FREE
Never, ever ask for anything for free. If I had a dollar for every time a travel agent said to me, “I can’t sell your product unless I’ve been on your product” – with the real expectation of a free trip, I would be a rich man. Of course you can sell the product. You can sell anything if you take a little time to educate yourself. Ask these same agents if they have ever sold airline tickets or hotels to destinations they have never visited, the answer is always “of course, but you are different”. That is just another way of saying: I won’t sell your product until you give me a free trip”. This is a clear indicator to suppliers these agents are only in the business for their own benefit. Don’t be one of those agents. That said, if a supplier offers a freebie – by all means take it!
5. Your Business Development Manager is your business partner
BDMs typically have large geographic territories. As a result, they are stretched for time and resources, so they will focus on proven agents. It is important to remember that you need each other to reach to achieve your mutual goals. If you are new or beginning to specialize in a product – your plan will be the key to opening the door to a call or meeting with the BDM. Make sure you have a clear purpose for the meeting and a desired outcome. This can be communicated in advance with an agenda. Be respectful of his or her time and stick to the agenda so the BDM knows what to expect. You have a plan & an agenda? Most BDMs will be blown away by your organization and professionalism. If you are home based. Plan on meeting for coffee or lunch, don’t expect them to come to your home.
As a travel professional, you not only represent yourself, but also your consortia, agency, & host agency – the entire industry. Be the person who professionally, we all look up to & want to be like. Finally, if you really want to make a strong lasting, professional impression – buy your BDM lunch.