Three Effective Ways to Improve Your Supplier Relations  

By Marie A. Smith, CTA, VTA, Director of Agent Development and Engagement for KHM Travel Group

Building relationships in the travel industry is key to helping your business succeed. Some Independent Contractors may feel they are limited in their relationships with their supplier partners, but this doesn’t have to be the case. It just takes a little understanding, patience, and effort to connect with the right people.

Get to know your BDMs. As you probably know, travel suppliers have personnel commonly known as Business Development Managers (BDMs) located in specific areas of the country. These BDMs may work only within their specific regions, which means that, as an Independent Contractor with a host agency, your specific BDM could be in a different state and region altogether. It’s important to check with your host agency to ensure you are contacting the right supplier partner. This can become a bit challenging when looking for local support and educational opportunities because you may not be on the agent/agency list for your specific area’s BDM. This is where your host’s BDM can help introduce you to a BDM in your specific area. Regardless of whom you contact, you always should mention your affiliation with your host agency.

Some supplier partners may extend a secondary phone field to agents within a host agency who meet certain criteria. This is another great way to gain access to local BDM support.

Engage in and attend your host agency’s events. Attending annual conferences and educational opportunities with your host agency is important. These events usually are heavily attended by the host agency’s preferred supplier partners. Not only are you gaining the knowledge and information you need to run your business, but you’re also able to meet your supplier partners in-person. Face time with your host and supplier BDMs can be a key factor in growing your business. Many Independent Contractors who truly connect and engage with their supplier BDMs are in a better position for their sales efforts. They also can serve their clients better based on having the support and proper channels in place when the need arises.

True relationships with a few select BDMs are as important as the relationships you hold with your most valued clients. Understanding that can be a game changer in taking your business to the next level.

Know your numbers. When you reach out to a supplier partner for possible co-op marketing, ensure you know what your numbers are with that supplier or the potential sales you hope to bring in from your request. Agents looking to partner with a specific supplier should reach out early and give a good projection of what outcome they are looking to achieve from the specific marketing effort. Blindly copying suppliers and not clearly outlining the marketing efforts may result in a low likelihood of gaining assistance. Those who take the time to complete a marketing plan and present the opportunity in a clear and concise manner will most likely get the commitment from the supplier.

When you take your business seriously and approach your suppliers in a professional manner, you’ll show them that you respect their time. Putting in the effort and engaging with them on both a business and personal level can mean greater success for your business in the end.