Over the years in the industry, I have continually stressed the importance of being known by your clients as a true travel consultant and not just an “order taker.” I believe strongly, that to build a meaningful list of “lifetime clients,” that every year, an agent needs to touch base with their clients and recommend a couple of vacation ideas. Yes, out of the blue! Think about it…if your clients can find every trip they take online, do they really need you?
Especially as the economy recovers, almost everyone enjoys taking some mental time off, to dream of an exotic and relaxing vacation. While they may not actually book the vacation, a client feels appreciated, when they get word from their agent about a vacation they might enjoy someday. And, while they might not be able to take it right then, they might just save it as an idea for a future trip. But, the important point is, they know you were thinking of them–and this goes a long way in building client loyalty. This doesn’t mean that when you find an outstanding vacation offer that represents a great value, that you can’t send the same offer to a large list of your clients that have indicated similar vacation preferences. The offer might appeal to them as well. Who knows, you just might obtain a few sales from the same great offers that your preferred suppliers are sending to you lately.
On the other hand, if your clients become aware of these same great offers from other sources, their own online searches or worse yet, other travel companies, you are at great risk of eventually losing them as a client. This is why it is so important that you get to know your client– the type of vacations they really enjoy, the time of the year they normally vacation, the price range that appeals to them and of course, those “bucket list” vacations that they hope to take someday!
This same issue answers another question that I am often asked, “How often should I be in contact with my best clients?” While others might disagree with me, my answer has always been, “as often as you can, until you find them their next vacation.” Now this doesn’t mean filling up their email box with every vacation deal you receive. The key is staying ahead of your client’s vacation planning cycle and presenting them with great offers that just might fulfill their needs. If you are sending them too many offers or ones that really don’t appeal to them, they normally will tell you. But, better yet, ask them for a few minutes to update their profile with some of the vacation ideas they would like you to be on the lookout for. Again, this little step reflects that you appreciate their business and that you truly are “their travel agent” – a true professional.
Read their minds
Another point that goes with the above idea, is to work hard at staying on top of the current travel trends and news, both from a trade perspective and a consumer perspective. TRO is an excellent resource with their daily TravelGram email. Again, it is better for your clients to hear of something from you, than anyone else. Use the information you find to your advantage. A report in Travel Agent magazine, once suggested that Google searches for “All Inclusive vacations and package deals” were up 20% from last year. Here is the perfect opportunity for you to be on the lookout for some of the great offers from your AI preferred suppliers, as well as some of the great cruise offers which will start to grow, as your clients start planning this winters getaways. Become a mind reader and send them great vacation ideas which match their needs. You might just come away pleasantly surprised when they thank you or even better, book or refer a friend or a colleague.
Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 17 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million. Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LarryNormanCTC@Gmaill.com or leave a comment here.