Interview with Mike Marchev, Author and Speaker
Mike Marchev entered the travel industry in 1984 and has been sharing his sales, marketing and business development strategies with proactive travel professionals ever since.
Author of “Become the Exception,” the “More-On” business series, the “Travel Agent Success” series, the Mike & Nolan Show and now the “Sales Kit in a Box” programs, Mike is a frequent speaker at industry events. He makes a point to mix both content and entertainment in his down-to-earth, logical, believable and doable training sessions.
Mike writes regularly for TRO and The Travel Institute and has appeared in Travel Weekly and Agent @ Home Magazine on numerous occasions.
Mike has spoken to audiences in 18 countries and in over 75% of the United States. He has earned a marketing graduate degree and has taught sales and marketing classes at the university graduate school level. His latest focus is to help travel professionals sell and promote River Cruises while they represent the hottest trend in the industry. He is collaborating with AmaWaterways to help travel professionals take full advantage of River Cruising; find out more at http://www.mikemarchev.com/rivercruising.
Travel Research Online: What is the earliest experience in travel you can recall?
Mike Marchev: My dad was a true, dye-in-the-wool salesman who often took me on business trips. When air travel was involved I remember the plane was called an Eastern Airline Electra. That should position me with your readers as a “fossil.” (LOL) In addition to making his sales calls, he always found time to check out the local sights. We had fun traveling together.
TRO: What first inspired you to enter the travel industry?
MM: It actually happened by accident. I virtually stuck my head in my local travel agent’s door and said, “Spread the word. I’m for sale.” This was my way of broadcasting the fact that I was ready to change jobs. At the time, I was in the electronics industry selling components world-wide. The travel industry seemed like a natural next step. It sounded like fun, and I was right. I began working for that travel agency selling corporate travel back in 1982.
TRO: You’ve worked as an author, business coach, public speaker and Internet talk show host: which, if any, of these do you draw the most enjoyment from?
MM: That’s a tough one. They all go hand-in-hand as they all provide a different way to share the same information. If pressed for an answer, I would have to say, “speaking.” Although you willingly position yourself as a human dartboard in front of a room full of strangers, you also are given the opportunity to get people to think, reflect, learn and laugh. Unparalleled gratification is an instant by-product of speaking publically. There is nothing quite like it. Among fellow professional speakers this is referred to as The Power of The Platform. It is lots of fun, and I have met many interesting people before, during and after my presentations.
TRO: What are the benefits, from an audience perspective, of mixing content with entertainment?
MM: I started my career sharing sales and marketing tactics based on personal experiences. Interesting, but pretty dry stuff. By salting in a little New Jersey “attitude” I saw that I could make audiences laugh, so I began focusing on a more humorous approach. It soon became clear to me that these talks lacked substance, so I realized the importance of balance … solid, can-do strategies couched in fun, self-deprecating humor. This, I soon learned, was a winning formula.
TRO: What are the most interesting changes you’ve seen in the travel industry in the nearly 30 years you’ve been directly involved?
MM: Two answers come to mind. (1) The professional travel agent is no longer a middle-person. They are full-fledged entrepreneurs. They must be pro-active, creative, enthusiastic, persistent, knowledgeable … and visible. They must know how today’s game is played and what position they serve best. They must know where they fit into the buying cycle, and understand the importance of doing what they say they are going to do in a timely fashion. That is #1. (2) Yesterday, travel agents held the key to the information vault. This is no longer the case. The Internet plays a vital role in our everyday lives, and we must come to grips with what the Internet can and can’t do successfully as it relates to travel. We must learn to collaborate with the Internet … and utilize it to our full advantage. “It isn’t going away … but it is not the competition.”
TRO: Tell us a bit about your daily schedule. How hard do you work to stay current with travel and marketing trends?
MM: The nuns were wrong. Making a living is not getting any easier as I get older. I try to get up around 5:30 a.m. and use this quiet time to check my Google Alerts and to browse the industry news. Of course I peruse Travel Research Online on a regular basis and follow their blog. My wife keeps me posted as travel alerts appear on MSNBC. I stumble upon the rest and decide what I need to know.
My job does not involve regurgitating what others can read on their own. My messages deals with softer skills and transcends all industries. In a nutshell, I develop messages that connect with the competitive nature of the travel professional, and I say and do what helps stimulate them to take action. I consider myself successful if I can get them to (1) get up out of their chairs, (2) get out into their marketplace, and (3) help them make more people glad they know them.
As far as I am concerned, selling is still a contact sport. I focus on motivating people to take more action and to reaffirm a true belief in themselves and their contributions to clients. I guess that makes me a business development coach. I like the sound of that. I’m a business development coach.
TRO: What, in your experience, is the most valuable characteristic an agent must possess to effectively sell travel?
MM: This one is simple. Belief. Belief that they are trying to help people make better travel related decisions. Belief that that they are not trying to con, manipulate or cheat anybody. Belief that travel provides valuable and memorable answers to many questions. Belief that the travel industry is the coolest industry imaginable. Belief that they can’t help everybody, nor does everybody need or want their help. Belief that New Jersey is only deserving of 50% of the negative press. (Although no longer residing in the Garden State, I will always consider myself a Jersey Boy.) “You gotta problem wid dat?”
TRO: What, in your opinion, is the biggest threat to most travel agents working today? How can they avoid it?
MM: Disbelief. Once they stop believing in themselves as good, hardworking, honest, fun-loving people, the game is over. They can avoid this negative downward spiral by (1) reading, studying and investing in their future, and (2) by hanging out with more up-beat “happening” people. Lose the duds. Listen to and implement the works of guys like Nolan Burris and Stuart Cohen. That is perhaps the best advice I could leave your readers. (These two gentlemen have taught me everything I know. Or is it the other way around?)
Contrary to popular belief, their biggest threat is not the Internet and it is not the big box competitors. To me, those are just ready-made excuses for not getting up and out … and doing your thing regularly and with some degree of enthusiasm.
TRO: Do you have anything new or exciting on the horizon you can tell us about?
MM: I sure do. My Inner Circle Sales and Marketing Club is fast becoming exactly what I had in mind. Fun, entertaining, motivational collaboration for proactive travel professionals. By the way, we are always looking for a few more agents who fit that definition. firstname.lastname@example.org
I was also fortunate enough to have taken a River Cruise last year and it exceeded my expectations in every category. AmaWaterways made it happen and this experience could not possibly have been any better.
River Cruising is, and will continue to be, an easy and profitable sell. As a result, with active support from AmaWaterways I produced Selling River Cruises in a Box. This all-inclusive sales kit is now available to travel professionals free of charge by simply visiting www.mikemarchev.com/rivercruising.
Although it may appear to be a finished product, I will continue to enhance the kit with new samples, templates, models and video instruction. I strongly recommend that all serious travel professionals preview this kit.
And before you pull the plug on me Jonathan, I want to thank you for interviewing me in your 1:1 column. It was fun … and I like to have fun. Thank you.