Have you had the experience of knowing a truth but not really understanding it? Many times we outwardly indicate our agreement with a concept or an idea, but we have not properly absorbed the notion at a gut level, we have not yet made it a part of our muscle memory. Often, we only realize the reality of a truth when some incident in our lives forces the issue to the top of the priority list. The topic for this week’s 365 Guide is about things you already know. Chances are you will not find anything in the five articles that you disagree with too strongly (if you do, let me know!). However, your agreement with them at an intellectual level is not necessarily the same as an emotive, deep acceptance of them – one so deep that you have actually integrated them into your travel practice.
Each involves only a small psychological shift. Nothing revolutionary, nothing earth-shattering. However, the difference in perspective that each makes may be enough to profoundly alter the way you view your role as a travel consultant. So here’s the first psychological shift that great travel consultants have made: Your travel practice is not about your passion for travel.
I know about this psychological shift because I had to make it myself. When TRO produced the 8 minute video presentation entitled “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Consultants” the first characteristic we listed was “Passion”. We almost had it right.
Your passion for travel brought you into the travel business. But it won’t keep you there. Instead, it’s your passion for helping others to travel that will give you the long term satisfaction necessary to keeping you happy in your profession of choice: travel consulting.
Once you realize that your mission is about helping others to travel, your travel practice becomes truly client-centric. You quit thinking with your own set of preferences and, importantly, you quit thinking with your own set of criteria about terms like “fun”, “luxury”, “cost” and “value”. Those attributes are personal to your client. What is a good value to you might not be to your client. What is expensive for you might not be to the client. What’s fun for your client might make your eyes roll up in your head. But your travel practice is all about the client. Any other perspective will soon doom you to frustration with the client that asks too many questions, who cannot make up their minds or who is afraid to go to Cancun out of fear of drug cartels, the flu, earthquakes and Spanish.
Empathy with the concerns and fears of your clients will keep you sane. Understand that their hesitancies are those of an inexperienced traveler, just starting out on the path to what might be a lifetime of business for you. Taking good care of them, making their vacation an experience is a rewarding exercise for a dedicated travel consultant.
There is always the temptation to let our disposition nose-dive a bit when everything is not going exactly as we would have it in an ideal world. Let’s face it – travel consulting can be a stressful occupation. There is tremendous pressure to get things right the first time, and mistakes often have the most unfortunate consequences that seem totally out of proportion to the scale of the mishap. Travel consultants often feel trapped in a purgatory between clients who don’t understand what they do and suppliers that fail to appreciate the role of the travel agent. But, as my good friend Mike Caplin reminds us, “this is the business we have chosen“.
It’s not enough to be passionate about travel. As a travel professional, you want to be passionate about helping others to travel. You are not in the “travel business”; you are in the helping people travel business. That little bit of psychological shift, a move to a more client-centric perspective, can provide you with all the inspiration you need to be insanely great at what you do.