Reason # 5: This week, we have reviewed some of the reasons your travel practice might not be growing at the rate you want. Today’s fifth and final reason is one of the most difficult to understand at a deep, emotive level. Intellectually, most travel agents understand the need to develop relationships with clients. Emotionally, reactively, however, too often it’s the transaction, not the client, that receives central billing in our marketing campaigns.
A transactional mentality moves from one travel planning exercise to the next, from one sale to the next sale. In contrast, truly successful business people form relationships with their clients, emphasizing the rapport and bond of trust formed between travel consultant and client. As a result, the association with positive travel experiences and the travel consultant is so strong that the client would not think of traveling without also thinking of his travel consultant. The relationship works both directions and the client depends on the expertise, integrity and authenticity of the travel consultant as a matter of trust.
Trust is indeed at the heart of every relationship between a client and a travel counselor. Trust is seldom at the heart of a transaction, where other considerations like price tend to hold sway.
Every good business relationship is built on trust, and travel consulting perhaps more so than most. Rather than a linear, transactional retail paradigm, modern travel sales is about establishing a relationship with the client, analyzing the customer’s needs and making recommendations based on the expertise of the travel consultant. The best practitioners in any field of expertise exhibit a set of characteristics that can be studied, learned and emulated. By looking at the habits and attitudes of top travel consultants, we can set out an agenda for expanding and enhancing our own skill set.
Top travel counselors understand that the very nature of “sales” has changed. The internet has forever retired the retail paradigm of travel sales. The best in the field now treat themselves not as travel agents, but as travel counselors or travel consultants. This is not merely semantics, but a real difference based on the role of the travel professional. No doubt in each travel planning episode a sale is taking place. Actually, two sales are taking place. The travel supplier is selling travel. The travel professional is selling consulting services. No serious travel consultant should confuse or collapse the two sales initiatives, because to do so is to lapse back into the retail paradigm with the attendant problems of price shopping and a transactional relationship with a customer rather than a consulting relationship with a client.
Spend some time contemplating the nature of your business relationships. If you find yourself mentally emphasizing transactions over relationships, a psychological adjustment is in order. The perspective from which you approach your clients, transaction or relationship, will impact the quality of your client encounters.