Michael Dunne, Business Development Manager of Sky Bird Travel & Tours
Must love travel agents
Unlike the John Cusack movie with a similar title, you must really love travel agents to work at Sky Bird Travel & Tours. I don’t necessarily have a specific love for travel – preferring to spend my vacation reading on my deck – but I’m passionate about helping agents grow their business.
When I started working for United Airlines in 1986, airlines and agents were truly partners. The airlines owned the CRS systems, and you learned a lot about an agency’s business plans when you were negotiating contracts. Talking with agents was the best part of the job, and relationships developed beyond our vendor/seller roles.
There’s no need for grousing about “the good old days.” Even Solomon said “Do not say: ‘Why were the former days better than these?’” Agents are far more business savvy today, and industry education opportunities abound. Agent networking takes place nationally.
I spend a lot of my time exhibiting at tradeshows. Having been on the buyer side both in a family business and as a not-for-profit board member, I really don’t mind when I’m ignored by attendees. That is, unless I learn that their perception of what a consolidator does was formed in the early 90’s. It’s a far more competitive business and the professional travel agent demands better service. That’s one of the reasons we announced 24/7 phone support back in March.
When I get to spend a little more time with an agent at lunch or if we happen to be staying at the same property, it’s gratifying to see “the light go on” when they realize how we can help them grow their business. I’m a firm believer in selling what you know. However, turning away from business because you don’t know enough costs you money and keeps you from growing professionally.
Business development is my niche; I’d consider myself more of a hunter than a farmer. I believe you can solve every business problem by doing more sales calls. Once an agent realizes that I cannot exist without them, they’re more open to discussing ideas that will help their business. Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want in life.”
My favorite agents are those who are new to the industry but not new to the business world (of course, I like old-timers like myself!). These agents are eager to learn but there’s so much to learn. Sharing some of the successes and failures I’ve watched in my 30 years often helps new agents prepare for the marathon of selling travel for a living.
Though I’ve had some of the OTAs as clients in my career, professional travel planning will always be in demand. Travel will always be a personal thing.
I’m just a person, in a family-owned company, helping one person help another person.
To learn more about Michael and Sky Bird Travel, visit them online at skybirdtravel.com.