“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
First, a bit of good news: Everything I’m about to say applies to introverts as well as extroverts. I myself am a high-functioning introvert and find the old-school approach to sales and “closing” painful beyond belief. So don’t be concerned that I’m about to recommend you enroll in a course on winning friends and influencing people. In fact, I’m going to recommend instead you begin by doing what you do best, what only you can do: be yourself.
Passion is seldom a problem in the ranks of travel professionals. Those who choose travel planning as a career do so because they love travel. As is often the case, however, a small shift is necessary to fully engage as a competent travel professional. It’s not enough to be passionate about travel. You must be passionate about helping other people to travel. While this psychological shift is a small one, its power is transformative.
In many other industries, the primary source of the energy in the sales environment originates with and is maintained by the sales person – think insurance. The buyer is present by reason of near necessity, not choice. Some classic sales courses teach the secret to sales success as the ability to transfer enthusiasm from salesperson to customer. Something about that approach, however, seems misplaced in travel planning. Most clients are already excited about travel and come to the travel professional to execute the transaction; here is the pivot-point at which the smart travel planner will shift the psychology of the encounter, from a transaction to a relationship.
Don’t let your clients be excited without you! It’s your task to join them in their excitement and to confidently channel your combined enthusiasms into a constructive travel planning exercise.
In the best of situations, the “transaction” exists in the context of a relationship between the travel consultant and client. 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.
Empathizing with the concerns and fears of your clients will keep you sane. Understand their hesitancy is that of an inexperienced traveler, just starting out on the path to what might be a lifetime of business for you. Take good care of them; making their vacation an experience is a rewarding exercise for a dedicated travel consultant. Once you adopt a truly client-centric approach, you can relax in the relationship and your confidence and love of travel can express itself most fully in a real enthusiasm for assisting clients in their travel planning.
Most probably, your new client works under the assumption that there is always a “better deal out there” and that everyone in the world is managing to travel more cheaply than they are. It is this price-driven mentality that is the most difficult obstacle both you and your client will face. For you, the obstacle amounts to a sales hurdle. For your client, however, the situation is worse. If you are not able to shift the emphasis away from price to value, your client risks great disappointment with their vacation – no small issue given the cost of travel. There is always something “cheaper” – you can buy a cheaper car, house, television, etc… the real question is one of value. As a professional you must first be able to understand this concern and then shift your client’s understanding to value.
So what is a travel professional to do? Many agents greet these exercises with exasperation. A better response, however, is to grasp a client’s focus on price as entirely understandable. Most clients have a retail paradigm in mind when they come to you. They think you sell travel. If you do not explain your role as a consultant, how can the client know better? Your task is to engage the client in an open discussion of your role, and importantly, their needs. You have to make the client comfortable with your role, and, incidentally, with their own.