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Local Star Power

Last week, my in-laws decided we should all go to the casino for an afternoon of fun. I am not a big gambler, but for a few hours—I was game. One of the players at our poker table repeated these words with every hand: “Go big or go home.”

This reminded me of a big gamble I made with my travel agency. Outwardly, we were very successful, and from a sales perspective, we were. We did a fairly high volume of contemporary product. Because of this, we were often treated like VIPs—flown first class to inaugural events, served lavish dinners with industry executives, and so on. However, we were in real danger of going out of business due to low margins and high cost of sale, so we made the biggest gamble since starting the company. We turned our business model 180 degrees and began focusing on attracting affluent customers as a large part of the overall sales strategy. Go big or go home!

Many people are intimidated by affluent prospects, people who have achieved a high level of social, career, and financial success in their respective fields. Are you? I was raised on an artist’s commune in the 1970s. On a scale from one to ten, our social and financial standing in the community was probably in the negative numbers. I was definitely intimidated by many of the upstanding people in our area, specifically based on my perceptions of their income, popularity and positions of power. As I got older and came to know many of these folks, I realized my fears were unfounded—in fact, I was the problem.

Do you have the some of the same perceptions about your prospects? Are your perceptions standing in the way of the success of your career or business?

I discovered the phenomenon of “situational status” by accident as a young SCUBA instructor. I didn’t have a name for it until recently, but thanks to Oren Klaff and his excellent book Pitch Anything, now I do.

In a world that measures social status based on perceived wealth, popularity and power, the SCUBA instructor ranks pretty low on the socioeconomic ladder. While it may be a dream job to many, professional vocations, such as doctors, lawyers, and business executives, tend to occupy a much higher rung in the pecking order.

As an instructor, I counted professional athletes and local celebrities among my SCUBA students, as well as a number of esteemed professors, physicians, attorneys, executives, and mechanics. This was my first real encounter with the power of situational status.

I was hired to teach my students and their families a very specific skill: how to stay alive underwater. If they didn’t pay attention, they’d fail their SCUBA certification, or worse, they’d endanger their own lives. As a result, my status temporarily changed. I was no longer the guy living the life of a Jimmy Buffet song. I was the highly skilled teacher responsible for their lives. On my turf, our social roles temporarily changed in my favor. Make no mistake, while I may have been king of the dive boat, the moment we stepped back on the dock, that carriage turned into a pumpkin, and we resumed our normal positions in the social hierarchy.

As travel professionals, we have the same temporary importance in our prospects’ lives. As such, we need to be ready to seize situational status and exude our local star power when the opportunity arises.

Do not be intimidated, fearful or in awe of your prospects. In most cases, they are just like you and me. They happen to be very good at what they do or have a title that carries a lot of weight, but in our world, they are like a fish out of water.

Temporary status allows us to make rules and set boundaries, but with that power comes certain responsibilities. We must create value using our knowledge and experience to maintain our influence and situational status. Every time we talk to a client, they become the student.

Want to become expendable and lose your star power? Make it about price. If that’s all you have to offer, you will instantly lose any credibility. They can get a low price anywhere—but not your expertise.

You may never measure up to some of your prospects based on wealth, education, or social status, but it can be very fun and profitable if you properly use situational status to your advantage.

 


Dan Chappelle helps travel sales professionals achieve full potential by transforming their mindset and focusing on fundamentals to produce real results. He speaks internationally on strategic business development in the travel & tourism vertical. His signature keynote & workshop “Secrets of Selling to the Affluent Traveler” helps organizations, entrepreneurs, sales professionals, employees, and business owners gain meaningful competitive advantage.

His new book “Get Your S.H.I.P Together – The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales” is now available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle versions. For information on Dan’s education and sales programs, visit www.WealthyTravelAgent.com

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