I just returned from the Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas. If you haven’t been, it is a great show to learn and network. I moderated a couple of panels and afterwards several agents were asking me about the “legitimacy” of several organizations in the host agency arena. I thought this is a great time to revisit a column I wrote last year on the subject.
Last week, an interesting post on one of the newer travel agent Facebook groups caught my attention.
A person made a very public declaration that she was leaving the group because she only wanted to associate and share ideas with what she considered to be “real and legitimate” travel agents.
Everything, and I mean everything, you have done is to get to this point – this step. Building a solid foundation by establishing your authority and your brand. All the marketing you have created, participated in, and paid for. All the time and effort proactively reaching out to potential customers. This huge physical, emotional, and financial investment is all to drive you to the next and arguably most important step in the sales acceleration process. Without it, we would not be in a position to serve our customers; because frankly, we wouldn’t have any.
I was recently interviewing a prospective client, who repeatedly asked, “Dan, what are we going to do about my marketing plan?” After reviewing her efforts, I told her, “Maybe a tweak or two – here and there – but for the most part your marketing is fine.” I replied, “What’s missing is a sales plan.” The phone went silent, and I waited while she processed what I had said. “A sales plan?” she asked, “I’m not even sure what that is. I thought all I needed was a marketing plan.” As I explained the purpose of a sales plan, I could almost see the light go on in her head.
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(This is the third in a six-part series about how you can transform your travel agency into a money- making machine)
Last week, my high school football coach, the legendary Billy Henderson, passed away just four months shy of his 90th birthday.
I played for Coach Henderson over 35 years ago. He not only prepared us to win on the football field, (and win he did -including a national high school championship) he helped turn thousands of boys into young men prepared to win in the game of life. Of his many lessons, two have stuck with me and are part of my core values.
(This is the second in a six-part series about how you can transform your travel agency into a money- making machine)
You will hear from just about everyone of any authority in the retail travel channel that you need to be marketing. The reason for your success or failure boils down to one thing – the effectiveness of your marketing.
As a teenager, I spent summers working a variety of construction jobs. It was hard work that kept me in shape for football season. One of my favorites was with a masonry contractor in my hometown of Athens, Georgia. Transforming a raw piece of land into a beautiful building is not an easy process, and it all starts with the block masons.
I was impressed by how meticulously they laid the blocks straight and level. Just a small fraction of an inch off level could have a disastrous effect on the building as it was constructed. As with most things, the taller the building the more exaggerated the effect (picture the leaning tower of Pisa).
If your answer is “NO” and you were given an opportunity to hit the “Reset” button and reboot your travel or tour company, would you do it?
Virtually all travel professionals, whether new home-based agent, tour operator, or the general manager of a large, multi-location agency, struggle with similar challenges such as finding new clients, keeping the old ones happy, cash flow, and advertising to name just a few.
As we come off the holidays and kick off the New Year, I want to ask you something, “How were your first quarter sales?” You are probably thinking – “What the heck is he smoking? We are just now starting our first quarter.” Yup, you heard me correctly.
Most businesses operate using one of two calendars. The first is obviously a calendar year, January-December. The second, used primarily for accounting purposes is a fiscal year, which will vary depending on the company. Most of us are familiar with these two, but if you have followed me for any length of time, you know there is a third year. The one I use which is instrumental to your success selling travel – “Selling Year,”
Since 2016, luxury cruise capacity increased by 45%. In two more years, it will have more than doubled. Brands in the luxury tour and hotel segments are also increasing their offerings at a record pace to meet a growing demand. Yet, according to a survey conducted by a leading travel industry weekly publication, agency focus on selling luxury sales is DOWN 5%! Traditional agencies, over $10 million in sales, are down a whopping 9%!
Our industry has become its own worst enemy. According to a survey by Pam Danziger in her book “Let Them Eat Cake”, she cites that the majority of consumers pay full price for luxury experiential goods – except travel. 64% of individuals surveyed said they got a discount or a deal.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a $299 Cancun package or a $100,000 World Cruise, over the years as an industry we have promised the customer, they always will get the lowest price available. Even if that happens after the sale has been completed. Here are the cold, hard facts of this promise / guarantee: The lower the price, the lower the commission. Because you have set the expectation, you have to watch every promo, every one week & flash sale to keep your promise. That’s a lot of work!
In my local new paper, The Seattle Times, there is a popular daily column called “Rant & Rave” in which readers send in items such as this rant; “To the inconsiderate man at the Seahawks game who insisted on standing the entire time, my ten year old son wasn’t able to see any of the game thanks to you.” And this rave: “Bravo to the city bus driver who helps my elderly mother get safely cross the street. Its people like you that restores my faith in mankind.” It’s the little, big things that make their way into this column each day.
As we approach US Thanksgiving, (Canadians celebrate it in October) let’s take time to reflect and celebrate all of the wonderful benefits the travel business provides us.
Time management is something of an oxymoron to me. I will not even attempt to create the illusion that I am good at it. In fact, I am probably one of the biggest procrastinators you will ever meet. No, time management and I don’t get along.
But let me ask you this: Are your customers consuming virtually all your time? Do you feel like you must be available to your customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week or they will find someone else who is? Are your relationships at home strained because you are always “on”?
As the writer of this column, I often get “love letters” from readers, usually arguing over my point of view. Keep them coming, there are as many opinions as there are business models – trust me there are a lot!
On one Sunday morning while getting ready to watch our beloved Seattle Seahawks, I received an email from a reader. It was how his spouse, after 2 years of starting his home-based travel business, is still not buying into his dream of doing what he loves more than his day job.
When everyone claims to be an expert, who should you trust? I have seen travel agents who barely know the difference between a hotel and a motel start social media groups, and suddenly have a following of thousands eagerly embracing their every word as it were the gospel.
Social media has given anyone with something to say a platform to share their opinion. Unfortunately while I can appreciate their passion, some of these forums are loaded with misinformation and unsubstantiated claims. It’s like the blind leading the blind.
There was a pastor who once gave a sermon about how we should love and treat each other. Afterward, everyone in the congregation told the pastor how remarkable it was. However, the very next week, the pastor gave the same sermon. Folks in the congregation had a puzzled look on their faces as it had a ring of familiarity about it. The following week, the pastor gave the exact same sermon – word for word. Afterward the church deacons decided they had enough of this nonsense and confronted the pastor, “Reverend, you have preached the same sermon for the past three weeks, why?” to which the pastor replied, “And yes I will continue to do so until we stop talking and actually do it.”
That’s how I feel whenever the subject of professionalism comes up.
I have just returned from a five day, solo backpacking adventure on a seventy-five-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington’s Cascade mountains. You may remember the PCT, the west coast version of the Appalachian Trail, from the bestselling book and movie, Wild.
This week marks two full years since I launched The Wealthy Travel Agent. Thanks to all of you who have helped make it a success. What started out as a dream to pursue my passion helping others achieve the level of success they desired has become a thriving company – one that looks nothing like I had originally envisioned. Everything, from my services to the website, have been a work in progress.
I had a dream, I had the passion, but the big question was, could I leverage my skills, knowledge and expertise into a business that would help me reach my personal goals?
In case you missed it, the luxury and niche travel business has been exploding in growth. Tour operators are offering more upscale itineraries with custom built coaches and five-star hotels than ever before. Capacity in the luxury cruise segment increased by 45% in 2016 alone, and will double again by 2020. And of course, river cruising is still on a juggernaut, fueling the growth more than any other sector.
I attended the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) back in the mid-1980s, but as my Uncle Howard once told me – my real education was the summer of my freshman year I spent selling books door-to-door. In those short two and one-half months, I developed many of the life skills that have become an integral part of who I am today.
The classic argument of who came first, the chicken or the egg, is most evident when discussing marketing and sales.
The marketing folks will say that without them the salesperson would not have any customers. The salespeople will say without them no one, including the marketing people, would have jobs. As a lifelong salesperson, I subscribe to the later theory.
Remember when you first decided to become an independent travel professional. You were so excited to be embarking on a new career, one that could take you all over the world, live a lifestyle others only dream about, and heck -you were even going to get paid for it! The thought of associating yourself with a trusted brand, or finding a business model that worked for you made the decision that much easier. Regardless of the reason–you jumped in with both feet.