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.
How to Stop Making the Most Glaring Error in Salesmanship
I know what you’re thinking! How can I isolate (hands-down) the single most glaring error a professional can make in the field of salesmanship? You are probably thinking about the myriad of possibilities to choose from. These include, but are not limited to lack of follow up, talking too much, inconsistent communications, failure to listen and a hundred more sales-related glitches, as well as more personality-based business killing turn-offs.
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’m not sure how it all began, but the fact remains that people have a tendency to believe the written word more than they believe the spoken word. This may stem back to the days when salespeople were known for their “gift of gab.” Even today some salespeople tell me they can talk their way in or out of any given situation
Being a seasoned sales professional for nearly 30 years and speaking for a living for 25 of those years, I am the first to acknowledge that in today’s marketplace talk is still cheap. So what is a salesperson to do? How can they continue to feed their families on a regular basis if what they say is questioned, and often in doubt?
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.
In small or home-based businesses, sales professionals have been stricken with a disease called “quit-itis.” Although most people desperately want to succeed, they let their fears and misguided beliefs hold them back only to convince themselves that the logical next step is to give up. But it doesn’t have to end this way for you.
Ten tried-and-true principles to take to market
If you’ve been in business for more than a day and a half you’ve probably been reminded no fewer than a thousand times that, in addition to whatever business you think you’re in, that you’re also in the marketing business. Let me say this again at the risk of repetitious overload—you’re in the marketing business.
Marketing yourself and your business has been, and will continue to be, the single most-important element to your success. There’s no better a time to ply this trade than right now—economic turmoil or not. The issue is that a great number of agents simply don’t know what to do.
I had just finished presenting my Selling to the Affluent Traveler seminar at a recent industry conference, when one of the attendees asked the question, “Dan, how do you feel about fees?” This is a loaded question and, while it was outside of the scope of the program, everyone in the room was waiting for my response.
“I love fees!” I replied, to which you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief. “Especially service fees, but in my opinion,” I continued, “you should only charge planning fees if you are adding value to the purchase!”
I have been fortunate to have spent most of my career as an agent, agency owner, and in consortia management. But as a former cruise line sales executive, I also have the luxury of the supplier perspective on many subjects that affects travel professionals every day.
Some years ago, while the owner of a successful cruise agency, I was interviewed by a major travel industry trade publication for my opinion, on what was and is still a very sensitive subject. The question put forth was “Do you believe that cruise lines should continue to grow their direct business channel?” My answer might surprise you. I responded, “Yes, absolutely.”
The reason, while not a popular one, remains as valid today as it did then. Cruise lines (and other suppliers) are not charitable organizations. They are for profit corporations – just like yours and mine. In most cases, they are part of very large public companies which demand ever increasing shareholder value.
Until now the letters B-T-E stood for my first sales book, “Become the Exception.” It was written to remind travel professionals they needed to stand out and position themselves as the go-to source for arranging travel.
In our “me-too” industry when you see one travel-related website, you see them all. When you visit one brochure-adorned travel agency, you’ve been there and done that. When you meet one bored and over-taxed travel agent, the stage is set for the next two-dozen. What is a motivated, interested, sincere, focused and energized travel professional to do?
Last month, while speaking at the Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas, I asked the audience of over 400 agents a simple question. “What makes each of you a better choice for the customer?” Followed by, “Why should a prospect buy their vacation from you versus the person sitting next to you?” In that room, there were over 400 choices that I as a consumer could make. So why should a prospect choose you?
The answers were, in my opinion, very pedestrian. Such as “I give the best service” – says who I ask. and “I am passionate about selling travel.” Well, so is everyone else in the room and so on.
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!
Have you ever stopped to consider why multi-millionaire entertainers and business-people take the time to sit down with the late night talk show hosts for just a few minutes, although their pay for doing so is probably less than they paid for lunch that day? I am guessing they do it for free. So why does every celebrity you can think of try to get themselves booked on talk shows?
The reason is they want their faces and voices to be seen the airwaves.
They realize that regardless of who they are and what they have managed to accomplish, that once they are out of the public’s sight… they are out of the public’s mind.
Visibility, my friends, is fundamental and that leads to credibility. And credibility leads to trust, which leads to success. The more you see someone, the easier it is to believe them… and to eventually trust them. Therefore, it makes proper sense to begin identifying ways for you to become more visible. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
What I found interesting is virtually all agents in this group (around 1000) are home based and many are cruise focused. This agent had particularly strong feelings about who was “real and legitimate,” and those in the group who didn’t make the cut.
Read the rest of this entry »
Torstein Hagen founder and Chairman or Viking (River) Cruises, said in a recent interview. “We are focused clearly on what we are and the number of things we are not.”
In a world where everyone and every business from Costco to Sea Ray Boats seems to be selling travel, how can you not only survive but thrive to build the business and lifestyle of your dreams?
If you want to stand out among the plethora of options – get clear on who you are and who you are not. Ask yourself these two simple questions. “What makes me special?” and “What do I want to be known for?”
Read the rest of this entry »
The first step in customer service is making your callers feel welcome. After 35 years of working with entrepreneurs and small companies, I have come to identify and endorse a common trait that is preventing a more rapid growth curve: “Their talk is cheap!”
As a former collegiate athlete, I remember hearing, ad nausea, that “you have to walk your talk.” A New York Giant’s head coach once put this into perspective when he told his team, “It is time we stop telling people how good we are and start getting good.” (I love that advice!)
I tell you this to prepare you for a formula designed to grow your home-based business. Truth be known, it is more of a secret, but it does underscore the importance of “walking your talk” and simply doing what you say you will do. Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of years after we started the cruise agency, we were growing a fan club of loyal clientele. We focused on fundamentals of sales and did what we knew best “providing the same high level of service our customers expect on their cruise vacation.”
One of our early customers was the Vice President of Sales at Dell Computers at the time. He was so pleased with the way we handled his personal vacation, he asked if I would be interested in bidding on Dells next sales incentive trip which happened to be two cruises- one seven day and the other a 4 day. Read the rest of this entry »