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The Psychology of Closing the Sale

You must have done something right, Mr. or Ms. Travel Professional. Your marketing must be working. The prospective client called and asked to meet with you. You chose a great meeting location, maybe your agency office, maybe a coffee shop. You dressed the part, you rehearsed the meeting and prepared well. You made a terrific presentation. Now it’s time to ask for the prospective client’s business. You can feel the tension. Why is closing so difficult?

Because we make it difficult. Is there any possibility shifting from a transactional model to a relationship/consulting model will remove some of the pressure of “the close?”

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Dealing with doubters

A poorly reasoned article titled “Reasons You Should Never Book A Cruise Through A Travel Agent” is making the rounds on Facebook with a few thoughtful comments as well as the usual number of trolls looking to poke the profession’s collective spleen. At least once a quarter, if not more often, such articles appear as a reminder our marketing job is far from adequate to keep us in good stead with the public at large despite the spate of recent positive articles. Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking Backwards

I don’t like most game shows. I’m a high-functioning introvert, but the bright lights, noise and screaming frighten me. With one exception. I really enjoy Jeopardy. When I happen to catch it on television during an evening of channel surfing, I like playing along at least for a minute or two. In the no-stress environment of my living room, I am really good. Especially when I discount categories like “Broadway Musicals.”

What I really like about Jeopardy, though, is the format. Alex Trebec gives you the answer and the object is to provide the correct question – forcing me to think backwards. That little bit of a twist on my mental hardwiring engages an ability to dig a bit deeper for each challenge. Jeopardy teaches us to think differently. Read the rest of this entry »

Nurturing Your Inner Sales Person

Many travel agents dislike the word “sales”- our vision of sales and the sales process is jaded and we see it as less than authentic. In fact, many view sales as nothing other than manipulation. As a result, sales is often neglected as a part of the basic training that travel agents take on in their practice. Yet is is possible to understand sales in another context, one of helpful assistance. The best sales people are involved in an effort to meet needs and achieve dreams. Travel consultants who view sales this way approach their clients from a perspective of passion and enthusiasm. The quality of their effort begins on the inside, but it shows outwardly. Read the rest of this entry »

Calendar This

That sound you hear is time passing. Things are winding down, and there are less than four months left in 2017. Whatever has happened during the  year, you can make 2018 more productive by gearing up for the creation of  a business plan. An important part of every business plan, and a good start at generating the appropriate mindset,  is a marketing calendar. Too few travel consultants incorporate the use of a marketing calendar in their practice. Yet, without a marketing calendar, many opportunities for strong marketing efforts slip by either unnoticed or weakly implemented.

Effective marketing drives sales. Period. But to be effective over the long term, marketing cannot be haphazard or random. Planning a marketing strategy with a calendar in front of you will ensure firstly that you are incorporating a variety of marketing efforts into your plan and secondly that you are doing so in synch with your clients’ own planning. Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of being empathetic

This week I ran across a quote that will forever be a favorite: “Courage is the foundation of integrity.” I love this quote not only for its plain simplicity, but also because it surpasses all of the political entangling  any significant or momentous thought currently. Nearly all of us can agree.  I searched for its origin, but the quote is ascribed to a number of people.  If you have a definitive source, please let me know. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of Fam Trips

Does it go without saying that travel agents should travel? It is easy to ignore the very advice we give our clients. For a travel professional, however, travel is more than a divertissement…it’s our business. When a travel professional journeys, it is an opportunity to reconnect with the passion that first moved you to become a travel agent. By traveling, you are reminded of both the pleasures and the pains of the experience – it creates a greater degree of empathy for your clients. Without the availability of fams, many agents would not be able to afford to experience properties and destinations that are reserved for luxury clients or the greater number they must review to prepare for the vast majority of their clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Your Clients Trust You?

A few years ago in this column, I asked a simple question: “Can you trust your clients?” The equally important question remains, however. Can your clients trust you? What are the elements of trust? What does “trust” mean in a commercial context?  Consumers want to know the personality of your company and the people behind the company facade. The consumer wants to know that the people with whom they do business mean what they say.  No hype, no false promises. It is what it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to No

“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.” ~ Steve Jobs

We have a strange relationship with the word “No.” From childhood, we don’t like hearing the word, and as business people, “No” often signals the premature end to opportunity. Hearing a refusal can be painful.

Unfortunately, our dislike of the word too often means many of us have problems saying “No” ourselves. We have a bias to taking on tasks, of saying “Yes” when at all possible. As a result, we overcommit our time and limited resources. Trying to be positive and agreeable, we find ourselves increasing our own overhead beyond a safe point. Read the rest of this entry »

Sales Training for Travel Professionals

What type of formal sales and marketing training have you undertaken? If you look at most professions, the sales people are continually taking sales courses on a regular basis. In travel, however, sales and marketing often take a back seat to destination courses and product knowledge. Too seldom do you see real sales and marketing training in our industry.  Even at industry trade shows, “sales seminars” usually end up being more product knowledge in disguise. How important do you think formal training in sales and marketing is and how have you invested in it in the past? Read the rest of this entry »

Shoestring Nooses

I often encounter a mindset that sees marketing as an expense.  I suppose from the perspective of an accountant, that is absolutely accurate. However, in reality marketing should be viewed as an investment.  Think of it this way: marketing is only expensive if it’s not working. If you made 5 dollars every time you spent two marketing dollars you would be spending money all day and be happy about it. Ideally, marketing is an investment.

We all live within the constraints of a budget.  There are many good things to be said about marketing on a shoestring, on choosing strategies that are smart and that work.  Today, however, we are going to talk about avoiding turning our shoestrings into nooses – making mistakes with our marketing dollars that, like  bad investments, are nothing but expensive errors. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Satisfaction

Carnival Cruise Lines did a study several years ago indicating 80% of cruisers booked their second cruise with someone other than the travel professional with whom they booked their first.  However, the clients must have been satisfied with the cruise experience, because they took a second cruise.

So how to explain this rather startling statistic?

Understanding the title to today’s article is the beginning of a strong customer retention program. Read the rest of this entry »

Campaign Marketing

Before your client becomes a repeat client, before they ever book with you at all, they have to know you exist. In fact, the most difficult and expensive part of any marketing strategy is building brand awareness: alerting prospective clients to who you are and what you do. Too often, travel professionals market not according to a plan, but impulsively, with a heroic “give it a try” mentality. That certainly is one way to market, but tends to be error-prone and expensive.

Is there a better solution? Read the rest of this entry »

The Importance of Trust

Trust is the basis of every relationship and in a one-on-one business like travel planning, all the more so. When a client trusts you, they are more likely to use your services repeatedly. Loyalty is founded on trust and will often convince a client to work with you over any alternative. It is trust that induces a client to take your suggestion over their own initial impulse or to try something just because you indicate you think they should. Trust is a powerful motivator for a client.

So how do we build trust into our marketing plan? Read the rest of this entry »

Sitting Still?

Like a shark, you know you have to keep moving forward. In business there is no such thing as sitting still. Clients come and go. Destinations rise and fall in popularity and demand. There is always something new on the horizon. In fact, if your business is not growing, chances are pretty good you are losing ground. No time for sitting still.

Is it too early to talk about 2018? I don’t think so if you are headed that direction. Here are five ways to keep  both you and your travel practice growing and even thriving. When 2018 arrives, you will be on the right footing. Read the rest of this entry »

Valuing the Upstart

I have always found business development to be fascinating, the process of merging the efforts of two or more companies to create or enhance a marketing strategy. Whether another company is bringing a new idea to me or vice versa, the conversation is almost always stimulating. The merits of the idea go round the table, sometimes round and round the table, and each party alternately tries to make the shoe fit.

Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Dangers of Comfort

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neal Donald Walsch

Is comfort a trap? For the business person, danger sometimes lurks in the most unlikely places where it’s not supposed to reside.  In fact, it is entirely possible we are most vulnerable when we are the most comfortable. At the beginning of the second half of this quickly vanishing year, when a wide field of possibility is typically clearly visible, let’s take a moment to discuss the perils of comfort. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Business Cards are Like Tattoos

Personally, I am a fan of interesting tattoos. I know that is not necessarily a shared preference. Body art is not for everyone and please do note my preference: interesting tattoos. I have certainly been exposed, to use a phrase, to some very bad tattoos.
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Craft

The word “craft” is a wonderful word. Both a noun and a verb, “craft” denotes expertise, intelligence, intuition and skill. A craft is more than a hobby, more than a pastime. When you craft an answer, you work it, paying attention to details, to the magic that is in the turns and twists in the subtleties of language and insight. A craftsman is devoted to a chosen trade and practitioners of a craft are both learned and wise in application of their practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Clients for life

Glance back through the articles in the TRO archives and you will see some very strong opinions on a wide range of topics from travel agents and suppliers.  The temperament of the industry as seen through the strength of those articles is a good indication why the industry has endured through the changes it has experienced since the mid-1990’s. Resilience and persistence, a dedication to craft, is inherent in the best travel professionals. Though not without concern for the challenges the industry might be facing in the next few short years, these agents seem to be saying, very simply, they are here to stay.  Read the rest of this entry »

Training Your Clients

All business people tend to be optimists and travel agents perhaps even more so than most.  A positive outlook is in the nature of the profession.  Travel professionals inherently plan for best case scenarios.  People love to travel and at the outset of every client relationship, there are great expectations about the trip to come and the long term possibilities of a life-long relationship of travel dreams realized. Yet, far too often,  that “next trip” doesn’t materialize.  The client drifts off and books their next trip with another agent, or online or direct with a tour operator.  There are many reasons a relationship might never gel between a new client and a travel agent, but here are three steps you can take to help ensure your clients will return to you year after year.

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