The following is Part Three of the series “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents“
Top travel agents form solid relationships with their suppliers. These are not agents that bounce around from supplier to supplier looking for the “best deal.” Instead, our group of elite agents found suppliers that they trusted with their clientele. The relationships formed by the agents were developed over time and encompassed tour operators, hotel properties, local tour guides and receptives, private drivers and concierges. The agents we interviewed went the extra step of traveling to the offices of suppliers, to the destinations of interest and to trade shows to meet company representatives face-to-face. When visiting their chosen destinations, the agents we interviewed visited properties for extended reviews and spoke with the sales manager, concierges and other staff. Further, the top agents continually re-visit each of the relationships, staying current with their destination or niche theme and working the relationships to keep them strong and vital.
In this way the agent is able to surround their clients with a web of local services without equal, and are able to call on the relationships for special favors or urgencies. When a problem arose with a booking or a client enroute, the travel agent who had developed a relationship of this magnitude has a point of contact to call, by name, to resolve the issue.
In turn, these agents uphold their end of the relationship. They do not make unreasonable demands of their partners and they carry through with their promises and obligations. They treat suppliers as peers in the relationship and intelligently groom and work their contacts on a continual basis. These agents look to long-term relationships as a key to their success.
Exercise – Consider and take notes on the best possible suppliers for your niche. Make a list of possible suppliers. If you need assistance, use TRO’s Community to ask other agents who they use. Choose several suppliers that fit your needs, but plan to narrow down the list over time by studying their strengths and learning more about each.
Create a synopsis of your niche. As you work through your marketing plan over the next couple of months, develop a strategy and tactics for approaching clients for the niche you have chosen. Describe the niche in detail and why you feel it is viable as a product. Then, look again at the suppliers you have chosen. Study their features – the hotels they offer, their expertise, their knowledge of the destination and the degree to which they are themselves expert in the field. Begin to narrow your list of possible partners.
More than any other aspect of developing a niche, building relationships requires an investment not only of your time, but of financial resources. As you build your 2009 marketing plan, set aside funds to travel and to meet first-hand the suppliers with which you will work.
Plan to attend a trade show where your suppliers in your chosen niche will be exhibiting. Set appointments in advance. If possible, visit the supplier at their offices. Ask about their FAM policies. If they have a sales manager, develop a relationship. Explain your desire to specialize and your willingness to commit to your plan. Discuss FAM opportunities and production goals to later integrate into your marketing plan.
Begin the relationships you will need to be a top travel agent.
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