Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Orlando and work at the Travel Research Online (TRO) booth with Richard Earls at the THETRADESHOW sponsored by ASTA. I met so many great people at the show, and learned a lot; and it never ceases to amaze me at how much you can learn from your peers. All too often, it is almost too easy to feel you know it all–and that is a dangerous place to be.
On the last day of the show Richard gave a seminar entitled “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents“. One of the highlighted habits was that top travel agents charge fees. When Richard asked how many agents in attendance were currently charging fees, only about 1% of those in attendance raised their hands.
I remember when I started dating, and my mom had the conversation with me about what not to do on the first date… or the sixth date until you had some sort of commitment. But day after day, travel agents give away their time and efforts to a potential client who has no intention of committing to them. The majority of travel agents are not in the habit of charging fees. But why is that? There is no other industry where a person is expected to work for 6 to 8 hours only to find out they may (or may not) get paid for their efforts. Who works like that? Well, travel agents do. And they do it every day.
When I first got into this business, I fell into that trap as well and would put together a package for anyone who asked. But I quickly realized that I was pricing more packages than I was selling. Then I read an article about a New York travel agent named Bill Fischer. He will only accept you as a client if you have been referred by an existing client. He has an unlisted number. Oh and he has a $10,000 initial fee and a $5000 annual retainer for his services. Talk about playing hard to get! I was so impressed by this article that the next day I came up with a service agreement, and started implementing a $100 retainer for my services. Within a year, my business tripled. Bill is Oprah’s travel agent-‘nuff said? I am not there yet, but Bill’s success certainly says a lot about what can happen within this industry, even with the increased competition we see today.
I have spoken with agents who don’t feel confident charging a fee for their work. Why not? What happens when you spend half a day working on a package, and your client decides to book it somewhere else? There are over 100 threads on an agent message board on the topic of charging fees-it is a hot topic!
Those who know me have heard me say time and time again, “You’re not auditioning to be their travel agent!” If you’re doing the work, you deserve to be paid! If you’ve not yet implemented a professional service deposit, here are seven tips to get you started:
- Clearly outline all of the great services that you provide.
- Pick 4 of 5 of those services that you can quickly highlight to your potential clients.
- Develop a service agreement. Have another agent or two that you trust review it.
- Practice what you are going to say when you describe your services and ask for the deposit for the work you are about to perform. Refine it until you feel confident saying it.
- Talk to your clients about destinations and options, and remind them again of the value of your professional services. This will erase and doubt they have about writing a check to hire you before you start the actual planning process.
- Ditch your computer! We don’t have a single computer in the office. This will avoid the whole “can’t you just price something quickly for me?” scenario.
- Just like your mom said, play hard to get! You’re worth it!
Laura Frazier, founder of Bliss Honeymoons, is a graduate of the Travel & Tourism program at Ohio University. As an experienced agent who has enjoyed success as a honeymoon and destination wedding specialist, Laura is committed to finding new and innovative ways for home based travel agents to excel in their careers and build their business through the Bliss Honeymoons licensed dealership program. For more information, call Laura at 614-286-7799 or visit her site at http://www.blisshoneymoons.com/blissdealership.html