It was the first morning of the Cruise Holidays’ store front convention a few weeks ago, and I was sitting alone having breakfast in the section on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas’ dining room reserved for their premium Crown & Anchor members. I was working on my “live” blog for the trip in the peace and quiet of the morning.
My sales coach, fellow TRO columnist Mike Marchev, walked by the door and I waved him in to join me for breakfast. Later that day Mike made a simple suggestion, “don’t go to the breakfast buffet or to the ’exclusive‘ dining room but go to the regular dining room and sit with strangers.”
One of my main reasons for going to this conference was to learn from other owners; but I realized I might be missing an opportunity to learn even more from the types of people who might one day be customers. I certainly could spare 45 minutes of my day getting to know them.
The next day I was on my way through the dining room to do just that, but I was asked to join Tim Carey with Disney Destinations. As face time with a vendor is an important part of any conference, I took him up on his offer. While work related subjects were broached, it was nice to get to know him and his family on a more personal level.
During the next morning, I finally had a chance to sit with a group of strangers for breakfast. I was wearing a logo shirt and was asked if I was attending the conference on board. We exchanged small talk before starting to ask questions. I wanted to know why they had picked this cruise, if they had cruised before and how they had booked it. I was very careful to not offer up my services as I didn’t want to find a way home from Mexico after being escorted from the ship.)
What ended up happening was I learned some top level reasons and ways my small focus group had done their booking. The bigger benefit was making connections with these strangers in ways that had nothing to do with sales at all. One breakfast started with a discussion of the failure of part of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco which led to a story how residents below a dam in Oregon are lining the river with sandbags. I was never asked for my business card. I went in there expecting nothing in return and I do not expect to gain future business from my table-mates. What I came away with was information with intangible long-term benefits rather than tangible ones from a onetime possible future sale.
It reminded me that for those of us who compete against the giant monster online order takers; without making a connection on a personal level, we will never get a chance to show what makes us different and certainly will never make a sale.
So the next time you find yourself on a “work—cation”, spend some time getting to know your audience. You may end up validating just what it is that makes you you, or you may decide it is time to refocus your vision. Call it Lasik surgery for the travel agent.
Chuck Flagg is an independent owner/operator with Cruise Holidays in Canton, GA. For information contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 770-355-9569.
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