Leveraging our business relationships to assist our clients is a good way to do business; however, it is necessary to tow the line in order to ensure we are making recommendations based on our individual clients’ requests versus simply trying to force a client into selecting a vacation because a supplier is offering a hot incentive; reward nights or a fabulous FAM. Supplier sponsored events are excellent ways to see what products and services that particular supplier sells, as well as getting that “face time” to further our business relationships, but as the travel professional, we need to ensure that we are properly identifying the best property, cruise, holiday tour package, etc for our client, regardless of what may (potentially) be “in it” for us.
When I first started in this business, I was initially a bit disappointed when a client would ask for a recommendation to a property, and I would make some recommendations, only for them to settle on someplace that (I felt) was less than desirable. Eventually, I realized that I could not afford to alienate a potential client; nor could I attempt to force someone into something they were not comfortable with – for whatever reason. Although I knew this all along, once I took a step outside of myself and stopped taking things personally, I realized that it is ultimately the clients’ decision as to where they want to go, where they want to stay and what they want to do while they are there, and it actually became easier to impart my bit of “wisdom” without feeling forceful or being disappointed when they made another selection. I have found that once a client has worked with me more than once, and they know my personality and taste, they begin to have a respect for any suggestions I make, and are more apt to try a place or property they may have never been open to before, but I don’t force the issue.
I recall reading somewhere that if we are talking more than 30% of the conversation, then we are talking too much – I believe that to be true. While it is our job to extract information and make recommendations based on the specifications provided for by the client we are working with at that time, we should not make assumptions simply because of their age, race, gender, or any other preconceived ideas we may have. Our clients do come to us for our experience, expertise and guidance, but ultimately, if they decide they want to have their destination wedding in someplace we may not necessarily agree with – it is their choice, and if we chose to work with them, then we must respect their selections.
The word “qualify” is used consistently throughout the travel agent community because it is the only way we can be assured that we are providing our clients exactly what they want. When we fail to qualify we are not only doing a disservice to them, we are also doing a disservice to ourselves. Few of us can afford to expend an inordinate amount of time redoing various itineraries for clients; especially if it could have been prevented had we asked the right questions and actually listened to the responses. I take a lot of pride in my work, and I am in business for myself, but ultimately, I work for my clients, because without them, I would have no business.
Chanté Owens is co-owner of Chicks That Trip, and is an independent affiliate of Incentive Connection Travel. Chicks That Trip specializes in group travel, culinary & wine experiences, and major sporting event packages to the UK, France, Italy, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and select Southern Caribbean Islands. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her website at www.chicksthattrip.com and her blog penned under the name, That Chick Té at http://chicksthattrip-lobbybarconfessions.blogspot.com/