Last month I represented TRO in their booth at the Trade Show for Travel Weekly’s Cruise World 2011 and the Home Based Agent Show in Ft. Lauderdale. The best part of being at Trade Shows is the opportunity to meet agents from all over the US, Canada and even South America and showing them all the great tools TRO has to offer. If you haven’t already taken a look around the TRO site and utilized all they have to offer, you are missing some great stuff.
I met both veteran agents and newbies to the industry during the shows. I applaud each and every agent for attending and broadening their educations. Several questions were reoccurring by new agents, “How do I make money selling travel?” “How do I become successful?”
So, I decided to pose these questions to three very successful agents in the business. I asked if they would share some tips for new agents and veterans alike. Here are their responses:
Geoff Millar, co-owner of Ultimate All Inclusive Travel, Inc. is a very successful home-based agent. Geoff routinely speaks at Travel Weekly conferences and shares his success with other agents. Geoff’s keys to success include:
1. Specialization (product knowledge)
2. Sales ability (ability to not only sell products but to sell yourself)
3. Business knowledge
4. Customer service.
“Sales ability used to be behind product knowledge but I feel they are running neck and neck with each other as the top keys to success.”
Ann Petronio of Annie’s Escapes offered this great advice:
Treat your travel business as a serious, professional endeavor.
Yes, travel is “fun” and “sexy”, as some of the Cruise Weekly panelists said, but if you want to succeed you have to treat it as a business and not a hobby. Professionals spend time and money on training, they seek professional advice/assistance from lawyers, accountants and insurance agents and then they follow that advice because they recognize that it is in their best interest to do so. Professionals walk, talk and dress the part – they don’t use yahoo email addresses, meet clients wearing t-shirts and sweatpants, or send e-mails full of spelling/grammatical errors.
Invest in yourself.
It takes money to make money. If you want to succeed in this business, you have to be willing to invest your time and money back into your business – often without making much of an income in the short term – until it starts to gain momentum and take off. You need to go into this knowing that you’re going to spend money on training, technology, insurance, marketing and more. If you’re complaining about spending money on E&O insurance, a separate phone line or a laptop computer, then you need to remember that this is a business. And, as an industry, travel in general requires a fairly modest start-up investment.
Establish a support network.
If you work in a brick and mortar, that might be your fellow agents at the surrounding desks. If you’re a one-person home based shop, you’re going to have to work a little harder. Find like-minded agents on TRO, HBTA and other boards; join a local chapter of ASTA, NACTA or OSSN; create your own local network of agents; or network with professionals from other industries who can help you with non-travel-specific things like marketing, PR, trade shows, events, etc. One of the best things I did for my business was join the Rhode Island Wedding Group, which is an association of professionals in various wedding and event related businesses – I get referrals from them, of course, but I also get a team of local business owner I can turn to for advice and support on all kinds of topics.
Yes, I handle all sorts of vacation requests from new and existing clients (family vacations, groups, etc.) but I only MARKET to honeymooners. My brochures/fliers are all targeted at brides/grooms. I spend thousands of dollars to participate in local bridal shows. And I spend a LOT of time networking within the wedding/event sphere. I don’t turn away other business (as long as it’s within my comfort zone – no business travel, no Africa and no Asia) but I don’t have to spin my wheels seeking it out.
Laura Frazier, owner of Bliss Honeymoons reiterated the importance of treating your travel business like a business and not a hobby. Have a good business and marketing plan.
So, there you have it. Some great advice from three top agents on how to be successful. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was from Stuart Cohen. I have this on a Post-It note near my computer. Stuart said, “Get up! Get Out! And make people glad they know you!”
A big thank you to Geoff, Ann and Laura for taking the time to give me some tips for this article. I wish everyone Happy Holidays and a very prosperous New Year! I hope to meet more of you in 2012 at upcoming trade shows!