Much of what we do as an industry relies on us being our own promotional mouthpieces. We talk to people when we’re in line at the grocery store; we mention what we do when we visit the dentist; we explain just how we are better than the Internet every time we hear that annoying statement uttered by so many: “I thought the Internet put you out of business.”
So many chance encounters – so many little moments of truth with potential prospects, group leaders and referrers. But are we really ready to take advantage of each situation?
A couple years ago I was watching an episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” on A&E. If you aren’t familiar with this program the host, James Lipton, talks with a major celebrity about various topics, typically personal topics about their careers, how they handled different situations they found themselves in and what advice they have for up-and-coming actors in the industry. This particular episode featured Robin Williams, who is well-known for his very real portrayals of different people in different instances through the use of accents, body gestures, etc..
During his interview, Williams kept breaking into different characters randomly. One moment he was a Russian woman, the next a swaggering John Wayne type, and as the interview went on he became several other characters. He slipped into each persona as easily as you or I might start planning a client’s trip in our heads the moment they say, “We were thinking about Maui…”
I realized that this was the mark of a true professional: ready to “go” at a moment’s notice, with nothing to hold him back. Snap your fingers and Williams wasn’t there anymore – instead, it was any one of a number of people with a history, with all the baggage that people carry around. It isn’t hard to BELIEVE that Williams was that Russian woman babbling about her borscht. Our eyes see Williams, but everything else tells us otherwise.
To apply this to ourselves and what we do: are you ready to go at a moment’s notice? Are the people you talk to able to see and hear your passion for your work? Are you ready to respond to their questions, to take advantage of each opportunity that presents itself? Here are three tips to help make sure you are ready for every opportunity you can be:
Business Cards – They’ve stood the test of time and they’ll continue to do so. Business cards are an indispensable and economical tool to share your contact information and what you’re about with other people. Every time you step out of the office, even if it’s to get lunch at the Subway down the street, have some business cards with you. You’d be surprised how often you’ll go through them.
Elevator Speech – Develop your elevator speech detailing what you do and your ideal client in 30 seconds and rehearse the heck out of it. Rehearse it to the point it is effortless for you to say it and you can deliver it with passion, excitement and feeling your audience can share. For many, this is the one chance you’ll have to hook that perfect client.
Understand Objections – We all face the same general objections by the traveling public. “Isn’t it hard to compete with the Internet?” “Boy, that cruise ship hitting the rocks in Italy – that must be bad for business!” “I’ve never used a travel agent – I always book online.” Your mileage may vary, of course, as to what conversation starters (or non-starters, as the case may be) you encounter often, but know them and be ready for them with a positive answer and a hook that encourages the conversation to continue.
What Robin Williams did on the A&E show is what sets great actors apart from all the rest; he’s able to do what he does so effortlessly that the audience is caught up in it, and it becomes enjoyable for them. That is what we have to learn to do, to speak about our industry, our knowledge, ourselves so effortlessly and with such excitement and passion that our audience gets caught up in it, and desires to experience that excitement and passion, too.
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve, based in Springfield, MO. In addition to producing special events on board cruise ships, he specializes in escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his websites at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com and http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com