I wouldn’t say it was an epiphany exactly, but as I sat in a class during a recent Sandals Convention, the trainer said something that caused my brain to emit an almost-audible “ding”. She said something to the effect that we should not plan trips or sell to our clients based on what we would prefer or what we would want to purchase, but based solely on what would be the best experience for our client. Yes, I can hear the collective “duh”. Don’t we always make recommendations based on what would be best for our client? Aren’t we the ultimate “matchmakers” between travel virgins and the resort that is perfect for them? I had the same initial reaction, followed by a niggling awareness, and a vaguely uncomfortable feeling that perhaps I am guilty–unconsciously of course–of doing that very thing on occasion. What seems so obvious at first glance is something that, after more in-depth thought, can very well sneak up on us and into our interactions with our client.
How many times have you planned a quote for a client and felt somewhat guilty about the price, even if it’s close to the budget? Or immediately began trying to figure out how they could go about shaving a little off of the cost to maybe make it more palatable? Perhaps because of your perception that it is slightly ridiculous to spend that insane amount on a five-day trip?! It occurred to me, after hearing the speaker’s pearl of wisdom, that these thoughts and feelings have their basis in our own personalities and habits. If we ourselves would feel uncomfortable with paying $5000-7000 for a first or second honeymoon then we might feel guilty that we are “enabling” someone else to do that very thing. This empathy might make us a really nice person, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into being the best travel agent we can be. And I suspect it may in part account for the difference between an average agent in terms of earnings versus one of those “top agents” featured on the cover of our trade magazines.
I am in no way suggesting that we need to make an effort to push the envelope on what our clients pay, or try to persuade a young couple to spend more than they are comfortable paying. But we all bring something different to the table in terms of our respective backgrounds and history, which colors our perceptions and our approach to selling. Therefore, I am saying that when we price, evaluate, and research fabulous experiences for our clients, we need to set our own (often subconscious) biases and parameters on an imaginary shelf somewhere in our brain and truly start with a blank slate, or more accurately, a blank state of mind. Not only does it make it easier for us to evaluate the options for our client, but should ultimately lead to a better experience for them as well.
And let’s face it–as much as most of us love being a travel agent, we all ultimately want to be paid fairly for our efforts, and continually increase our profitability year after year. When my proverbial lightbulb went off in that Sandals workshop I realized that, on occasion, I may be putting up the biggest road block in my own path to prosperity. With the multiple challenges travel agents face in today’s world, we certainly don’t need to pigeonhole our clients into a certain category and price range to make our jobs seem even harder! By making a conscious effort to be more aware of how we may be inadvertently sabotaging our own bottom line, we could well end up with more win-win situations and fewer days of feeling average.