Because the focus of so many marketing tips is about the client, it is easy to forget the need to maintain the other side of the equation – your supplier relationships. If you look back over the first quarter of 2013, how would you rate your efforts at acquiring and maintaining superior supplier relationships? Top travel agents point to their suppliers relationships as one of the most important aspects of their success. With that in mind, let’s consider putting the rejuvenation of our supplier communications at the top of your list of things to do at the end of April.
Here’s the great good news – suppliers want you to succeed. When you sell their product, they benefit and they know it. However, there are more than 90,000 people in the United States that deem themselves “travel agents”, let alone the members of pseudo-travel agent card mills. Not every travel agent is equally serious in intent or capable in execution. It pays to separate yourself from the crowd.
Make a list of your top suppliers. Then, record your contact at each supplier. For many suppliers, the days of district sales managers are gone. Knowing a contact on the inside of the company is important in terms of invitations to training opportunities and special promotions. When a problem arises, it helps to have someone on the inside to whom you can turn.
There are several ways to develop inside relationships. Focus on a few suppliers to whom you can entrust your clients. Don’t be continually jumping from supplier to supplier looking for the “best deal”. When making your bookings with a preferred supplier, try to use the same one or two inside representatives each time when possible. Learn their names and cultivate a relationship. Keep good records of your bookings. Once you have begun to accumulate a few bookings, blow your own horn by writing the sales department of the supplier, listing your bookings and thanking them for the opportunity to do business with their company. Indicate your satisfaction and request the opportunity to speak directly to a representative about your business plan and future opportunities. If you are authentic and accurate in your request, you will almost certainly receive an enthusiastic response. If you don’t remember that partnerships run both directions and you may have made a poor initial choice of partners.
Don’t stop with your tour operators. Particularly if you are working with a destination in which you are a specialist, form relationships at the destination with hotels, concierges, day tour operators and even restaurants. Learn to surround your client with a web of suppliers at your destination who you can call on at a moment’s notice for assistance.
Relationships have to be cultivated. Make contacting your suppliers and renewing your relationships a part of your business plan. Use the last few days of April to evaluate, focus and renew your supplier relationships. The balance of 2013, and the beginning of 2014 will look the better for the effort.