Everyone in business has to learn to blow their own horn. Of course, it helps to practice blowing the horn first. We have all heard the advice to develop a short answer to explain to others what we do as travel consultants, but how many of us have actually done so? Jay Conrad Levinson calls it a “sound bite.” You may have heard it called an “elevator pitch.” Whatever you call it, it’s pretty important to be able to intelligently answer THE QUESTION: “What do you do?”
We know it’s coming in practically every new encounter. Some of us tense a bit. This could be a terrific prospecting or networking opportunity for our travel practice. It’s also an opportunity to completely blow a chance to engage someone as a possible client. How to best answer the question?
Your answer needs to be short and to the point. Better still, it needs to relate directly to the listener in a way that it will stay with them. Your explanation of your role in travel planning should go to the pain travelers feel when they contemplate large travel plans, and to yourself as the solution. Your answer should be your “reason for being” phrased so that it directly relates to the listener.
First, let’s look at a few things not to say:
Wrong answer #1: “I’m a travel agent”
Why is this the wrong answer? Because the term “travel agent” is just a label. Your listener will automatically assume they now know everything there is to know about you and the rest of your answer will fall on dull ear drums. Other labels like “travel consultant” or “travel counselor” are only slightly better. Stay away from labels, they carry too much baggage. Remember, your listener may not really understand what a travel consultant does, but they may THINK that they do. That will be the end of the story.
Wrong answer #2: “I research travel for clients using state of the art technology and a wide network of relationships in the travel industry.”
This answer is phrased strictly in terms of you. Avoid answering by telling how you do what you do. When you finally do get to this part of the conversation, by the way, avoid using industry jargon. Remember to demystify travel for people.
Wrong answer #3 “I find the best prices on travel for my clients.”
Yikes. Let’s steer away from making price the centerpiece of the conversation.
Let’s look at the right way to answer the question.
This 365 Marketing and Sales Tip is provided free to the travel agent community by:
“I keep people out of trouble when they travel.” Or,
“I work with clients looking for really distinctive travel.” Or,
“I work with clients who like to travel well, but who struggle to find real value.” Or,
“Have you ever planned a vacation and run into problem after problem? I work with clients to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Each of these answers serve two functions. Firstly, they state the pain that travelers feel when they plan travel. The answer is stated in terms of the benefit to the traveler, not in terms of the process used by the travel agent. Secondly, these sample answers invite further conversation. People love to talk about travel, that is one of the great aspects of our industry. People also love to talk about pain. Just listen to the conversations of anyone over 35 and see how quickly the topic turns to pain of some type, physical or otherwise.
Re-purpose your reason for being by putting it on your business cards, on your website and on your letterhead. Keep working on it until it feels completely natural to speak and you are happy with the way it expresses your central mission in travel. Each of the answers above are also great topics for a talk you could give in a public speaking situation, complete with examples from past travel planning experiences.
Remember: use an answer that lets the questioners talk about themselves and their travels.
It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.