This week we have been reviewing limiting myths – stories that limit our professional potential if we buy into them even in the smallest way. How you inwardly see yourself and the profession of travel counseling has much to do with the attitude you project. For travel agents the problem is two-fold. The first aspect concerns societal perception of the travel profession in general. The second deals with one’s personal self-image. Being consciously aware of the influence of these two aspects of one’s personality and working to place self image in its appropriate context is a worthwhile exercise in becoming a better travel professional.
For more than almost fifteen years, the demise of the travel agent has been a part of our collective culture. In typical zero-sum game mentality, the rise of other distribution channels meant to many the inevitable fall of the travel agent. While the reality of the situation was that the surviving travel professionals became smarter, more focused and niched, a widely held social perception was that travel agent had been replaced. Indeed, the ranks of the profession were severely diminished and the evidence of the turmoil in the industry apparent as travel professionals made necessary adjustments to a new economic reality.
The second aspect of self image is more personal – how do you view your own capabilities? Do you perceive yourself as good at the profession of travel consulting? Are you experienced enough? Do you have sufficient background, product knowledge and expertise? Are you up to the challenge of handling something as important as your client’s travel dollars?The most devastating aspect of these developments, however, may have been the toll taken on the profession’s collective self image. Many travel agents carry with them secret doubt of their own value to the buying process. In the face of online discounters and the technology resources of the likes of Travelocity and Expedia, many travel agents have difficulty understanding their competitive advantage. Haunted by the ghosts of a lower price “somewhere”, many travel agents approach their presentations in fear and trembling. The lack of confidence shows – it’s why so few agents feel confident charging fees.
If you are harboring secret doubts about the travel profession or about your value to your clients, it’s time to pause and take stock. I have spoken at length on the necessity of travel agents to value themselves, to properly understand their role as consultants. True travel professionals see themselves as fully in charge of their destiny and have little doubt of their value to the buying process. Quietly confident, top travel consultants are highly ethical and project their expertise gracefully.
Each of us creates our own self-image. If you have a weak self-image, you business will suffer. (Likewise if your self-image is too inflated – but that’s another column). When a travel consultant feels on top of their game, they actually draw people and opportunities to them. Perhaps it’s time to work on your own self-image.
A travel planner with a positive attitude will, over the course of time, successfully interact with more clients than a travel agent who has burned out on travel consulting. The travel agent with an authentically good attitude understands the concerns of clients and works with them from a perspective of helpful assistance. Positive attitude supplies the energy for prospecting for clients, for meetings, research and presentations. A good attitude carries a confident demeanor and makes clients comfortable with the travel agent’s abilities. A good attitude is the essential foundation for trust.
A positive attitude may begin with truly liking what you do, but it requires daily care and maintenance. There is a lot of wear and tear on our attitude as we bump up against life’s obstacles, objections and obstructions. Keep items around you to remind yourself of your passion for travel. Keep your work area fresh and uncluttered. Give yourself time each day to breath, to read, listen to music, walk outdoors or whatever allows you to refresh your mental energies. Spend some time realigning your perspective on being a travel professional, on your fundamental mission toward clients. Work to not just intellectually understand the need for empathy but to adopt an empathetic attitude emotionally so that it is your first reaction to the client, not a forced one.
As you visualize your meetings with clients, make your mood the very first element of the exercise. Your mood will impact every aspect of each client encounter. Before a meeting, take a few deep breaths, relax and reflect on a positive attitude toward your client and your profession.
The outer world reflects our inner landscape, and our mood is contagious. Give your clients the opportunity to see travel through your passion and positive attitude for their well being.
Spend some time this weekend writing a short essay on the inherent value of a travel consultant. Meet any objections head on and deal with both the strengths and the weaknesses of other channels of distribution. Get a real grip on the role your profession plays in helping millions of people to achieve their travel ambitions. Then, spend some time analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses. Determine where you need to improve your skill set, and set out a plan to do so. Visualize the kind of travel professional you want to be a year from now and set yourself firmly on the road to achieving your goals.
It all begins with a willingness to improve, to always be your best and to believe in your value.