This week, TRO’s 365 Guide is looking to some of the types of clients you might encounter as a travel planner. Do you ever consider exactly what kind of clients you want? To some, the question might seem a bit strange. After all, most of us are pretty happy to take clients as we find them. Yet, if it’s true that relationship is really at the heart of every sale, then it behooves us to choose our relationships carefully since we will be spending a lot of time with our clients.
Most would agree that the best travel planning experiences happen with the best clients. It is true and no coincidence. Good clients have a sense of humor, a sense of adventure and a passion for travel. They understand what you bring to the table and they know that price is only one component of the entire equation that goes to make up value. The converse is also true – aggravating clients inevitably experience less than satisfactory travel. You cannot make them happy; in fact, bottom line, it is even hard to trust them. I’m told life is too short to be spending a lot of time with people like these.
As hard as the average travel consultant works to build a clientele, it is difficult for many to imagine actually turning away business. Yet, there are times when the smart travel agent should refuse a particular request. Here are a few examples of good reasons for not taking on an assignment.
- The client challenges you to “beat a price” – this is a no-win proposition with no good reason for participating;
- The client asks you to do something unethical – Back to Backs anyone?
- The client asks you to do something complicated at the absolute last minute when doing a good job is impossible – a recipe for making their problem your own;
- The client insists that you book a supplier with a dubious reputation because it is ‘cheap”;
- The client is not well-known to you and asks for a trip on short notice paid with questionable funds.
Each of these examples carry warning signals to the experienced travel consultant that problems are about to pay a visit. The best advice? Think twice, then once again, about taking on the business – life is too short to compound it with problems that can – and should – be avoided.
Can any of these clients be salvaged? Absolutely, at least some of them can! In many instances, problems arise when the client has not been properly trained. The client who challenges you to “beat a price” most likely does not fully understand the role of the travel agent. They think you are selling travel, when in fact you are selling yourself – your expertise, your guidance, your relationships with consortia, suppliers and associations. Clients can almost always find something “cheaper” – if you play that game you will be continually disappointed. Your mission is to find exactly the right program for the particular client and that will most often not be the least expensive option. If you were to carefully examine what the client who is issuing the challenge to you has chosen, you would likely find problems with the selection or you may immediately know of a better option for the particular client. However, don’t go there until the prospective client better understands your mission and you remove all of the energy from the “beat this” challenge by requiring a research fee for your efforts. If the client has truly found the best package for themselves, congratulate them! If not, explain why you are making a different recommendation. But only after a bit of training and a good faith deposit. Otherwise, politely decline the challenge.
You do well to choose and then educate and train your clients. Actively seek out the type of clients you really want. Fire the bad ones and train the good ones. You and your clients will be happier.