Two things of note this month – somewhat inter-related. First off, I just got back from Global Travel Marketplace West. And, in my opinion this is by far the best travel professional event of the year. It was very small (the suppliers outnumbered the agents), very intimate, with boardroom presentations to 10 travel agents at a time; and one-on-one appointments the rest of the time. I am very big on urging my agents to attend as many conferences as possible. I think the ROI is huge, if you use them to build relationships with suppliers and with other agents. A big show like CruiseWorld or Cruise360 has, literally, thousands of years of travel agent experience walking around, most of them willing to help out a colleague. The presentations represent further centuries of experience. And the suppliers there are going to pay out billions in commissions every year, and are more than willing to help you grab a share. So, yeah…I’m a fan, I go and I urge everyone else to do the same.
But, of course nothing is perfect, and I have to tell you I was taken aback by a couple of the supplier reps. And two days after returning, I had another run-in (by proxy) with a similar attitude from another BDM.
Now, basically “business development” is just the cutesy corporate name for “outside salesman.” Their job is to sell you on selling their product. Which is awesome. But more and more I seem to be running into BDMs with zero sales skills. So, what annoyed me was a BDM sitting at my table and starting with “Why aren’t you selling Product X?” And it happened twice! Being the jerk I am, I said the only thing that came to mind – “You haven’t ever given me a reason I should.”
Realize that “Why aren’t you…?” is a very different question than what a good salesman would ask – “What can I do to get you to sell Product X?” The first implies that you are basically defective and stupid for not pushing a product. The second conveys that they understand they are in competition for your loyalty, and want to make you WANT to sell their product, instead of shaming you in to it. Two days later a BDM hit my partner with the same attitude; and this was the first meeting since we took over the company more than a year ago. Now just the fact it took that long to get a meeting (and that it only became a priority AFTER they started losing our sales to another company), tells you all you need to know. We don’t sell them, because they don’t give us a reason to.
Then, as I was pondering how to express all this in this article, I had an epiphany–how often do we do the same thing to others? How often have I heard agents get upset because their brother-in-law, army buddy, college alumni friend or “client” they booked once, two years ago, and never followed up with, booked a vacation; and they only found out about it when the pictures showed up on Pinterest? I am not pointing fingers here…I’m guilty of it too. We probably all need to take a step back in those situations and ask, “did I try to earn that business, or did I just assume I was entitled to it, based on some other relationship?”
So, I have a new resolution for the rest of the year. If I find out someone I know booked a vacation outside of me, instead of calling them a jerk and crying to my friends, I am going to ask myself “did I give that person a compelling reason to be loyal to me?” and “was I loyal to them, keeping in touch about non-travel matters, in order to keep that relationship alive?”
If I can answer “yes” to both of those questions, I will give myself license to curse them and their offspring unto the 6th generation. If I can’t, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut except to wish them Bon Voyage. In closing let me say – GTMWest is a great show, and you should all apply, if you qualify. But it’s also very intense, with 3 16-hour days of events, appointments and presentations. Grueling enough that I caught a nice summer cold on the way home, and I am still trying not to die from it. If you don’t hear from me next month, I didn’t succeed. CIAO!
Dave Holman is a Partner at Bridges & Holman Worldwide Travel, based out of Southern California, with 9 years experience in the travel industry. He will draw on his past experience as a serial entrepreneur, as well as his time as a hosted agent at Coral Sands Travel and Expedia Cruise Ship Centers/OVC, as he builds and manages his (relatively) new Host Agency. You can contact Dave via his website at www.holmantravel.com, or better yet, through his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DaveHolmanTravel.