The Chicken or the Egg? | TravelResearchOnline


The Chicken or the Egg?

I had an interesting conversation with a student of my online program a few weeks ago.  She lives not far from me, so instead of the usual phone consultation I asked if she would meet me for coffee.  It was a beautiful Seattle morning and as we talked, part of her story had a familiar ring to it.  In fact, I hear it so often, I have come to expect it.

She has been in business for about a year and has done everything her host/franchisor instructed.  She wrote a marketing and branding plan, built a website, became active in social media, and participated in numerous product webinars, but something was missing.  That something is “Sales”.  They trickled in here and there, but not enough to sustain the business, much less make a living.

She is at a place where many of you are currently or you will be at some point.  She is frustrated, and understandably so.  She is doing everything she was taught, but as I said, this is a story I hear often – and not just from new agents trying to the business, but seasoned veterans as well.

The solution is actually quite simple, although relatively few have the courage to put forth the effort to do it.  You see, we have been taught for years that the marketing plan is the gold standard to succeed in business.  I don’t disagree; marketing is an important component of any business.  However, our industry in particular has developed the mentality, if we build it and we execute it – they (the customers) will come.  Unfortunately, too many of us fall into this trap of sitting back and waiting for the business to simply roll in.  Newsflash folks – you will grow old in the rocking chair because it ain’t gonna happen.

Sales and marketing are practices that should complement each other. But it’s not a “chicken or the egg” thing.  In simple terms, marketing should always support your sales efforts, not vice-versa.  This is particularly important for small businesses.  Marketing is typically a reactive activity.  You spend a lot of money to buy ads, keywords, websites, email lists, etc., targeting a wide audience and then wait for the phone to ring.  Professional Sales is a proactive process.  You invest time seeking out specific prospects for your business with surgical precision.  To use the old analogy, “You are taking the fight to them, instead of waiting for the fight to come to you.”

Marketing is sexy.  Don’t believe me – just watch a few episodes of “Mad Men” on Netflix.  But notice they are never really selling a product other than their own services; they are creating brands for their customers.  Sales is typically at the other end of the spectrum.  You don’t see a lot of TV shows about salespeople. When you tell someone you are in sales, many will immediately picture the guy down at the used car lot who will do anything to get you to drive off in a “new” used car.

However, this is the uncomfortable reality:  If you don’t sell anything, nothing else exists.  You can’t pay your bills, serve clients, or send your kids to college.  In simple terms, “Selling produces income.  Marketing produces expense”.  You can do the math.

The solution to our pain is to prioritize a well-executed sales plan.  If you don’t believe me – wait until you run out of money to spend on marketing (or anything else).  Create it first and then your marketing plan, which should be designed to support your sales efforts.  Never forget — you are in the business of selling, not marketing.

According to the late Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of “Marketing to the Affluent” and “The Millionaire Next Door”, outside the traditional “professional” occupations, “Sales” is among the highest compensated professions in the world.  A good well-executed sales and marketing program with help you achieve greatness and provide the means to live the lifestyle you choose.  I rest my case.

Dan Chappelle is President of where he develops sales leaders for the travel & tourism industry. He assists sales professionals achieve their full potential by expanding their vision, shifting their mindset, and transforming their businesses to produce tangible results. An internationally known travel industry expert, sales executive, and speaker, Dan has earned an enthusiastic following among travel agents and industry leaders worldwide. He has been featured in numerous trade and consumer publications and is an instructor for the Travel Institutes’ Professional Educators Program, providing insight for travel professionals. You can contact Dan by email at

Share your thoughts on “The Chicken or the Egg?”

You must be logged in to post a comment.