September was devoted to Supplier Relations and evaluating all aspects of how much of the success of my business is dependent on securing amazing suppliers. This really took a lot of thought to determine what I need in a supplier, how to cultivate and maintain a positive relationship, and ultimately if a supplier falls short how to handle that situation. I started by breaking down the qualities that are a “must have” for people and companies I’d like to do business with:
- They offer a superior product
- They have expertise and experience to enhance my current knowledge
- They are thorough and prevent issues and problems
- They are fairly priced and transparent about charges
- They are reliable and enjoyable to work with
I’m reading this list and thinking – wow, this is a lot to ask! I’m also reading this list and realizing that when suppliers fall short, that leads to more work for me; more stress, potential problems for the client, travel emergencies, and ultimately less revenue. So I am actually pledging to evaluate each supplier that I use on this criteria and utilize this rubric for considering new suppliers. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to get feedback from my colleagues for referrals to new suppliers and that has helped narrow down the choices for different destinations. One piece of advice that I received was to “always have more than one trick in your bag,” which means I cannot rely on only one supplier – I’ve learned to have some options and a few quality choices that I can rely on. I’ve had situations where there is a change in staff or a different policy that has suddenly left me in a bind when doing business, so now I always have a few choices just in case I need to head in a different direction.
Given how much I depend on and expect from the suppliers I work with, I realize it cannot be a one-way street. To truly experience a pleasurable and profitable partnership, I need to hold up my end of the relationship. In looking at it from a supplier’s point of view, here are the obligations that I will strive to meet:
- Attend trainings or webinars to learn the full spectrum of services offered.
- Bring qualified clients that have direction in their travel decisions.
- Thoroughly review pricing, policies, itineraries, and all details to prevent errors or discrepancies.
- Be clear on the client’s budget, preferences, needs, and requests up front.
- Be appreciative! Always say thank you and send thank you notes. Show gratitude with a recommendation to a colleague.
I’ve put this concept into place quite a few times already and having the outline is extremely helpful! Many suppliers are really short on appreciation for the amount of detailed work they do to support agents, so give them the kudos they are owed and it will go a long way in cementing the relationship.
Marti Litwin is an independent Virtuoso travel advisor with En Route Travel in Southern California. She has a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California. Marti shares her value of sharing unforgettable family experiences with her clients. In addition to travel, she enjoys yoga, health and wellness, her 2 children, and an adorable rescued Golden Retriever, Cookie.