Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking with a great many travel consultants at trade shows, and as always, I have been impressed. Today’s travel professionals are smart, engaged, and well-informed. They have taken on the challenges of learning their profession and the necessary technologies. There is a real eagerness to learn as much as possible and the attendees at the shows packed every training session offered. A general sense of optimism is tangible in the air, a feeling that the pent-up demand for travel is starting to show in the marketplace.
A few of the newer agents reminded me of something, however, a marketing lesson so basic that we often forget its importance. These newbies would typically breach their concern by saying something like “how can I compete against (fill in the blank)“. You can fill in the “blank” with any one of these: Travelocity, the Internet, Priceline, Mega-agency, home-based agents, store-front agents, suppliers direct, etc. Early on in every travel professional’s career, an obsession with competition takes front and center, occupying a lot of mental energy and worry.
In the mind of the new entrant to our industry, the competition always has some edge on them, an imaginary advantage that somehow seems insurmountable. The competition gets the product cheaper, the competition rebates, the competition has a bigger marketing budget, the competition has lower overhead.
Any professional who spends some portion of their life in sales would tell any of these new agents that success begins with truly, honestly believing in your product. Certainly you need to believe travel is important, but travel isn’t the product here: you are.
Travel consultants need to believe they can add real value to every client’s travel ambitions. You need to believe your clients will travel better as a result of your involvement with them. You have to believe what your clients are really coming to you for is YOU.
Even experienced travel agents sometimes forget that they are not selling travel, but are instead selling themselves. You ARE the product. Your mission is to assist your clients in making an intelligent buying decision. Clients already want to travel, you don’t have to sell them on travel. You have to sell them on you. To sell clients on your ability, you must first believe in yourself. You have to be willing to put in the time to learn the trade, to apprentice yourself to more experienced agents and to learn the ropes. You have to attend webinars, tradeshows, and take destination specialists courses. You have to pour your heart and soul into the travel business until you are convinced that you actually CAN do the job better than anyone else.
In the past, I’ve often written on the concept of authentic marketing – injecting your personality, your dynamics, and your core values into every point of contact with clients. The best travel agents do exactly that, and they start by believing in themselves.
After all – if you don’t believe in your own value, it’s going to be difficult to convince your clients to do so. Travel is important. I believe in the value of a top travel professional. I want you to believe in yourself as much as I believe in you.
Get started. The world needs more believers.