As we come off the holidays and kick off the new year, I want to ask you something: “How were your sales in Q1?” You are probably thinking, “What the heck is he smoking? We’re just now starting our first quarter.” Let me qualify the question.
Most businesses operate using one of two calendars. The first is obviously a calendar year, January – December. The second, used primarily for accounting purposes, is a fiscal year, which will vary depending on the company. Most of us are familiar with these two, but if you have followed me for any length of time, you know there is a third year. The one I use, which has been instrumental to my success selling travel, is what I call the “Sales Year”.
Have you ever thought about why most cruise and tour companies are so focused on their Alaska and Europe products in the fall? Trying to book your BDM for an event is virtually impossible unless you did so in June or July. Here’s why:
In the travel business, the sales calendar is September – August. There is a simple explanation why this is so important: your suppliers typically track your production based on a calendar year. Any deposits or sales you have made, regardless of when, are recorded at the time of travel. In other words, you are not technically eligible to the full commission until the customer departs on their trip. Those of you who have experienced “commission recalls” understand the significance of this statement.
The average booking window from deposit to departure is typically 4-6 months, as such virtually everything you sell after September 1 will travel in the following calendar year. Depending on your business model, you should have 40%-60% of the business to travel on the books by January 1. If you tend to book less expensive or shorter trips, you will have less presold than if the focus is on more expensive cruise and tour products, which typically have a longer booking window. Regardless, your booking year for the current calendar year ends around August 31.
The most important aspect of having booked business is you can accurately predict cash flow throughout the year. Some months are better than others; for example, April and May should be strong months as this is when you will collect most of the final payments for Alaska and European travel. July and August tend to have lower cash flow simply because less people tend to travel in the fall.
Use your CRM to run these commission reports each month: Booked sales, Final Payment Due, and Travel Date. This information can help to predict your cash flow cycles and determine where you need to implement a tactical plan.
A tactical plan does not necessarily mean discounting or selling low-priced, high volume product. It can be as simple as hosting a travel event for a specific product or destination to generate bookings. You don’t need a BDM to personally participate, this is an event you host yourself. If you focus on a product, you may be able to get some co-op marketing funds to help defray costs, otherwise use it to educate your prospects on a destination and offer multiple booking options. The important thing to remember is you are promoting your services as a travel professional.
If you find you are behind the “8 Ball”, don’t fret. Recognizing where you are is the first step. Don’t fall into the trap of selling all things to all people to fill the gaps. In today’s competitive marketplace, you need to specialize. There is a reason Sears, Macys, K-Mart, and others are closing hundreds of stores in 2017 – the general store concept simply does not work anymore. Create a focused plan to generate sales for your preferred products when you need them throughout the year.
In June or July, work on a sales plan for the September – August calendar; your business will be much more successful because of it.
Dan Chappelle helps travel sales professionals achieve full potential by transforming their mindset and focusing on fundamentals to produce real results. He speaks internationally on strategic business development in the travel & tourism vertical. His signature keynote & workshop “Secrets of Selling to the Affluent Traveler” helps organizations, entrepreneurs, sales professionals, employees, and business owners gain meaningful competitive advantage.
His new book “Get Your S.H.I.P Together – The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales” will be available January 16, 2017. For information on Dan’s education and sales programs, visit www.WealthyTravelAgent.com