Life Lessons from the Past | Travel Research Online


Life Lessons from the Past

(This is the third in a six-part series about how you can transform your travel agency into a money- making machine)

Last week, my high school football coach, the legendary Billy Henderson, passed away just four months shy of his 90th birthday.

I played for Coach Henderson over 35 years ago. He not only prepared us to win on the football field, (and win he did -including a national high school championship) he helped turn thousands of boys into young men prepared to win in the game of life. Of his many lessons, two have stuck with me and are part of my core values.

First, “If you are not there 15 minutes early – you’re late.”  As many people can attest, I am a stickler for punctuality. For this, you can blame Billy Henderson.

The second, “Get the fundamentals right and you can achieve anything.” Our practices were about two things: physical conditioning – we would never be too tired to finish the drill and the fundamentals of the game. In fact, he considered them so important we rarely scrimmaged in practice. If you have followed me for any length of time, this is a common theme in all my teachings.

It’s that simple, “Master the Fundamentals.” Football is not a complicated game. There are six basic skills that must be mastered to be successful. Teams that block, catch, kick, run, throw, and tackle consistently well tend to win games. Those who don’t, well…you know the story.

Accelerating your sales is no different – so why do we try to over think it. All businesses face the same fundamental challenge that you have– acquiring new customers.

Most people would rather have their fingernails pulled out with a pair of needle-nose pliers, than to pick up the phone and call someone they don’t know to ask them to buy anything. I get it.  No one really likes prospecting, but it is a fundamental part of the selling and the differentiator between those throwing touchdowns and those riding the bench.

When people complain that “sales is not easy,” they don’t usually mean the process of selling. Sales are quite fun. We usually get a strong rush of adrenaline when we make a sale. No, when they complain about “sales”, they really mean “prospecting is not easy.”

Here are five tips to help you get started

1) Get Clarity – Prospecting is not marketing. If your prospecting strategy is your marketing plan, you probably aren’t getting many calls. They are very different disciplines. Prospecting is a proactive process conducted with systematic precision. Attraction marketing is reactive, like “bobber” fishing. The most successful travel agents are good salespeople, and the most successful salespeople in any profession are good, no -great prospectors.

2) Learn to deal with rejection – Whoever said you can’t take rejection personally has never had a door slammed in their face. You will be cursed, yelled at, and have the phone slammed in your ear. No way to sugar coat it -rejection is hard and no matter what, even the best of salespeople takes some of it personally. It’s how you internalize it and let it affect your actions that makes the difference. You will also be profusely thanked, invited into homes, and have the wonderful opportunity to provide a valuable service for your prospect by helping them with one of their most valuable assets, one they highly covet – their vacation experience.  Rather than let rejection get to you, hop back on the horse and call the next person on your list.

3) The magic of referrals – Often agents will tell me their business is primarily from referrals. However, when asked to quantify what this means, I have rarely found one who can. You will need a systematic referral process to keep your sales funnel full. The easiest way to accomplish this is to ask friends, family, and customers who they know who would benefit from your services, then ask for the contact information. Anyone with any kind of network, whether you have clients or not, can get referrals provided the system is practiced regularly.

4) Use names – When contacting a prospect who was referred by someone you both know, it is vital to use that person’s name.  This helps to build commonality and credibility with the prospect.

5) Just do it! – Because it is something few enjoy, most will put it off – indefinitely. Your competitors are not doing it because they are afraid. Without prospects, you don’t have customers, and without customers you don’t have revenue.Without revenue, you don’t eat. The reason most businesses fail is not due to a lack of customers – but lack of prospects. The key is to always keep restocking your pond. Professional sales people, even the best know if they do not prospect daily, they will not be eating in next 60-90 days.

7) Bonus: The Golden Hour – Great salespeople block what is known as the “Golden Hour” in their calendar. This is the time when you close the door, turn off any distractions including inbound email and call and email your prospects. No matter how busy you think you are, carve out some time for prospecting now. You will thank me later when it slows down and while others are scrambling for last minute sales, you will have a steady predictable revenue stream.

The more people you can talk to about your product, the more quotes, presentations, and sales you will make. The numbers don’t lie. Prospecting is how you keep your sales funnel full and a steady stream of commission checks in your bank account.

The life lessons of Coach Billy Henderson will continue to influence generations to come. A lot of people are looking for trick plays or the magic bullet to get new customers. It’s not complicated if you “Get the fundamentals right and you can achieve anything!”

PS: There are a lot of programs and apps that claim social media and automation will drive the sales process for you. Here is the hypocrisy of all of this. These companies who claim to solve your prospecting problem through automation, will ask for your phone number so someone can call to discuss their how their product will automate your funnel. They don’t call it “dialing for dollars” for nothing. Prospecting works.

PictureDan Chappelle is a professional business advisor, sales coach, author, and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. His training and consulting firm helps develop sales oriented business leaders and entrepreneurs. His best-selling book, Get Your S.H.I.P. Together: The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales, is available on
For information on Dan’s business development programs, visit:

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