Wanna shoot some hoops? Game of chess? Play Monopoly, anyone? Answer “yes” to any of these questions and, depending on who asked, you suddenly find yourself in a more or less competitive situation. Sometimes, a lot more competitive. Competition is a good thing. It keeps you sharp, it hones your skills.
It can also be tiring, draining and worrisome. Just try being a travel consultant.
Travel consulting can be a highly competitive business. I say it “can be” because I believe there are ways of completely avoiding much of the competitive element (see my articles on Blue Ocean Strategy). But it’s not all about competition. Even if you manage to sail in blue oceans with no competition in sight, you still have to play at the top of your game because your clients will expect it of you. They deserve it.
The ability to play all-out, all the time, is a big part of every champion’s strategy. It is true that persistence, showing up, being the last man standing, is important. But that is actually only a fraction of what it takes. A bigger part is being really good at what you do every time you do it.
Here are five essential tips for maintaining the edge you need to be always sharp.
- Work with a plan – many of you are so good at what you do, you have worked for years without a solid marketing plan. Your natural abilities have brought you far, but if you are working without a written plan, your talent is holding you back. Think how far you might go if you actually practiced what every business strategist recommends, what every sports team does and what you do for your clients – set out a plan. You are on a journey in your travel practice and you need an itinerary. This one step will complement your talents in unbelievable ways. When you create your plan, put it on a calendar and set goals for yourself that you can visit periodically and reprise. Recognizing your plan is organic, that it grows as you do, helps keep you involved in your business in a vital (important root word there) way.
- Renew Your Vows – remind yourself why you do what you do. When you decided to get into travel, I’ll bet you were determined to be the best travel consultant in the world. Why choose to be anything else? Think in terms of your love of travel, your desire to share with others, your commitment to excellence.
- Mentally rehearse every day. Professionals don’t “wing it”. Before you meet with clients, mentally rehearse the meeting. Imagine yourself making your presentation, working with the clients and telling the story of your recommendations. Practice involving them in your presentation. You know the questions they will ask, including their toughest objections. Why wait until they ask to prepare and answer? In your spare time, practice answering the toughest questions you get and have your answers ready to speak in an authentic, warm manner.
- Engage both as a business person and as an artist – work your plan by thinking about it each and every day. Don’t be so involved IN your business that you neglect to work ON your business. Learn something new each and every day, especially in the realm of marketing, sales and customer service. Product knowledge is important, but when you lose a client to a competitor, the chances are very good that you lost them not for a lack of product knowledge, but because you neglected the sales and marketing arts.
- Refresh your outside interests – stay involved in your hobbies, interests and passions. Your interests make you interesting! Stay actively involved in a life outside of the travel industry. Your outside interests are what tie you to a network of people and events – your opportunity to network with existing and potential clients. Outside interests give you a break and a perspective allowing you to come back to your travel practice refreshed and ready to be the best you can be.