I had a conversation last week with the owner of a host agency. We were discussing the ups and downs all travel professionals inevitably experience. Early on, almost everyone goes through a very similar set of experiences: clients who take research and book elsewhere, quotes beaten by supplier direct, missed deadlines, miscommunications and commissions disproportionate to the work involved. Every now and then, however, a great booking or a special client adds enough fuel to the fire to keep a few individuals in the game. Others decide the travel business is a lot tougher than they ever imagined and leave for their next venture.
Sometimes what tips the scales is merely a matter of timing, a matter of luck. But I’ve also seen another, more dependable, factor leading to success. Many of the agents who persevere have also taken the additional step of seeking out a mentor. I find it to be absolutely true with the right kind of coaching people can accomplish much more than they might on their own. Continuous effort and determination are certainly indispensable, but our efforts can be wrongly spent without proper guidance. Many times the coach does no more than ask us to observe carefully and allows our own creative impulses to intuit the best possible decisions.
Many bring prodigious amounts of determination to the task and persevere despite themselves. Indeed, determination is absolutely necessary. The danger this approach carries, however, is the way we often mistake stubbornness for determination. We can be so certain of the correctness of our method we miss the obvious signs of wasted effort. Too much time with the wrong clients can tax the best of us. Inconsistent and sporadic marketing can drain our financial and emotional resources. It often takes a good coach to help us to recognize when to intelligently quit a course. Certainly we can train by trial and error, but no school is so expensive or so hard on the student.
Quitting gets a bad rap. It makes great sense to quit bad habits and unproductive courses of action. It’s not enough to work hard, you must work smart. A good coach can help you work intelligently. Aristotle said excellence was a matter of training and habit, we become what we repeatedly do. It is vitally important, then, we pick up the right habit. Far too many travel professionals, however, pick up their tips from their peers rather than from proven coaching in sales, marketing and customer service. As a result, they learn to do things just as everyone else does them and fail to rise above the crowd, the 80% trapped below the confines of the Paretto Principle.
If I could give any novice to the industry a small piece of advice it would be to put their time, effort and, yes, some investment into training with a solid mentor. Good news: this industry is replete with excellent coaches. Choose wisely. Training with a sales coach will focus the great energy your passion brings to this industry. Your determination is a start, but to properly channel it often takes an outside influence to break through ingrained habits to more productive ways of acting.
Everyone with a camera thinks they are a photographer and everyone with a blog thinks they are a journalist. Likewise, everyone with a computer thinks they are their own travel agent. The difference in each instance is training.
Rise above amateur status. Put your ear to the ground and seek out some training in sales and marketing.