Over the past year, many of us on TRO have offered advice on how to move forward through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. With each new day we know something more and that advice has changed, and likely will continue to change as what we are going through now is (to use tired phrase) unprecedented. But one piece of advice that rang true 100 years ago, 2 years, ago, today, and will ring true especially in the future is to never underestimate your client.
Tomorrow’s client will be much more aware, and dare I say educated, than you will be. They will have a pre-determined destination, or experience, or budget in mind, and you will need to work within those parameters. In a way, this is a more desirable client than the one that comes to you with a “I want to go someplace sunny” request. With tomorrow’s client, you will be able to get down to business.
Tomorrow’s client will seek you out for your advice, your expertise and most importantly the connections and relationships you have established to make their experience all that they have dreamt. You better be sure you have it! Just as tomorrow’s client is seeking to leverage your relationships, they are also looking to forge one with you. So, honesty and transparency will be of utmost importance. Once you establish that relationship, it is likely to be a long lasting one.
Never try to BS tomorrow’s client. No one knows it all. After all that is why they are calling you. Never be afraid to take a pass on a booking if it makes sense. If you handle an African safari or a climb of Kilimanjaro without knowing your stuff—the relationship is toast. You are much better off explaining that you are not familiar but are willing to work on it (transparent and allows the client to make a decision and sets an expectation); or by referring them to a trusted colleague that does specialize. In fact, why not reach out to those colleagues and begin those relationships now?
And this final piece of advice for tomorrow’s client really should go unsaid, but I will repeat it. Do not judge a book by its cover. The pandemic has changed the way we live and work. And while in 2018, you might expect the couple looking to book a 3-week European FIT to look a certain way, it may not be the case. What once greeted you in a designer suit, may now be those old Adidas sweatpants. One time, I was looking to buy a car and trade in a very new car that I did not like. The salesman approached and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and looking at a new Ford Expedition. Explained what I wanted (the educated customer), the price I could afford (my budget laid out) and that I wanted to trade in a smaller Explorer. He looked at me (it was obvious) and said I was probably upside down on my loan to the Explorer and there was probably no way to work a deal and walked away. I drove away as well. I drove up the road to his competitor and purchased the new Expedition without financing and traded in my unencumbered Explorer. That salesman listened to me. That salesman did not make assumptions about me. That salesman sold me. And continues to sell me. Since that time, the original dealer gets all the warranty work, but as soon as something is not covered, I return to my selling dealer—I am not going to give the original dealer the satisfaction of a single dollar of my money.
Some of this is old-school salesmanship to be sure; but to survive moving forward, we must be prepared for a shift in customer behavior. To survive in a post-pandemic travel world, we must re-think our businesses. We must forge relationships with true, preferred partners; we must soul search and find our travel passions and follow them; and we must forge the relationships with tomorrow’s client…lest we become yesterday’s agent.