A large part of your identity as a travel consultant is made up of the credentials you earn over time. The word “credential” comes from the Latin credentialis (giving authority), derived from credentia (trust and/or belief). Credentials are a third-party attestation of competence and skill. Typically, credentials have two sources. The first are the credentials you earn through study and testing, the type of credential that result in certificates from trade associations such as The Travel Institute. The second source for your credentials, of course, is the story that you build through the work you do each day for clients, and you should certainly strive to make those credentials as tangible as a destination specialist designation.
The effort to gain credibility is ongoing. Every agent who seeks to be the best at their profession will undertake continuing education. Destination specialist courses, geography, cultural history, niche destinations and themes, and certifications are all vitally important to a proper professional positioning in the market. The dedication necessary to earn these credentials typically exceeds the motivations and passion of the hobbyist or the travel agent for whom travel is a mere job. Once earned, don’t let your good work go unnoticed! Your official designations set you apart from the crowd of less motivated agents and from the pseudo-agents of all stripes.
What type of formal sales and marketing training have you undertaken? If you look at most professions, the sales people are continually taking sales courses on a regular basis. As we analyze where things go wrong in the sales process, a good place to begin is in fundamental knowledge and training in the skills associated with sales and in fundamental industry knowledge. Most travel professionals, if honest, will admit to largely “winging it” and allowing their considerable product knowledge to carry most of the weight in their one-on-one encounters with clients. However, to overlook the importance of formal training is to hobble your travel career.
When something goes “wrong” in a proposal to a client, you can often trace the problem back to the sales skills necessary for a smooth transition from one stage of the sales process to another. If your marketing brings 100 potential travelers to your doorstep, and 25 of them travel with you, there is tremendous room for improvement. Resist here the temptation to write off the 75 who did not travel as “tire-kickers” or “shoppers”. Your marketing did its job. You were handed 75 leads that did not travel with you. Your mission now is to determine what went right with the 25 leads that went full cycle, and what went wrong with the other 75. A serious study of your successes and failures will increase the number of clients making it all the way through the sales funnel to become repeat travelers with your agency. The more you invest in your personal development and growth as a professional, the better your odds of developing a professional relationship.
Credentials such as The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate designation separates many serious travel professionals from pseudo-agents. The CTA indicates dedication to an ideal; to professionalism and solidifies passion. Commit to learning more about sales methods and psychology – become your own motivator and sales coach. Seek out and invest in your understanding of these important skills and your business will almost certainly increase many-fold. Of course, ASTA, CLIA and others have certification programs as well. Our friends at Host Agency Review have written an excellent article on the topic and on the various certifications you may consider.
Make the investment in yourself necessary to execute your tactics well. TRO believes in travel professionals. Now, believe in yourself.