How we see ourselves and the profession of travel counseling has much to do with sales psychology. For travel agents the problem is two-fold: The first aspect concerns societal perception of the travel profession in general. The second deals with the individual travel consultant’s personal self-image. Being consciously aware of the influence of these two aspects of one’s personality and working to place self-image in its appropriate context is a worthwhile exercise in becoming a better travel professional.
For more than twenty years, the “demise” of the travel professional has been a part of our collective culture. In typical zero-sum game mentality, the rise of other distribution channels meant to many the inevitable fall of the travel agent. While the reality of the situation was that the surviving travel professionals became smarter, more focused, and niched, a widely held social perception was that travel agent had been replaced. Indeed, recent press coverage has been more positive, but it the rare travel professional that has not heard someone say “Are there still travel agents?” when introduced.
So it goes.
The most devastating aspect of these developments, however, may have been the toll taken on the profession’s collective self-image. Many travel professionals carry with them secret doubts about their own value in the buying process. In the face of online discounters and technology resources of the likes of Travelocity, many travel advisors have difficulty understanding and articulating their competitive advantage. Haunted by the ghost of a lower price “out there, somewhere,” we often approach presentations in fear and trembling. The lack of confidence shows.
The second aspect of self-image is more personal – how do you view your own capabilities? Do you perceive yourself as good at the profession of travel consulting? Are you experienced enough? Do you have sufficient background, product knowledge, and expertise? Are you up to the challenge of handling something as important as your client’s travel dollars?
If you are harboring secret doubts about the travel profession or about your value to your clients, it’s time to pause and take stock. I have spoken at length on the necessity of travel agents to value themselves, to properly understand their role as consultants. True travel professionals see themselves as fully in charge of their destiny and have little doubt of their value to the buying process. Quietly confident, top travel consultants are highly ethical and project their expertise gracefully.
Each of us creates our own self-image. If you have a weak self-image, your business will suffer. (Likewise, if your self-image is too inflated – but that’s another column). When a travel consultant feels on top of their game, they actually draw people and opportunities to them. Perhaps it’s time to work on your own self-image.
Want a worthwhile exercise? Spend some time next weekend writing a short essay on the inherent value of a travel consultant. Meet any objections head on and deal with both the strengths and the weaknesses of other channels of distribution. Get a real grip on the role your profession plays in helping millions of people to achieve their travel ambitions. Memorize your response and make it a matter of muscle memory. Then, spend some time analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses. Determine where you need to improve your skill set, and set out a plan to do so. Visualize the kind of travel professional you want to be a year from now and set yourself firmly on the road to achieving your goals.
It all begins with a willingness to improve. You can do that, or you wouldn’t be a travel professional.