When I was in the second grade, our old black and white television broke and it stayed that way for over three years. Why? My parents told us we were watching too much TV (sound familiar?). However, the reality was we were too poor to have it repaired or replaced. As a result, I became a voracious reader – a habit that continues to this day.
It was around this same time my grandfather gave me a book that would influence the rest of my life. It was an original, well-read, 1937 copy of the now classic Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. If you are not familiar with it, look it up. Read the rest of this entry »
I tend to be a little old school. I don’t believe every new app dreamed up by some kid in his basement, who has never sold anything in his life, is going to revolutionize how we sell in this or any other business. Because travel is such a huge industry world-wide, it attracts all sorts of people trying to capitalize on the “get rich quick with little or no effort” movement so prevalent online. As a professional travel business advisor, I will just say to you, “buyer beware”.
So, you can imagine how annoyed I get when people ask me about my latest “hack” or how to “disrupt” the market. Don’t even get me started on “unicorns.” Read the rest of this entry »
Virtuoso was a leader long before it was cool. Formally known as API Travel Consultants, the organization was made up of agencies that specialized in luxury or “the carriage trade” as it was then commonly known. Even though there are many organizations that specialize in it, when you think “Luxury Travel”, you think Virtuoso right?
But specializing in luxury travel or cruises is not enough to set you apart from every Tom, Dick, and Costco out there. You need to find your niche by drilling down even deeper. From cruises, down to small ships, to expedition to polar adventures. There is a strong market for this and the customers will seek out a specialist or expert to assist them.
Here is the five-step process I share with my students to help them choose a specialty that works for them. Take your time and do your homework. Read the rest of this entry »
Professionalism, we hear about it every day. For some reason the subject comes up more & more often in discussion. The majority of travel agents I observe do exhibit a high degree of professionalism. They are the first to point out there is no place in this business for those who behave otherwise. However, some agents, particularly new ones, will sometimes let their passion get in the way of good business and common sense.
What does it mean to be or act “professionally”? Here are a five things I believe epitomize what it means to be a travel professional. Read the rest of this entry »
With football season just around the corner, I am reminded of the beautiful, yet brutal, game I played in my youth. I loved the game and while my career ended after high school, I can’t wait for each new season and my beloved University of Georgia Bulldogs to take the field. It is a sight to see. Every play, be it offensive or defensive, is carefully orchestrated, choreographed, and practiced to perfection.
Sales is similar, which is why you’ll often find sports analogies intertwined with business lessons. In both environments, a team is executing strategies that have been thought out and rehearsed. Above all – they are both contact sports, each in their own way. Read the rest of this entry »
We often hear this expression around patriotic holidays about the sacrifices made by our service men and women over the years. Many have given life and limb, so we can continue to enjoy the personal freedoms we have, and this is something that should never be taken for granted. Read the rest of this entry »
My last column about rebating sparked some serious and heated responses.
The argument most often invoked is, “I don’t work for free”. Let me go on the record to say, no one should work for free!
Unfortunately, most consumers think you do. To be fair, they don’t understand how you get paid, nor do they realize that often the lowest price they have been quoted didn’t come from the supplier but involves a commission discount. Read the rest of this entry »
Most luxury product designers control their pricing by controlling distribution. They sell exclusively through their own branded stores or high-end retailers such as Nordstrom and Nieman Marcus.
In her book “Let Them Eat Cake” author and luxury goods researcher Pam Danziger states, “The business of experiential luxuries remains largely one based on consumers paying full list price. Travel is the only widely discounted experiential luxury where 64% of buyers got a “deal” – otherwise they expect to pay full price for luxury goods & services.” Unfortunately, this observation can be applied to all segments of travel, not just to luxury purchases.
For many years, I counseled home-based business people. I was uniquely qualified in that I had owned a successful travel business before entering the world of corporate bureaucracy. When I made the leap back to sole proprietorship, it was baptism by fire and I had to adapt rather quickly. I discovered that as a professional working from home, there were a few things I needed to do differently than working from an office. Five things come to mind that every home-based professional must do to thrive.
Have you ever wondered how much your business is worth? I mean, if you had to sell it tomorrow, how much would someone pay for it. In all likelihood the answer is zero, nada! But it’s probably not for the reasons you might think.
If you have been following me for any length of time, you have probably noticed I only use a few quotes to reinforce my messages. One of my favorites is from a management guru, the late Peter Drucker, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.”
I just returned from the Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas. If you haven’t been, it is a great show to learn and network. I moderated a couple of panels and afterwards several agents were asking me about the “legitimacy” of several organizations in the host agency arena. I thought this is a great time to revisit a column I wrote last year on the subject.
Last week, an interesting post on one of the newer travel agent Facebook groups caught my attention.
A person made a very public declaration that she was leaving the group because she only wanted to associate and share ideas with what she considered to be “real and legitimate” travel agents.
Everything, and I mean everything, you have done is to get to this point – this step. Building a solid foundation by establishing your authority and your brand. All the marketing you have created, participated in, and paid for. All the time and effort proactively reaching out to potential customers. This huge physical, emotional, and financial investment is all to drive you to the next and arguably most important step in the sales acceleration process. Without it, we would not be in a position to serve our customers; because frankly, we wouldn’t have any.
I was recently interviewing a prospective client, who repeatedly asked, “Dan, what are we going to do about my marketing plan?” After reviewing her efforts, I told her, “Maybe a tweak or two – here and there – but for the most part your marketing is fine.” I replied, “What’s missing is a sales plan.” The phone went silent, and I waited while she processed what I had said. “A sales plan?” she asked, “I’m not even sure what that is. I thought all I needed was a marketing plan.” As I explained the purpose of a sales plan, I could almost see the light go on in her head.
Read the rest of this entry »
(This is the third in a six-part series about how you can transform your travel agency into a money- making machine)
Last week, my high school football coach, the legendary Billy Henderson, passed away just four months shy of his 90th birthday.
I played for Coach Henderson over 35 years ago. He not only prepared us to win on the football field, (and win he did -including a national high school championship) he helped turn thousands of boys into young men prepared to win in the game of life. Of his many lessons, two have stuck with me and are part of my core values.
(This is the second in a six-part series about how you can transform your travel agency into a money- making machine)
You will hear from just about everyone of any authority in the retail travel channel that you need to be marketing. The reason for your success or failure boils down to one thing – the effectiveness of your marketing.
As a teenager, I spent summers working a variety of construction jobs. It was hard work that kept me in shape for football season. One of my favorites was with a masonry contractor in my hometown of Athens, Georgia. Transforming a raw piece of land into a beautiful building is not an easy process, and it all starts with the block masons.
I was impressed by how meticulously they laid the blocks straight and level. Just a small fraction of an inch off level could have a disastrous effect on the building as it was constructed. As with most things, the taller the building the more exaggerated the effect (picture the leaning tower of Pisa).
If your answer is “NO” and you were given an opportunity to hit the “Reset” button and reboot your travel or tour company, would you do it?
Virtually all travel professionals, whether new home-based agent, tour operator, or the general manager of a large, multi-location agency, struggle with similar challenges such as finding new clients, keeping the old ones happy, cash flow, and advertising to name just a few.
As we come off the holidays and kick off the New Year, I want to ask you something, “How were your first quarter sales?” You are probably thinking – “What the heck is he smoking? We are just now starting our first quarter.” Yup, you heard me correctly.
Most businesses operate using one of two calendars. The first is obviously a calendar year, January-December. The second, used primarily for accounting purposes is a fiscal year, which will vary depending on the company. Most of us are familiar with these two, but if you have followed me for any length of time, you know there is a third year. The one I use which is instrumental to your success selling travel – “Selling Year,”
Since 2016, luxury cruise capacity increased by 45%. In two more years, it will have more than doubled. Brands in the luxury tour and hotel segments are also increasing their offerings at a record pace to meet a growing demand. Yet, according to a survey conducted by a leading travel industry weekly publication, agency focus on selling luxury sales is DOWN 5%! Traditional agencies, over $10 million in sales, are down a whopping 9%!
Our industry has become its own worst enemy. According to a survey by Pam Danziger in her book “Let Them Eat Cake”, she cites that the majority of consumers pay full price for luxury experiential goods – except travel. 64% of individuals surveyed said they got a discount or a deal.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a $299 Cancun package or a $100,000 World Cruise, over the years as an industry we have promised the customer, they always will get the lowest price available. Even if that happens after the sale has been completed. Here are the cold, hard facts of this promise / guarantee: The lower the price, the lower the commission. Because you have set the expectation, you have to watch every promo, every one week & flash sale to keep your promise. That’s a lot of work!