Sales Tip of the Month:
by Isaac Cymrot, Mid-Atlantic Sales Manager
Can you smell that? It is not the pollen that has engulfed the Northeast and aggravated our allergies, but the smell of cold hard cash getting ready to flood the pockets of many travel agencies over the course of the next 9 to12 months. There is a great deal of pent-up demand from Americans getting ready to travel again, but the question is are you ready?
We may not see an immediate turn around this summer. However, if what we read and hear is accurate, demand for travel will begin to increase at the end of 2009 and into 2010. However, this will not be your typical consumer. The travel agent industry will be dealing with a cost conscious consumer who will value the service provided more then ever. Price will be a factor (it always is) but what the consumer gets for that price will be more important.
Remember how poor business was in the fourth quarter last year? Do not punch me for posing this question, but I ask for a reason. Think how good the fourth quarter will be this year compared to last if you prepare now and are ready to go when full recovery gets underway.
Leading industry experts have jumped on the opportunity to talk about the value travel agents provide to the consumer. Go back and read the headlines from just the past month alone and you will find editorial pieces written by the top agents and organizations in our industry. What have they been writing exactly? Well to sum it up quickly they have said that the travel agent that has become a true advisor are the one’s that will be in the best position to succeed now and when the boom comes.
Two of your agent colleagues have written articles in the past month that illustrate the opportunity available by making simple preparation. John Frenaye of Single Parent Travel recently wrote on Travel Research Online (TRO) about having an effective elevator pitch, learning from your mistakes, and how it can be beneficial to both supplier sales reps and travel agents to work together (read both articles at http://www.travelresearchonline.com).
Charlie Funk of Just Cruisin’ Plus wrote about the importance of valuing your time for the service you provide (read the article here). Funk makes the key point that it is vital to stand behind the service that you provide.
Where am I going with this? Two places: First, both articles point out that if a business person does not understand their own business, then the customer will not understand the value. When a potential client asks about your business, and you cannot answer them convincingly in 30 seconds, you greatly increase your chances of not earning the business. In addition, anytime an agent competes directly against the internet with no other value measurement, price will win every time.
The second point speaks to the meat of these articles. Use your travel supplier partnerships that you have created, or use this preparation time to create them, in order to re-educate yourself for the industry turn around so you can create that value. We have seen a large number of suppliers recently offer commission deals on cruises and tours. They help to sustain business in the short term, but what happens if you return to making your standard commission? How are you going to make up for revenue if the promotional incentives quickly disappear?
Your supplier sales reps face similar sales challenges. Remember when your client books online your supplier sales rep loses the sales benefit just as you do. We are a sales team. We want to work with you, not against you, to help increase your commissions.
When I asked John Frenaye about this team dynamic he summed it up well. “Accessibility. I know you are tied to company policy, but you are MY rep so go to bat for me. Return my call or email. This is a proactive relationship, so work with me to further both our businesses.”
This works both ways, because supplier reps cannot be effective without the same access from you that you ask from us. If an agent does not welcome a sales rep into their office and allow the rep to share ideas, the rep is limited in the job he or she can do for you. In applying this to travel insurance, I recently wrote an article for TRO. I detailed specific things you can do to improve your travel insurance program. We want to help you increase your sales because without travel agents we cannot be successful.
If your business is slow this summer, devote some free time to upgrading your knowledge through training. Work with your suppliers to create a business plan. Learn how to target the right type of marketing to the right clients. For example, if you are a member of a consortium call them up and ask them what types of target marketing they have available.
Many of these organizations have put together programs that will help you pick the right promotion for your clients. Consortiums have extensive marketing programs that help send family ads to families and the best deals on luxury cruising to your top clients. There are plenty of resources available to you through your supplier sales reps that help you maximize your commissions and hit your sales goals.
Use the time you have now. Take advantage of the commission deals the cruise lines and tour suppliers are offering, but be prepared for the impending travel boom. Know who your partners are so that when the time comes both you and your partners will be ready to rock and roll!