Selling travel isn’t rocket science. But you do need to be able to answer this important question: Why should someone entrust their valuable travel time and money to you? If you can earn that trust, sales will follow. “When travel advisors excel at what they do, clients stay loyal and refer their friends and family,” says Brooke Pearson Lavery, partner at The Local Foreigner.
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How to get more clients
Don’t be shy
Everyone in your circle of influence–family, friends, neighbors, former colleagues—should know what you do. “People travel all the time,” says Michael King of Great Getaways. “My job is to let them know that I am a travel advisor. For my first three years, I did everything I could to meet people.” Join biking, running, skiing, and photography groups, and attend events put on by your child’s school, your place of worship, and local Chamber of Commerce or other civic organizations. Lauren Saiger Machowsky with SmartFlyer has had a lot of luck networking in her Brooklyn neighborhood “between morning drop-offs bringing my kids to school, playdates, and working from the local coffee shop.”
Break the ice—with purpose
“I will meet someone and ask: ‘If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?’,” says King. “Many people love to talk about traveling. Get them to do this by simply asking questions when you meet them.”
King recommends developing a “30-second ‘infomercial’ on yourself” that you can use when you meet someone new.
“Mine is really simple and fun. I tell people that I have the greatest job in the world: All day long I tell people where to go, then at night I go home and sleep with the boss. [His wife Barbara owns Great Getaways.] Of course, they immediately laugh and ask what I do. I tell them I plan travel and where might I tell them to go? People usually remember me.”
Build on that first meeting
After you meet someone new, connect on social media. You can get to know each other without the pressure of being in-person. Soon enough you can feel like you’re good friends with someone after having met them once. “The better you know a client, the more confidently you can predict what will make them happy,” says Lavery. “So have a system of formally gathering preferences, and continue to build that profile and learn more and more about them as time goes on. And pick phone over email whenever possible— it’s warmer and more personal.”
Work weekends to gain agency or consortium leads
King recommends signing up for leads through your agency or consortium. For example, when Virtuoso had a MasterCard partnership, potential clients called an 800 number to get connected to an available advisor. “I was one of only two people working on the weekends,” King says. “I gained a lot of new business simply by being available when most people weren’t.”
How to Make Your Clients Tell All Their Friends About You
Deliver emotional impact
Consider the “EI Factor,” as it is known at Embark, a New York City-based agency. CEO Jack Ezon says his team brainstorms “touching and relevant” things they can do for their clients and considers it the job of their advisors to deliver on every trip.
“That cannot be a bottle of wine, flowers, or a fruit plate,” he says, rattling off the typical amenities one might find in a hotel room. “It has to dig deeper without being creepy. If we’re not selling the EI Factor, we’re going to go out of business.”
Now, for a client focused on wellness, a simple tray of organic strawberries could be perfect. If someone is staying at Hotel Bristol with a view of the Vienna Opera House, a copy of the book Opera 101 could be appropriate. The point is, a generic gift won’t do anything to deepen your relationship. It should be special.
“The famous sales adage, ‘People always remember how you make them feel’ is so true,” Lavery says. “This is like therapy. Create a relationship where they feel completely comfortable being themselves.”
And if you deliver on something they didn’t even know they wanted? You’ll have a client for life.
Keep in touch with personal recommendations
Lavery occasionally sends little recommendations or ideas to clients. “Come across a restaurant you think a client would love? Or a new hotel? Or whatever? Send it their way,” she says. If they see how much you care, your clients are far more likely to recommend you to friends and family.
Ask for feedback and build on it
After someone has traveled, always call them after the trip and see how the planning and experience was. If it is good, ask them if they know of anyone who might benefit from your service.