Career Advice for Agents: 10 Tips for Greater Success

by Marilee Crocker

Whether you’re new to selling travel or a long-time pro, a little career advice from your colleagues can really boost your game.

With this in mind, Travel Market Report asked five experienced travel agents two questions:

  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
  • What advice would you give to your younger self or to someone just starting out?

Here’s what they told us.

Best Advice Ever
1.    Don’t give it away.
“The best piece of advice I ever received was never work for free. It’s my nature to want to please people. It made me very apprehensive to charge fees when I started my own business. When I got this piece of advice, it was such an awakening. I thought, ‘Why should I work for free? My clients aren’t working for free.’ That was about 13 years ago; at the time it was kind of revolutionary.” –– Steve Lincoln, owner, Lincoln Travel, Bridgewater, Va.

2.    Invest in yourself.
“You need to show yourself some love. Invest in education. Invest in going to do a site inspection or a fam. A lot of times we’ll say, ‘I’d love to go to Italy, but we can’t afford it or justify it.’ What I was told is, ‘How can you not justify it if it’s going to move your business forward?’ Change your mindset about this scarcity and what you’re worth and go for it. You and your business are worth a lot.” –– Trish Gastineau, owner, Simply Europe Travel, Montgomery, Ala.; Virtuoso

3.    Never miss a deadline.
“If you promise something, do everything you can to make sure you meet that deadline. It portrays your care for their business as well as your own capabilities and professionalism. That was something I noticed being around businesspeople growing up: The ones who were very successful figured out how to meet deadlines. It’s pretty simple, but it can make all the difference.” –– Jennifer Yokiel, president, Minnetonka Travel and Cruises, Wayzata, Minn.; Vacation.com

4.    Don’t make assumptions.
“When I first started working, someone told me one, ‘Never assume anything.’ Sometimes I have forgotten that advice and it has come back to bite me. For example, if a client says they want first dining [on a cruise], make sure they understand what time first dining is. If they say they want a direct flight, make sure they understand a direct flight isn’t the same as nonstop.” –– Nancy Yoffe, owner, Cruise Planners, Spartanburg, So. Carol.

5.    Listen and learn.
“The best advice given to me was: Listen to what your client wants. They will tell you everything. You ask what their interests are––you qualify them––then listen to what they have to say, and you will learn so much.” –– Cathie Trapp, CTC, independent contractor, MSW Travel Group, Hicksville, N.Y.; TRAVELSAVERS

Advice to a Younger Self
1.    Learn the art of the sale.
 “Take the time to master the art of asking for the sale and referrals. It makes all the difference. Let people know you would like to confirm this for them and work together to finalize it. Rather than just sending a quote and waiting to hear, be very involved in the whole loop of the buying decision and let them know you’re very interested in their business.” –– Jennifer Yokiel

2.    Trust yourself.
“Some of my ideas didn’t catch on at first––things like specializing, turning away business that did not serve me, charging service fees. People thought I was crazy. With all of the naysayers telling me I couldn’t do that, sometimes I’d second guess myself. The advice I would give my younger self is: ‘You’re on the right path. Your intuition is correct. Stay the course; it’s going to work out.’” –– Trish Gastineau

3.    Specialize . . .
“You have to be a specialist; you cannot be a generalist. If you become a generalist you’re going to spend a lot of time chasing sales that are not profitable. Look at the various vendors and see who are travel agent vendors, and look at the commissions and the products that are going to give the highest yields. If you think you can do it all, you’re not going to be profitable.” –– Nancy Yoffe

4.    . . . But don’t focus too narrowly.
“So many people are saying you have to find a niche. My advice would be to learn everything thing you can about every aspect of travel, because you may need that knowledge some day. Hand in hand with that advice is be a full-service agent to your clientele. If you’re sending them elsewhere for portions of their travel needs, they can go elsewhere for all their travel needs.” –– Steve Lincoln

5.    Seize every opportunity.
“I was a den mother for Cub Scouts, and this lady said, ‘I’m going to take a travel course.’ Something snapped in my head, so I took the course too and the man who taught the course offered me a part-time job. I started in a small agency and from there I moved on and up. I walked in to American Express one day and to me that was the start of my career. I would say, ‘Go for every opportunity that’s handed to you. Don’t stay where you are if it’s a dead end.’” –– Cathie Trapp, CTC

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