If there’s one question that’s top-of-mind for most leisure travel sellers in both good times and bad it is this: How can I grow my sales? In Part 2 of our “powerful women” series, we posed that question to eight of the most successful women in retail travel. Here’s what they said.
1. Market to your current customers.
“If you’re not marketing to your customers someone else is—every TV or car company or Best Buy. Everyone’s after that same discretionary dollar. I get emails from Bloomingdales every single day; they’re out there touching me. In order to grow sales, you’ve got to be marketing to and touching your customers. Start simple, but start. And be consistent with it.”
– Elaine San Juan, director western region, leisure, Worldview Travel, Santa Ana, CA
2. Turn your clients into your advocates.
"Plan the absolute best trip you can for each of your clients, and word will spread. Use new technologies that keep you front and center. Don’t underestimate the simplicity of a note that suggests opportunities that you believe your clients will love—because you know them best. When you can surprise and delight, perhaps remembering an important anniversary or upcoming event that would make the perfect reason for travel, and you deliver in extraordinary ways, your clients will become your best advocates to their friends and family.”
– Claire Bennett, executive vice president, American Express Travel, New York
3. Support your preferred suppliers.
“Agencies that are very strong on preferred suppliers grow their sales exponentially. Don’t spread your volume across multiple suppliers; you’ll earn more by going to a few and aggregating your sales. We’ve seen agencies do well by working very closely with suppliers on groups, where suppliers help agents gain more clients by selling to affinity groups and by helping them in the marketplace. Suppliers will do that if you’re truly supporting them.”
– Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer, TRAVELSAVERS, The Affluent Traveler and NEST, Oyster Bay, NY
4. Leverage the power of marketing technology.
“The future of travel is at the intersection of marketing and technology—tech tools driven by strategic marketing initiatives. For example, our triggered email campaign automatically launches strategic emails and speaks directly to agents’ customers up to eight times during the buying process in order to help our agents look larger than life.”
– Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder, Cruise Planners, Coral Springs, FL
5. Use the tools, but keep it personal.
“Balance your use of technology with the personal touch. I am a big advocate of having a CRM [customer relationship management system] from day one to capture and market to potential clients with the goal of converting them to repeat clients. Engage in two-way conversations through social media and on the telephone. Remember to keep it personal by building a business friendship that will differentiate you and add value to the relationship.”
– Jackie Friedman, president, Nexion, Southlake, TX
6. Affiliate with a strong brand.
“One way to expand your client base and grow sales is by affiliating yourself with a great brand. Align with a franchise system or a host agency and take advantage of its technology, business resources, back-office support, training opportunities, and more. You will get access to exclusive offers to pass on to your customers, and to teams of experts and programs that are dedicated to growing your business, like free social media programs and business development managers who provide local marketing support.”
– Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president, CruiseOne/Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc., Wilmington, MA
7. Get used to selling yourself.
“If you are an independent travel advisor and you have to find your own clients to grow your sales, it's important to feel comfortable marketing yourself. Use social media, create a blog and find a niche that you are passionate about. Be sure to ask your clients for referrals. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to get more clients.”
– Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president Valerie Wilson Travel, New York
8. Always ask for referrals.
“Leisure agents can best growth their businesses via proactive word of mouth and referrals. This is the single best strategy to follow.”
– Andi Mysza, president, MTravel, Montrose, CA