“We all want to do a good job, but most aren’t willing to take the extra steps to become great, because it’s harder,” said Scott Koepf, newly appointed vice president of strategic development at Cruise Planners, speaking to a packed room of travel agents at the Travel MarketPlace conference last week in Vancouver.
“We have a whole bunch of good travel agents, but good is not good enough anymore to the consumer. They want something magical, and memorable, which requires for you to be great.”
For travel agents who are willing to put in the time and work, Koepf outlined a plan – similar to what he experienced on the football field some years ago.
1. First off, think about your first interaction with the consumer. You have one opportunity to prove yourself, Koepf says, similar to the quarterback at recess, who had one shot to make a good pass, before the ball was turned over to someone else.
“In today’s world you have to tell people why they should do business with you, have to tell them why you are extraordinary, in the first two sentences.” Koepf suggests crafting a message for your phone calls, and it has to be different and tell people right up front "this is why you should book with me."
2. The next step is to analyze what you’re doing, like the team would examine their failed plays. Ask yourself, are you doing as well as you want to? And if not, then why? The answer will be different for everyone, but it’s important to take the look inward and acknowledge where improvements can be made
3. Once you determine that, you can create a plan. “Activity and effort do not guarantee success. You have to plan. People think if you’re busy you’re successful, but you should strive for balance.
4. It’s also important to recognize your strengths and utilize them to differentiate yourself, just like a linebacker focuses on his strength rather than his speed. So, while selling to the Millennial or luxury market might seem tempting, ask yourself which customer are you most comfortable with
5. In the final stretch of the game – or sale – you have to make sure you’re doing everything possible for each and every customer. Koepf says travel agents should earn their “no.” Follow up with consumers repeatedly, and don’t be afraid to be labeled annoying. “Worst comes to worst, they tell you they’re not interested, and at least then you know you’ve earned your 'no.'
The number one reason agents say a potential client didn’t work out is because they never heard back from them – but that’s not their job, Koepf notes. Put in all your effort
6. A sometimes forgotten factor, don’t underestimate the importance of a support team. “Is there someone there to support your endeavor of travel? You need at least one person who says they are behind you.
7. “Everyone on the field just wants to play, but you have to practice,” Koepf said, so take the time to script out your first phone call with a consumer and make a checklist
“In our business, it’s relatively easy to get into, but it’s not easy to be successful. Just like on the field, does everyone really play? If you want to be a successful player in the industry, it takes a whole different skill set. Getting in the game is easy, but being great at the game isn’t. You have to work at it.”
Tip of the Day
I do think there are possibilities for traveler advisors to make money doing domestic trips. I charge a planning fee for my time and expertise, and then book commissionable hotels and activities that meet the client’s needs.