Love Me…a Little

by Scott Koepf
Love Me…a Little


Stephen Sondheim’s "Company" is a unique musical that explores the relationship of marriage through the eyes of a bachelor who is terrified of commitment. He is exposed to many of the challenges that a few of his friends go through in their marriages, and he introspectively determines how relationships affect him.

Throughout the show, I was reminded how, as travel advisors, our relationships with our clients are fundamental to our long-term success. Product knowledge, technical expertise, sales skills and customer service are all just resources to draw on to create a strong trust-filled relationship. Like the leading man in "Company," you may be hesitant in fully committing to a relationship.

You may have tried before and the clients didn’t click with you. Or worse yet, they bought the vacation directly online! The fear of rejection is the same in personal relationships as it is in business relationships, so we put up walls to keep from getting hurt. Yet, if you do not take the risk, you may never have the kind of lifetime clients that can bring you the success you desire.

In the musical, after watching a few of these couples, our bachelor came to an interesting conclusion. He really liked some of the benefits of a relationship, but only on his terms. As he contemplates his future, he sings:

Marry me a little,
Love me just enough.
Cry, but not too often,
Play, but not too rough.
Keep a tender distance
so we'll both be free.
That's the way it ought to be.
I'm ready!
Marry me a little,
Love me just enough.
Warm and sweet and easy,
Just the simple stuff.
Keep a tender distance
So we'll both be free.
That's the way it ought to be.
I'm ready!

This describes how we may come across to our clients. Maybe you are not consciously limiting your commitment to a relationship. However, if you want lifetime customers, you need to be fully engaged and even vulnerable.

I recently heard a conference speaker ask: "In a successful relationship, what percent do each of the two people have to commit to?" The answer from the audience was almost unanimous as they shouted out "fifty percent." In other words, a great relationship, in the opinion of this audience (and I think most people), was defined by an equal share of give-and-take and participation. The speaker shocked us all by saying that a great relationship is achieved when each of the two people give 100 percent.

By giving 100 percent, there can be no expectation of anything in return, and one enters a relationship purely to give, not to get. While the speaker was right, he also admitted that it is almost impossible to live this out. His point was that if we set it as our goal, then everything changes. In travel, we could go broke by simply giving away information and never expecting compensation — but maybe we have gone too far.

I recommend spending serious time determining and documenting what you will give to each client. It won’t take much time to write down what you want to get (show me the money). However, the list of what you give should fill multiple pages! You may provide invaluable advice and service, yet most of our conversations and correspondence with our customers are about trying to get instead of give.

As the show "Company" comes to an end, the bachelor yells out: "Stop! What do you get?" but then realizes that to fully embrace a relationship with all of its risks and issues is what life is all about, so he sings:

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot.

Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who'll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive,

No relationship is perfect, and some of your relationships with your clients will never take root. However, don’t be afraid of giving all of yourself with the focus on giving instead of getting. Those lifetime client relationships will truly result in the feeling of:

Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

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The professional travel advisor’s job is to equip the traveler with the necessary information to enable a good decision that will reflect that person’s own risk tolerance.
 
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