Million-Dollar Travel Agents Share Their Sales Tips

by Cheryl Rosen
Million-Dollar Travel Agents Share Their Sales Tips

Travel agents would do well not just to sell travel. but to sell knowledge, experience and service. Photo: Shutterstock.com.


What does it take to get to a million dollars in sales in the travel business? Travel Market Report asked some travel agents who have done it to share their best tips. Here’s what they said.

Find your niche
“Sell what you know and stay away from what you don’t,” said Lindsay Foerster of Foerster Travel Inc. “There is no way you can be an expert in all areas, so invest in yourself to know the destinations and products you decide to sell. Find a system that works for you and then duplicate it. Our thing was destination weddings … now we do hundreds.”

As a home-based agency that sells more than $5 million a year, not counting ICs sales, “We do not sell travel. We sell our knowledge, experience and service; and we then provide travel,” said Geoff Millar at Ultimate All Inclusive Travel Inc. “We have been highly specialized since we started, 16 years ago, and know the products we sell inside and out.”

Laure Poffenberger, Owner of TravelLuxuryVacations in Round Rock, Texas, found a focus on the high end pays off best. "Three words: luxury, luxury, luxury! If you are so busy with everything that comes in your door then you don’t leave bandwidth to care and cater to the luxury clients,” she said.

Think groups
“I broke a million dollars by building my group business, which has grown exponentially over the five years I have been in business,” said Karen Quinn-Panzer of Dream Vacations Quinn Panzer Travel. “My groups are a mix of fundraising groups for organizations, corporate seminars and what I call my ‘bucket list groups.’ I started my bucket list group in 2015; I invited friends, who then invited their friends. In 2016, we started our first river cruise group and have done many others since then (this year, Danube, Chobe in Africa, and Douro). Each group establishes my credibility, builds business through referrals for both future groups and FIT.”

Many agents also reported finding success from groups they join, either in person in the community or remotely online. Jamie Paul at Protocolo Tours in Boca Raton, Florida, for example, built her business by joining Facebook groups, and quickly responding to any travel questions others asked. “There were tons of groups to join: mom’s groups, neighboring towns, interest groups. Once I started booking, any posts there about travel got responses saying, ‘You should talk to Jamie Paul.’ After two years, I had hit $1 million and this year I am projecting over $1.5 million.”

Spend some money to build your customer base
Millar, for instance, used pay-per-click advertising with the search engines, “and once we began building a client base, we used Constant Contact to market to our customer base,” he said. “We now have about a 40-50 percent repeat client rate.”

Cynthia Chubick Tevis, of Luxx Vacations, suggested creating a niche group and marketing it on Facebook. “I’ll do $1 million on one cruise alone this year, with $1,200 spent in targeted Facebook ads that brought me 800 guests.”

Stephanie Mayorga hopes to hit a million for the first time in this, her fourth year, in business. “I do one major wedding show a year,” she said. “You really only need to have a very solid conversation with 8 to 10 couples. Take the time to build a strong rapport, relate to the couple, find a common ground, don’t just discuss the wedding plans, take time to really get to know them, memorize them. I leave a very strong impression on these couples and when I follow up, I mention things we discussed so they know I remember who they are.”

Make time for fam trips
Millar said he takes at least two fams a year. “There are four stages for learning a product. Stage one is going through the product website with a fine-tooth comb. Stage two is taking online courses about that product. Stage three is taking a fam to inspect that product; and stage four is staying at that resort or product as a paid guest. This gives you four totally different experiences and educational opportunities.”

Agreed Roy Gal, a corporate agent who started his own business from scratch in 2010. “What really worked for me is experiencing the product and letting potential clients know I have been there and seen it. I travel every month to locations I sell and once a year to a new place I have never been. Combining it with social media and local involvement in my community, I will most likely reach $2 million in personal sales this year.”

On a tight budget? Maximize your return by extending your fams, suggested Suzanne Haire of All Travel Company. “Tack on days to other trips and conferences for exploring other properties. Get the most bang for your buck on every airfare you purchase, and use any free or discounted nights you have earned to make it an affordable and personalized fam.”

Sell the customer’s dreams, not your own
A million-dollar agent for 20 years, Tammy Jones-Deem, owner of TJ’s Travel in Tyler, Texas, said the best advice she got, from her mentor and friend Jim Rice, “was that the trip belongs to the client. Stop working within your personal idea of budget. Clients want someone who can help them make good decisions, not the least expensive. Make each and every trip an experience you want to be remembered with.”

“Don’t think with your own wallet or desires,” agreed Kristina Raykinstein of KVR Travel Group, who sold just about a million in her third year as a travel agent. “Think bigger. Offer private transfers, ocean-view rooms or an amazing premium cruise line. You can always scale back.”

Be yourself – and sell yourself
"I am my own billboard; my trips have sold themselves day after day,” said Dillon Guyer, who expects Guyer Travel International in Rochester, New Hampshire, to break the million mark this year. “Pictures, videos, social media, it’s all about selling yourself and selling who you are! If you are having fun, you have a captivated audience who wants that same lifestyle. I show up at hospitals in a tacky Christmas suit delivering stockings and host movie nights wearing branded tee shirts. Don’t be afraid to be different, go out and be loud, both physically and metaphorically, and make it personal. This is my fifth year in operation and I would’ve never imagined being at a million dollars. I truly hope even one other agent can say ‘Wow, I can do that’ and make a million next year, too.”

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