Travel Agents Need Stronger Sales Skills, Avoya’s Richie Says

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Travel Agents Need Stronger Sales Skills, Avoya’s Richie Says

Understanding your personal sales approach can be the difference between being engaged in a hobby versus a true career.


As online travel agencies compete head-to-head with an increasingly expert group of human travel agents, traditional sales skills are the most important talent travel agents have to offer. But too many agents don’t perceive themselves as salespeople at all.

Tammie Richie, senior director of Avoya’s Mastermind program, believes some agents hesitate to be associated with the conventional negative images about sales people, including adjectives like “slick” and “fast-talking.”

“We typically don’t want to associate ourselves with those words. Your sales DNA has been set. But you have been lied to. Your genetic DNA, which determines what you look like, how long you live, etc., is the way you are. But your sales DNA can be changed.”

During a general session at this month’s Avoya Travel conference in San Diego, she asked a group of approximately 500 agents, “If you’re at a party, and someone asks you, ‘What do you do?’ what do you say?”

She offered up the likely answers: “I’m a travel agent, a travel concierge, a vacation planner, a cruise specialist.” That answer diminishes the perception of the person asking you the question, and subtly demonstrates your own limited perception of the value you create, Richie said. Instead, try, “I sell the most incredible vacations imagined. I sell stress-free fun.”

While the nuances of definitions might appear small, the stakes are high. Understanding your personal sales approach can be the difference between being engaged in a hobby versus a true career.

Citing figures from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), Richie believes that agents truly engaged in travel sales are the ones ASTA reports are earning $80,000 a year on average, while average agents report sales of around $31,000, and those engaged in a hobby earn about $8,500 a year.

The first step to earning more is seeing sales in a more positive light, she said. “We become what we think about. You have to get into a way of thinking that you love sales.”

Start by recognizing and appreciating your approachable and helpful personalities, and the way you collaborate with clients to build vacations. Sales is “something you do WITH someone, not TO someone,” Richie said, and framing sales in your own mind as something your customers want you to do with them will enable you to step more confidently into a client interaction, with a positive feeling about selling. Think of sales, in short, as simply an extension of an agent’s natural desire to help fulfill a client’s dreams.

Understand the client’s mindset too
Becoming more successful at sales also means understanding your mindset.

“Mindless people are hooked on a routine. They do what they have always done and hope for the best. They are happy with the status quo,” she said. But mindful salespeople look at sales targets and build a plan to “demolish” their goals by “constantly asking, ‘How can I be better?’ ” They are committed to hearing, learning and most importantly implementing. What good is hearing and learning if you go home and sit on it?” she asked.

Mindful salespeople use “urgency points,” deadlines for a client to make a decision. Mindful agents follow up, lead the client down the decisioning path, and ask for their credit card to close a deal.

“Sales masters” truly believe in the products they sell, and “ask for the business directly, and without apology,” she said. “If they don’t buy from you, they are going to buy from someone with stronger sales DNA.”

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