Vicki Freed To Agents: To Succeed, Nurture Your Garden

by Marilee Crocker
Vicki Freed To Agents: To Succeed, Nurture Your Garden

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International

The single biggest challenge facing travel agents today is casting a wide enough net to gain new clients. “It starts with planting a seed,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service for Royal Caribbean International.

With watering can in hand, Freed expanded on the garden-your-way-to-success metaphor at the recent Travel Leaders Network International Conference in Orlando.

“Think about your business. What does your garden look like?” Freed asked, as images of different style gardens flashed across a screen behind her. Does it look like a Zen garden, attractive but sparse? Or like a garden of ferns and hostas, also attractive but lacking in diversity?

“We all strive to have lush beautiful diversified garden. Today I’d like to talk about how to grow your client base and keep it thriving,” said Freed, a longtime travel agent advocate. Here’s her advice: 

Plant seeds with confidence.
Freed told the story of a brand new franchise owner who introduced herself to a couple seated next to her on a plane who were heading off on a cruise. Telling them of her new business venture, she impressed the couple enough that they decided to buy their future vacations through her.

The lesson? “This new franchise owner didn’t have the experience, but she had the confidence, the passion, the connection,” Freed said. 

Tell your story.
One of the easiest ways for agents to spark conversations about travel is through visible branding, such as by wearing a shirt with an agency logo. Freed always wears a nametag, she said.

The cruise exec related the tale of an agent who was using a Royal Caribbean bag while shopping at Whole Foods. When a woman in line spotted the bag it triggered a conversation about cruises. The woman went on to become a client.

“The point is you’ve got to tell your story,” Freed said. 

Cross-pollinate with local business.
Freed urged agents to gain visibility and “grow local vegetation” by partnering with other local businesses and charities. “Plant your seed in someone else’s garden,” she advised. 

Ask for referrals.
Referrals plus reviews equal revenue––it’s called the R Equation, said Freed.

While many agents already ask for referrals, agents should rethink at what point in the selling process they do so. Rather than wait until clients get home, ask for referrals as you’re closing the sale.

Simply asking, “Is there anyone else you can think of that might want to travel with you on your vacation?” will yield one new customer for every four times you ask, said Freed, citing the experience of cruise line sales desks.

Ask for and post reviews.
“Reviews are a powerful way to get new clients,” Freed said.

Nurture your garden.
“Make sure you’re staying in touch with your clients in a very personal way. That’s what’s going to keep them from cheating on you,” said Freed. She Agents should use their client knowledge to reach out “beyond the bookings,” for instance around milestone events such as weddings and anniversaries.

But don’t rely on email, she admonished. “Email is a monologue––it is not a relationship builder. Use the phone.” 

Plant a ‘garden of gratitude.’
Last, but not least, always remember to thank your clients for their business. “Let’s grow your garden together,” Freed concluded.

Tip of the Day

A common scam involves a call from what is apparently the hotel front desk asking for your credit card number confirmation. When the number they claim to have is confirmed wrong, they request the correct number.


Eran Feinstein 

Daily Top List

The World’s Top Five Airports

1. Changi Airport, Singapore

2. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong

3. Zurich Airport, Switzerland

4. Hamad International Airport, Doha

5. Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Source: Wanderlust

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
FCC Proposes Record $120M Fine For Fraudulent Travel Robocaller
FCC Proposes Record $120M Fine For Fraudulent Travel Robocaller

Florida man may pay big for making 100 million calls selling travel using spoofed ID.

Four Top Tips To Protect Yourself From Credit Card Theft When Traveling Abroad
Four Top Tips To Protect Yourself From Credit Card Theft When Traveling Abroad

A security expert offers some best practices for protecting your credit cards when you are on the road.

Educating The Next Travel Agent Generation
Educating The Next Travel Agent Generation

Industry veteran Lisa Fletcher transitions from travel agent to educator to prepare the next generation of successful agents.

Can Travel Agents Encourage Travel?
Can Travel Agents Encourage Travel?

Americans don’t take their full complement of vacation days, but agents like Loulu Lima ‘encourage clients to relax, recharge, rejuvenate.’

Five Apps Travel Agents Need To Know About
Five Apps Travel Agents Need To Know About

While the average person has 26 apps on his or her iPhone, not everyone is taking full advantage of the power of the devices.

Six Ways To Leverage Social Media To Build A Travel Agency Brand
Six Ways To Leverage Social Media To Build A Travel Agency Brand

Tips on best practices for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from TMR’s Travel Marketplace show.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: American Queen Steamboat Company