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.

  3
  0
Tip of the Day

As travel advisors, we have to be curious. Curiosity leads to impactful connections that pave our road to success.

Jenn Lee, VP of Sales and Marketing, Travel Planners International

 

Daily Top List

Exciting Luxury Hotel Openings

1. Costa Blu Beach Resort (Belize)

2. The Standard London (London)

3. Lefay Resort and SPA Dolomiti (Italy)

4. Kachi Lodge (Bolivia)

5. The Hoxton (Chicago)

Source: TMR

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=7c7310a7-0591-e911-be17-782bcb66a2f2)

5 Reasons to Travel in Winter - and Where to Go

Travel advisors in-the-know offer their clients distinctive travel adventures at lower price points and with more personalized service during the winter months and off-peak season.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Expedia Agrees to Settlement After Violating New Cuba Travel Regulations
Expedia Agrees to Settlement After Violating New Cuba Travel Regulations

The U.S. government says Expedia and two other travel companies have violated the sanctions against Cuba and must pay large fees.

Why Travel Advisors Should Use Video to Grow Their Business
Why Travel Advisors Should Use Video to Grow Their Business

Sandra and Anthony McLemore share useful tips and tricks for incorporating video to attract clients.

Travel Agents Help Defeat Texas Tax Bill
Travel Agents Help Defeat Texas Tax Bill

Latest “whack-a-mole” travel agent tax is defeated, as ASTA and the travel industry gain momentum in minimizing new levies on advisors.

6 Ways to Promote Your Agency with Social and Other Highlights from TMP East
6 Ways to Promote Your Agency with Social and Other Highlights from TMP East

Industry experts also gave practical tips about how to sell to the Millennial market and how to upsell luxury travel product.

A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors
A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors

Maggie Fischer is on a mission to help travel agents see marketing as less like an expense, and more like a planned and measurable investment that puts income on their balance sheet.

A Privacy Tsunami May Be Coming to Retail Travel
A Privacy Tsunami May Be Coming to Retail Travel

Travel advisors should begin to think about how they will comply with the central concepts that are likely to be part of any state or federal privacy legislation.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks