Business Advice for Travel Agents
A few months ago, an industry research was conducted and reports have found that there are more consumers nowadays who are inclined to use a good travel agent, reversing a downward trend.
Companies belonging to the offline agent industry are rejoicing for this good news and there are absolutely a lot of reasons to be optimistic. With almost no top young talent joining the industry and very low average annual incomes, the travel agent industry continues to be a challenge.
Part of my job as the CEO of Zicasso, is to find and act as a business coach for these top performers, partner with them, and make them even better performers.
I’ve put together a list of 20 useful tips and business owner advice which travel agents can utilize. This information is based on my interaction and analysis of thousands of interactions with travelers and travel specialists on Zicasso.
The concepts in the list are points every agent can take note of and apply. For a good travel agent to adapt and thrive in today’s environment, they need to understand that travelers want personalized attention, convenience on the internet, and good value for their money.
Think of a few activities or destinations and make sure you are an expert at them compared to anyone else. With today’s technology, the information travelers need is right at their fingertips through the internet and they have become “generalist travel agents” themselves. When they ask for help, they are looking for a true specialist.
Stand out from self-service online solutions or anything that has to do with DIY. Instead, provide customers with recommendations and personalized service right from the first time you interact with them – whether on the phone, online, or in person.
3. Create a list of unique experiences and special access
Focus on your selling experience. Add more uniqueness and value; the more special accesses you get to exclusive events, the more differentiated you are.
4. Be complex
You need to invest your energy on complex trips and you should also add this to your specialization. Consumers can easily book simple trips themselves, like point-to-point trips. However, they would need a travel agent for complex trips, like long trips to international destinations or cruises.
5. Move upmarket
Divide the travelers into different types. Travelers with more money, less time and travelers with more time, less money. Agents can only vie for the former division’s business. Travelers who have more money and less time appreciate buying a travel agent’s ability and expertise in handling every angle of the trip.
6. Instead of taking commission, work with net rates
Consider getting net rates from suppliers and marking them up instead of earning on a commission basis. This is especially for custom tours. Doing so lessens the hassle of collecting commission and gives better cash flow and pricing flexibility.
7. Do a self-check constantly
Change is constant, and more so in the travel agency industry. Ask yourself if you are delivering the best value. Are you offering competitive rates for your products and services? Do you have a number of strategies that will allow you to provide your clients with the most value?
8. Ace your pitch
If customers ask you to say something about yourself and your agency, have you perfected your pitch? They might also ask other questions, like “What makes you different from other travel agents?” You should know the top three messages in your pitch by heart and answer them with confidence.
9. Improve your “trusted advisor” sales skills
Since it is a consultative sales job, most agents aim to be perceived as a trusted advisor. Doing so can make an agent sell a lot more. Therefore, instead of focusing on the pushy sales skills, concentrate on the trust-building and relationship-building skills. Build that rapport!
10. Build up a trusted brand/reputation
Write up an article which will be featured in national media or at least the local newspaper can help in creating a band. Also join the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and have regular customers write a review on Google or Yelp, and endorsements on LinkedIn. Having positive reviews can help in building your reputation.
11. Own a good website
Even in this day and age, many agents have websites that do them a disservice. To be able to attract clients, your website needs to have three key things: eye-catching design, compelling content, and should be easy to update or maintain. Find a good developer who can create your dream website. The investment will be worth it.
12. Be very responsive and reachable
A smartphone will come in handy when people get in touch with you and you need to reply right away. You can respond to messages, email, and answer calls even when you are out of the office. Check out Google Voice which enables you to have one number that rings your mobile or landline.
13. Improve process efficiency
Most agents should grab the opportunity to be more effective and competent with great worker productivity in their operational processes. For instance, streamline the time to price a quote or develop a customer itinerary.
14. When you should ask for a fee
There is no rule book on when to specifically ask for any type of fee – whether it is a planning fee or good faith deposit. Trust your judgment on this.
15. Stay active on social media
Create a Facebook page for your travel business in order to have your clients post reviews of your services. You can also use the Facebook page to engage with new and regular clients as well as prospects. Let your page be about engaging with people, not just about selling. If you need an example, check the Zicasso Facebook page.
16. Collaborate to get new leads
If you are not a good marketer, you can use a travel referral service like Zicasso or hire a marketing agency to help you. Save yourself the time in advertising or brand marketing and focus on selling.
17. Get better in your writing skills
Most clients would rather communicate through email. If you are not very confident in your writing skills, take a class to improve. Doing so will also make you better in sales conversion. Remember that good writing helps build trust and relationship with clients.
18. Refine your first response to clients
Whether it is a phone call or an email, making a good first impression plays a major role in sales conversion. This means that the quality of your first interaction should be fascinating and must draw interest.
19. Sell expertise, not deals
Several agents use their website to advertise deals which also sends the message that they are able to find the best deals. It can be difficult to beat deals on the internet and going forward, it can only get tougher. Convert your message and business to sell expert advice and personalized service.
20. Be a lasting student of change
Over the years, this industry has tremendously changed and its pace will only accelerate. Be persistent when it comes to best practices and adopt new ways of doing things. Also, be ready to adapt to change no matter how long you’ve been in the industry.
I just have one more request from everyone – be a role model for the next generation of young agents as you achieve success. Hire, motivate, and guide them. This industry is in need of new recruits and the new generation will only join when they have observed successful role models. Follow these simple solutions for your business which will help guide you. I wish everyone great success in your continued business endeavors.