I may have attended the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!), but as my Uncle Howard once told me - my real education was the summer of my freshman year I spent selling books door-to-door. In those short two and one-half months, I developed many of the life skills that have become an integral part of who I am today.
Knocking on doors and proactively presenting my product to families with a specific need my educational books could help solve, showed me that I can earn a lot more commission by taking the game to my customer than waiting for them to come to me.
As a result, for most of my sales career I have made “prospecting” my priority. I believe it is the missing link between just getting by, and real success in sales.
If you have been in or around the sales profession for any length of time, you have undoubtedly heard salespeople described as “hunters” and “farmers”. Unfortunately, the latter is how most operate, regardless of their product or...
Remember when you first decided to become an independent travel professional. You were so excited to be embarking on a new career, one that could take you all over the world, live a lifestyle others only dream about, and heck -you were even going to get paid for it! The thought of associating yourself with a trusted brand or finding a business model that you worked for you made the decision that much easier. Regardless of the reason– you jumped in with both feet.
Fast forward to today. You are lost. You feel like the pumpkin that was once Cinderella’s beautiful carriage. You are going through the motions, but don’t know what to do next, or in some cases- even where to start? Sound familiar? You are not alone, this is very common among small business owners, regardless of industry.
In hindsight, you may have asked yourself these four questions, but it’s not too late.
1. “What is it that gets me out of...
I had just finished presenting my Selling to the Affluent Traveler seminar at a recent industry conference, when one of the attendees asked the question, “Dan, how do you feel about fees?” This is a loaded question and, while it was outside of the scope of the program, everyone in the room was waiting for my response.
“I love fees!” I replied, to which you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief. “Especially service fees, but in my opinion,” I continued, “you should only charge planning fees if you are adding value to the purchase!”
To charge a planning fee or not is a subject as hotly debated as any. There are valid arguments supporting both sides. Assuming that you have a specific skill or expertise that differentiates you or your agency, customers are seeking you out, or you are planning a “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” FIT itinerary - by all means, charge an upfront planning...
A couple of months ago, I took some long overdue time to spend working strategically on my business. The process brought three things into focus that I needed to work on.
In my previous post, I covered the first one: Do a better job of qualifying prospects by getting clearer on who I am and who I serve. The second was a surprise to me at first, but after giving it some thought- it was really a revelation.
Strategic Take-Away #2: My clients picked me to be their trusted advisor, not just a coach. I need to give them everything I’ve got.
Lesson: My first-hand experience is the very reason my clients choose me.
Business experience matters – a lot. My clients chose me specifically because they believe that with the breadth of business skills, industry knowledge, and first-hand experience I have gained throughout my career in the travel industry - I have the most to offer to their business success. The value of all of this is priceless to...
First quarter tends to be a slower time for me. While most of you were busy with “Wave Season,” I took advantage of the opportunity to spend some time working strategically on my business - instead of in it for a change.
You may be experiencing many of the same challenges and growing pains as I am in your own business. With the start of the "sales year" approaching in September, this is a great opportunity to step back and take a brutally honest assessment of your business (and yourself).
It is amazing what you can learn from this process. I found that I am doing a lot of things well, but there are a few that can be definitely be improved. As you look at your own business, take time to recognize and celebrate the wins!
Over the next three posts, I will share the three most important things I learned as well as the actions I am taking as a result. Here is the first one.
1. I need...
As many of you know, I have had the pleasure of working the front lines of travel sales as well as in executive sales roles with two major travel franchise groups and supplier executive. As a result, I often look at opportunities from a different perspective and have contrarian views to many of the leaders and gurus in the industry.
One such view surfaced during a recent conversation with a friend of mine, also in the travel consulting business, about the proliferation of membership clubs selling travel. He was of the opinion that the average travel agent simply can’t compete with them, so why try.To that, I stated most agents can go up against them, in fact I have been successfully competing with these clubs for years.
In the 1990s and early 2000’s, Sam Club Travel was the dominate force in member travel sales. Sam’s got out of the travel business (they have recently reentered the arena) and the dominate player in member club travel sales is currently Costco...
I had an interesting conversation with a student of my online program a few weeks ago. She lives not far from me so instead of the usual phone consultation, I asked if she would meet me for coffee. It was a beautiful Seattle morning and as we talked, part of her story had a familiar ring to it. In fact, I hear it so often, I have come to expect it.
She has been in business for about a year and has done everything her host/franchisor instructed. She wrote a marketing & branding plan, built a website, became active in social media, participated in numerous product webinars, but something was missing. That something is "Sales". They trickled in here and there, but not enough to sustain the business, much less make a living.
She is at a place where many of you are currently or you will be at some point. She is frustrated and understandably so. She is doing everything she was taught, but as I said, this is a story I hear often – and not just from new agents trying to the...
Last week, my in-laws decided we should all go to the casino for an afternoon of fun. I am not a big gambler, but for a few hours—I was game. One of the players at our poker table repeated these words with every hand: “ Go big or go home.”
This reminded me of a big gamble I made with my travel agency. Outwardly, we were very successful, and from a sales perspective, we were. We did a fairly high volume of contemporary product. Because of this, we were often treated like VIPs—flown first class to inaugural events, served lavish dinners with industry executives, and so on. However, we were in real danger of going out of business due to low margins and high cost of sale, so we made the biggest gamble since starting the company. We turned our business model 180 degrees and began focusing on attracting affluent customers as large part of the overall sales strategy. Go big or go home!
Many people are intimidated by affluent prospects, people who have achieved a...
Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking River Cruises, said in a recent interview, “We are focused clearly on what we are and the number of things we are not.”
Wow! If you want to know why Viking is so successful, I think this statement sums it up nicely. As a sales professional, the message is clear. In order to stand out among the plethora of booking options, get clear on who you are and who you are not. Ask yourself, “What makes me special?” and “What do I want to be known for?”
These are powerful questions that I always ask of my students and audiences around the world. Usually, the response is an awkward silence. In an environment where everyone from Costco to Sea Ray Boats is selling travel, how can retail travel professionals get clear on who they are and who they are not? If a company as complex as Viking River Cruises knows who they are, why is it so hard for retail travel professionals to gain this clarity?
I like to hike, so much...
Recently, an interesting post in one of the newer travel agent Facebook groups caught my attention.
A member made a public declaration (post) that she was leaving the group because she only wanted to associate and share ideas with what she considered to be “real and legitimate” travel agents.
What I found interesting is regardless of their business model, virtually all agents in this group (around 1000) are home based and many are cruise focused. This agent had particularly strong feelings about who was “real and legitimate,” and those in the group who didn’t make the cut.
When I started our cruise-only travel agency in 1993 after working on cruise ships, I knew it would fill a need. After all, I had spent almost six years onboard listening to passengers tell me what they liked and disliked about working with a travel agent.
Many of you may be cruise focused, and what you do is widely accepted, however this was not always the...