Five Secrets to Success: Jim Wiedeman, Valerie Wilson Travel

Luxury Travel Advisor spoke with our Trendsetters to see which "Secrets to Success" they could share with our readers.

Continuing our ongoing “Five Secrets to Success” series, in which we aim to discover the best tips that luxury advisors can offer that led to their success, we spoke with Jim Wiedeman of Valerie Wilson Travel. Wiedeman was featured in the December 2016 Trendsetters issue of Luxury Travel Advisor.

Wiedeman has two decades in the industry, and mostly sells air, cruises, tours and FIT arrangements; he tries to stay with 4- to 5-Star products. Also notable: many of his clients participate in the Neiman Marcus InCircle Rewards Program with Virtuoso. For his Trendsetter story, Wiedeman said: “I always speak my mind, when appropriate, with ideas and suggestions to make the office a better place to work;” and he certainly offered plenty of “secrets” for this series.

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  1. Don't be aggressive—I listen to people and never suggest they travel if they say they are going to wait a few months or a year. In most cases, they'll come back when they are ready. Pushing people into traveling is never a good idea.
  2. Always apologize—if I'm sounding like I'm trying to push them into a value proposition. If I think there is a great deal and they should consider, I tell them "Look, I'm not trying to sound like a used-car salesman but..." and then explain why they should spend that extra "XX" euros on a room but get a third night free and resort credit, etc. etc. But then I back off and let them decide.
  3. Never push for destination that they don't consider safe—Recently had someone cancel a large suite at Le Bristol Paris for a week due to recent terrorist activities and the pending election. Though I lost a €20,000 booking, the client decided to go to Clinique Le Prairie outside of Geneva for a week for CHF 31,000, which in the end was an appropriate $9,000-larger booking for me; plus, the clients felt comfortable with their decision traveling to what they perceive as a "safe" destination.
  4. Enjoy what I'm (you're) doing—I know it sounds cliché but I came from a high-tech Silicon Valley career where I was never satisfied with my job and was always looking for something else. It's been 20 years this year and I've never looked back. You have to enjoy your job and what comes with it (the ups and downs) to be successful everyday.
  5. Sell dreams for others—Though I may be in Europe three to four times a year, many of my clients are going for the first time or maybe going back for a 10-year-anniversary. It's hard at times to remember that most people don't travel like travel agents and must remember that when I'm selling a destination like Paris or Bangkok to them, I must sell it with the enthusiasm and spirit of going for the first time (but with the knowledge of having been). It's sort of like when you say: "if I could go back to high school knowing what I know now" because now I know. This allows me to sell Paris, Bangkok, Sydney, etc. with full confidence. We share the enthusiasm of their dream trip.
  6. Bonus—Travel as much as you can without jeopardizing your relationship with your clients. First thing a client will ask is "have you been there?" And when you say yes, your value rises immensely. True, we can't travel everywhere but if you hit the main markets, you'll be in a better position to position yourself as a true travel consultant.

Make sure to keep checking out Luxury Travel Advisor every Tuesday and Thursday for more Secrets to Success from our featured advisors!

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