With the culmination of Luxury Travel Advisor’s “Five Secrets to Success” series, we decided to parse through all of the great advice and list the Top Secrets—these being those that appeared in the most admissions.
First, however, the Honorable Mentions: Continue to stay educated on destinations, hotels, cruises, and the like; pay attention to each of the details; and stay positive throughout the booking process—it will make your clients more at ease.
And now, the Top Secrets to Success:
5. (Tie) Market Yourself
From novice to expert, everyone needs to market themselves. Georgia Schley Ritchie tells us she is always marketing: “Take a little time every day to reach out to someone with an idea. Or send a great email blast with special deals. There are lots of ways to stay in front of clients and keep you in the front of their mind." Another tip she offers is to get involved with the community—“so much of my business has been generated through the contacts I made through this involvement.”
Alyssa Schaier and Susan Moynihan offer similar sentiment. “Even if you have a qualified client base, don’t fall complacent waiting at your desk for travel inquiries/requests. We still need to actively market ourselves and our services,” Schaier says. Moynihan tells us her approach: “I'm my own unique self, and I relate to people better in person. So I spend a lot of my outreach budget on going where my clients or contacts are, and spending time with them.”
5. (Tie) Find the Right Agency
The right agency can help any advisor flourish (“This is just common sense,” Julia Shore says). For instance, “Having a boss that empowers and encourages me in every way to be successful…has changed how I sell and close sales,” Denise Schafer tells us.
Your coworkers can also make a big difference: “Tap into their knowledge and [use their] contributions to help make you look good,” Jennifer Gillmore says. Similarly, Kimberly Shannon attributes part of her success to having found the right agency. Key things to look out for, according to Shannon, are: marketing, day-to-day operations, technology and back-up assistance.
4. Keep in Touch With Clients
Keep in touch with clients before their trip, during their trip, after their trip, and—don’t forget—in between trips. Shannon notes: “Be very consultative during the planning process, making sure to always point out the value of a travel agent,” while Wendy Taylor says “Communication with clients and vendors is also extremely important so that each person's expectation is met or exceeded.” Erika Chiostri says keeping in touch with clients and the operator during their trip is important “to make sure they are happy and everything is going better than planned.”
Lila Fox suggests to “mold your form of communication to not what is best for you but what works best for the particular client whether that’s via text, email, telephone, or a combination.” Michele Miller adds to this: “Clients continually thank me for my fast response. It makes them feel valued and important, which they are.” And finally, Brittney Manger reminds everyone to always follow up after the trip and thank them for picking her. “I wouldn’t be here today without them,” she says.
This goes without say. “Our product is the world and we must be familiar with it,” Christa Craig says. Gillmore says to “Be a tourist and a student of the world. Return to the same places to build knowledge, spend time with the locals, and stay connected to new happenings.” Shore suggests to “Become conversational in as many venues as possible…it is so helpful to be able to share stories and experiences and compare notes and make experience-based suggestions. ”
Jim Weideman’s top secret is to “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.”
Amy Hellman has a strong take on the matter: “I spend most of my money on traveling to better my knowledge of social, political and cultural issues that are affecting the world. The secret to ultimate success is just being happy in your life and what you are doing and accomplishing for yourself and others. I strongly believe that I am always one decision away from a completely different life and this helps to keep me grounded and focused on what I want and what is truly important.”
Whether it’s on your own or part of a FAM trip, which Schafer tells us have been “huge in expanding [her] knowledge of an area,” this job can’t be done without traveling.
2. Maintain Supplier Relationships
Marketing yourself to suppliers is just as important as marketing yourself to clients: networking events and conferences can be critical for an advisor’s success. “The travel business may be about travel but our people make it happen,” Shore says. Keeping a strong relationship with suppliers allow you to create the best possibly itinerary for your client.
Gillmore says on the matter: “The better [your suppliers] know you and your clients, the better care and personalized service they can provide.” Taylor echoes her, saying “Matching the clients with the right product is imperative,” while Ritchie explains that strong supplier relationships leads to continued business: “Find great partners who make you look good and the business will continue to roll in!”
Melissa Pugh sums it up pretty well: “That saying ‘It is not what you know, but who you know’ is so prevalent in this industry. There is no way you can know everything, but you can know the right person in each destination, each niche around the globe to help you get the answers. Lean on others in the industry to help you and help others when they ask you.”
And then there’s also the simple fact that, the better relationship you have, the more likely you are to just become friends with your supplier. And who doesn’t like working with their friends? “Become best friends with your suppliers,” Craig says. “It makes it fun to be in touch with them and to do business with friends. The client will get a far better experience because they are coming on your recommendation, and, if something does go wrong, chances are, because of your good relationship, things can be more easily fixed than with a supplier who doesn’t know you.”
1. Get Personal/Creative
A themed lunch to help get to know a client; a welcome gift or room upgrade at the hotel; a personalized tour through a city—these are the things that separate you from a website. To truly be a standout, rock-star travel advisor, you need to do much more than book a hotel and flight. “Get to know their likes and dislikes and tailor things exactly for them. Not just welcome amenities, but great, personalized experiences,” Craig says. “Get things for people that they didn’t know were possible. Strive for excellence in everything you do.”
Another helpful idea might be to make each trip as unique for the client as it is for you. “Listen to what the client is looking for, and be able to offer ideas they hadn’t even thought of,” Gillmore says. “Look at each trip as a new opportunity to tailor accommodations, experiences, guides, etc. in line with the clients’ unique travel style and interests.”
Schaier gets creative from the moment she’s introduced to her client. For instance, “After doing extensive research to design a custom Asian package [for a new client], I then set up a lunch meeting at her house. To show attention to detail and an appreciation that the ‘little things matter,’ I brought Asian cuisine, beautifully packaged handcrafted chopsticks, and soy sauce holders.”
The simplest way to put all of this is to listen—“Not only to what is said and requested but read between the lines and hear what is not said,” as Joanne Kruger says.