Selling travel is “about being real, relatable, honest and always doing things a little bit differently,” according to SmartFlyer’s Lila Fox, who is based out of New Orleans.
Just over three years after joining SmartFlyer with no travel selling experience, Fox is tallying $2.5 million in sales a year.
“One day I wasn’t doing this [selling travel] and the next I was, so I had to figure out what my style and approach was going to look like, and quickly,” Fox says. She uses storytelling to engage with clients.
“If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re not going to stand out. And I knew that I needed to stand out — especially if I was going to convince people to use a travel agent over the many online DIY options. I had an existing social media following from my travel writing … so I capitalized on that. I began telling little stories on social media along with a photograph from the day, whether I was home or out traveling … It also allows your audience and clients an insight into who you are. People are interested in the people behind a business.”
Fox and her husband bounced around the U.S. and Canada a bit before settling in New Orleans, where she grew up. From this, she has pockets of clients all over but most of them are Millennials, 30- and 40-somethings, and their parents.
She says flexibility is key for her. Fox doesn’t have any niche but focuses on clicking with her clients, which will more likely lead to repeat customers.
“I want to continue to change the perception of what a travel agent these days looks like and the value we can offer,” she stresses.
Prior to entering the industry, Fox worked as a civil and environmental engineer for about 10 years. In this field, she traveled a lot and decided to start a travel and lifestyle blog “as a creative outlet.” One thing led to another and she was introduced to Erina Pindar and Michael Holtz, both of SmartFlyer. They hit it off and offered to let her operate as an independent consultant under their umbrella.
As an independent advisor, growing her business is always on Fox’s mind. She says she never had plans to expand to the point where she was managing a team but rather she sees herself working directly with select clientele.
Remaining “the sole woman sailing this ship,” as she puts it, doesn’t mean she’s complacent with her current business.
“Eventually getting involved on a humanitarian and social basis in some of the communities around the world where I send clients to,” Fox says is her next step. “Will that ‘increase’ my business? Tangentially, I think, it will. I’m very happy with the way my travel agency has taken shape, and right now my wheels are turning on how I can use my previous engineering skill set and existing travel career to make a deeper impact on clients and in certain parts of the world. It’s all related.”
Next on her list of travels is Hawaii, where she’ll be staying with the Four Seasons for two weeks. The location has been a growing request among her clients and she says it will be the most useful location to visit from a research standpoint.
“Not in a million years did I ever see myself as a travel advisor, but it’s like a glove, and I’ve never second-guessed my decision,” she says.