What Don’t You Know?

Ruthanne Tererro with Anastasia Mann, owner of Corniche Travel in West Hollywood, CA. Anastasia is an expert in the art of selling luxury travel and spoke at the recently held Travel Industry Exchange in San Diego.

How do you immediately gain the curiosity of a potential client who isn’t sure of what a luxury travel advisor can do for them? Intrigue them with details they don’t have a clue about. Bring up the myriad of hotels in the city they mention, hint knowingly of the best restaurants there, and reference not only the city’s top museums but also the hidden gems. Indicate that you know the best months of the year to go — and even better, when not to go, because of the weather, the crowds, the insects.

If these savvy consumers say they’ve already been to Paris, London or Rome five times and are aching to find something new to do there, refer mentally to the cheat sheet you’ve prepared of unusual things to do in all of the world’s top cities.

Bottom line? Set them back on their heels with subtle bursts of your expertise and they’ll be wondering why they ever planned travel without you.

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In all of the above scenarios you’re letting clients know that they don’t know what they don’t know. Google doesn’t spew out information for words you don’t put in its search box. It can’t deliver 3 million results for a question you haven’t asked.

We speak of the importance of having that elevator speech ready to explain what you do for a living when someone asks you. Instead of saying, “I’m a travel agent,” and then being put on the defensive when they say, “Didn’t you guys all go out of business years ago?” you have, hopefully, developed a better comeback, something along the lines of, “I’m a consultant who designs amazing vacation itineraries and I can also get you perks and VIP status because of my industry relationships.”

Execute the same strategy when you’ve got 30 seconds to prove your intellectual and experiential prowess for planning vacations with your access to insider information and knowledge.

If you do this, the odds are that the potential clients you’re dealing with will immediately end the dance of questioning why they should trust you with the vacation that they had planned to research online, or had unwisely given to their nephew / cousin / sister-in-law to do because they traveled a lot in college, or for their job, or have a fake travel agent ID that gets them travel perks if they talk five other poor souls into signing up with their host agency.

Want another angle? Speak not, at first, of the dreams you can make come true as their travel advisor; politely bring up some of the jams they could potentially find themselves in if they do all of their planning without an expert. Do this not to scare them, but to let them know there is a way to travel that doesn’t involve a high level of risk — risk that’s born of their sheer innocent ignorance of the ways of the world.

When it’s time to execute the plans you’ve collaborated on with your new clients, go to your trusted ground operator in the destination in question and politely push them to make miracles happen. You’ve come upon this local company either through your consortia or host agency, or through your own research from visiting adventure travel shows or educational networking conferences. In any case, you have established trust and a fluid working relationship with this supplier and for that reason you should charge fees to your client for having such a great resource they could never have found on their own.

Bottom line? Intrigue, delight and impress new acquaintances with facts they do not know about a destination or a hotel and do it quickly; then use your treasured industry contacts and, of course, your own intel, to make those dreams happen.

That, my friends, is the stuff that luxury travel advisors are made of.

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