When Beth Flowers joined Brownell Travel in Birmingham, AL, she had no experience in sales or the travel industry. Six years later, she is making $6 million in sales a year. We say that’s what makes her a trendsetter, hands down.
Her path prior to joining Brownell included advertising, public relations and marketing for 10 years, including time with a James Beard award-winning chef and restaurant, and most recently as vice president of marketing for Cooking Light magazine.
She came to Brownell after meeting Troy Haas, owner of the agency, through a colleague. Brownell was looking for a new wave of travel advisors to mentor, so when Flowers was hired, she approached selling travel with a different mindset and that was not to accept a trip with a budget of less than $10,000.
“I brought a fresh voice and was successful in a short amount of time. I think I opened some minds about new approaches to building a business,” she says. Most of her clients are Baby Boomers and their families and most are well traveled and love “the fine arts, history, food and wine,” she tells us. Flowers often sells FITs and luxury cruises with added private shore excursions. Villas are also a large part of her sales as “they create such a meaningful experience for multi-gen families.”
Flowers’ lack of experience in selling travel may have led to her success and her timing didn’t hurt, either. Because she joined the business during the era of “the revival of the travel advisor,” she and her colleagues no longer have to take any client that walks in the door — or calls or sends an e-mail. Advisors have the option of picking whom they work with, she says.
“The secret to my success is ‘the gracious no,’” Flowers says.
“I quickly realized that because the margins are so slim, I could work myself to death with very little to show for it if I wasn’t careful … The clients I don’t take are just as important as the ones I do.”
Brownell’s “Discover More” sales tool allows her and other advisors to browse clients and find the right match, she says.
“It’s not about budget or destination as much as it is about how much value the client places on my expertise and service.”
That value goes both ways. Flowers wants clients who value her services. In return, she values those clients over those, in some cases, with a larger budget. That mutual appreciation allows for a faster, better connection, which leads to repeat customers, she tells us.
With three small children at home, Flowers will likely maintain this strategy of working with select clients. “I have the luxury of working on trips that are meaningful and rewarding. A priority for me is helping Brownell’s Millennial advisors and coordinators grow their businesses. I was fortunate to have great mentors early in my career and I hope that I can be a mentor as well,” she tells us.
Flowers recently traveled to Bali and stayed at Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which “was absolute bliss.” Next on her itinerary is Scotland, where she will be going with Rebecca Recommends to experience and understand the personalities of her portfolio.
On working at Brownell, Flowers says, “I ‘lucked’ into the job without realizing how lucky I was to land with an agency with an impeccable reputation. The support and guidance I’ve gotten from my colleagues at Brownell is the true secret to my success.”