Written By: Jason Coleman, CTC, ECC, CLS, LCS, DS, Business Development Manager/MentorU Coach, UNIGLOBE Travel Center
The holiday season is upon us, and this is the time of year when many business consultants, websites, and publications like to discuss the topic of goal setting and planning. Whether you are the business owner, sales consultant, or solo-preneur (or all three!), this is an important exercise to help you focus and jumpstart the coming year. However, there is a necessary step before you can start your planning. Just as important is reflecting on this year’s successes and challenges by analyzing your activity and results. After all, how can you plan for the future without a realistic understanding of where you have been and currently are?
Some of you may be thinking to yourself that this is just a waste of time. I used to think that as well. Until I actually used my sales slowdown and downtime to analyze, reflect, and plan. I found tasks and projects to eliminate, freeing up time to do other things. I focused on efficiency with the goal of identifying the activities that generated sales, deepened relationships with clients, and made me more money! Put in those terms, why would you miss this opportunity?
In coaching agents, my experience is that most solo-preneurs have an interest in analyzing their business, but they just don’t know what to look at. Let me give you a few topics to focus on. From there, I hope it will spark ideas for other areas of your business to examine.
Sales, Inquiries, and Missed Opportunities
The most obvious thing to analyze is your 2017 sales. I encourage you to look at this data from several different angles. How many cruises/tours/packages did you sell? How many clients did you serve? What was the total dollar volume of your sales and how much in each category?
Another way to look at your sales numbers is by product and dates. How much did you sell of each supplier? What destinations did you sell, how many clients did you send, and what was the dollar volume of those transactions? A few dates are important to review: initial inquiry (because I want to know how long it takes you to close the sale), the date booked (so you can look at your busy/slow periods as well as how many transactions per week/month you closed), and the travel date (how far in advance do your clients book and when do they travel). Also, are you able to evaluate the category or level of your sales? Are you booking mostly luxury, budget, or mid-range? Are you selling more balconies and suites than oceanview or interior staterooms?
Equally important is data about your inquiries. How many leads did you receive? How many converted to closed sales, and how long did that take? What are the sources of your leads? Do you have loyal clients who continue to refer to you over and over again? Are your referrals profitable or are you getting leads for things you don’t (or don’t want to) sell?
I also find value in evaluating missed opportunities. Why did some leads not convert to bookings? Are your “no thanks” a firm no, or are they a “not right now” and could use some extra care and attention to convert to a closed sale? Do you have prospective clients that have a lot of open leads, but never book? What about group leads – are you converting those? Are your groups profitable overall, or are you spending too much time doing unprofitable tasks?
Revenue, Expenses, and Profit
Looking at your sales activity is important, but perhaps the more important task is to examine how much you made. How much income did you earn on each sale? I look at income here instead of commission because if you have a split with your host agency, that’s an expense that must be considered. What is your average commission per transaction? Do the same kind of breakdown and analysis discussed in the previous section, and evaluate where your income comes from.
On the expense side, consider things like client gifts, organization memberships, marketing activities, website subscriptions, and other office operational overhead. Regular review of your expenses is important to ensure you are not wasting money on unprofitable or unnecessary line items. Over time, I found that I racked up a long list of monthly subscriptions including various services and products, some which were necessary and many that I could live without. Use this opportunity to scale down and get rid of the excess and extravagance.
Finally, consider your overall profit. It’s a simple equation of income less your expenses. Changing your profit comes in three ways: increasing your income, reducing your expenses, or some combination of the two. Evaluating your year-end profit is a necessary first step to planning changes for the new year.
How will you shake up your financial situation in 2018? On the revenue side, will you focus on getting more/new clients, selling more frequently to your existing client base, or increasing the income from your transactions (selling higher priced packages)? Each of those activities will increase your revenue in different ways. What changes do you need to make on the expense side? Is your marketing providing the appropriate return on investment? Do you have unnecessary or inefficient expense items you can live without? As you move from review and analysis to planning for the new year, consider ways you can improve both the revenue and expense side of your business.
What continuing education courses did you complete in 2017? Were there supplier specialist programs, destination expert courses, or industry certifications you earned in the last year? Begin by making a list of everything you started. How many did you complete? How many did you start and not finish? How much time did you invest in these programs?
When I made my own list, I realized two things: (1) how much time I invested learning and bettering myself through education, and (2) how much time I wasted starting programs that I never completed or that were a waste and would never provide any substantial benefit long-term. With your 2017 continuing education transcript in hand, ask yourself these questions. How are you using this knowledge and information in your business? How many leads, inquiries, and closed sales resulted from these programs? How much time was wasted by not finishing programs you started? Why did you fail to complete a given program?
Here’s the key point: completing training programs and certifications are good, if you are using them for more than just a logo on your website and a certificate on your wall. How are you using them to build business, close sales, and generate profit? As you evaluate your education transcript from the last year, use that information to enhance your marketing and sales for 2018.
Also, use this reflection to help you make better decisions about what activities to pursue in the coming year. Avoid wasting time on programs you start and never complete. And evaluate the courses you start by considering how you will use that information in your business. Just because you get a logo and a certificate is not enough to justify your investment of time.
This task of reviewing the year’s activity is important for planning your business in the months ahead. I’m a data geek, so I love to look at all these numbers and analyze what went right and where I can improve. Evaluating your successes is an important exercise. What can you do more of and what do you need to adjust to change course next year?
If you do not have this data handy or cannot generate your 2017 numbers to review, it is time to put a system into place so you can track your activities in the coming year. Part of the challenge with analysis is that it requires you have something to review. Create a spreadsheet, make a checklist, or do whatever is necessary to collect and store this information so you can review it on a regular and annual basis.
Now that you know what to track, I expect a much more thorough review next December.