Written By: Beth Kitzman, BDM – VAX VacationAccess
You’re a travel advisor and you want to be considered a success. What does success mean to you? You may be thinking success means the dollar amount that you earn selling travel to your clients. Being a leader for your business of perhaps you or you and a few IC’s may not cross your mind as significant. If you are a part of a host, consortia or franchise, you may think you have leaders to take care of your business. Let’s look at 3 areas that help define you as the leader of your business, develop key relationships and take your level of success to new pinnacles.
Be Your Brand
Every successful business, no matter the size, considers the following to attain their goals.
- Your Purpose. What do you do and how will you get there? Without this definition do you run the risk of having no direction? I often think of the hamster on a wheel and think that is no way to run a business let alone your life. Determine what you want your business to be, to do, how you want to work it, for whom and what your unique gift is in the industry.
- Your Dream. Visualize where you want to go with your business. How do you want those you work with to perceive you? What makes you special and valuable in this industry? This can and ought to speak through your branding, your interactions every day. Think of the image that your clients will remember. Keep this vision in mind at industry events, when you’re out in public and working with your clients. Dress for success. If you don’t feel successful yet, I always say ‘fake it til you make it’! The old adage ‘ you’re never fully dressed without a smile’ is not out of date! Everyone is attracted to a smile, and it can and should be heard over the phone.
- Your Values. Determine what your core values are. Will your clients believe in your ethics, your integrity or your business practices? Mutual respect, I have learned, helps you travel far in life and deepen the relationships you build through it. Live out your values with all of your dealings with your clients and potential clients. In fact, live out those values with your current and potential suppliers within the industry as well. These values speak volumes about the types of connections you’ll build with everyone in the industry.
Educate to Influence aka Negotiate
Negotiation may be a word that may make you uneasy. You hear the phrase ‘the art of negotiation’ which if you don’t feel you have that ‘art’ you may shy away from it thinking it’s all about conflict. Really negotiation is a skill that anyone can learn. If you are in the business of sales, it’s time to get a positive attitude towards negotiation.
I prefer to think of negotiation in terms of educating to influence. If you are in the travel industry, you have the knowledge and expertise to educate your clients on what their best vacation experience can be based on you qualifying what they are looking for. You may need to utilize some resources to polish or catch up on some destinations, styles or niches that your clients are requesting, but you have that at your fingertips if you are willing to work for them with an open mind. Sure your clients are also negotiating with you to get the best price, but with some education on your part they may realize and reevaluate what that best price is. At the same time, this is a skill you need with your suppliers as well. You need to be able to communicate (educate) what your needs are to be successful, and understand your suppliers needs and capabilities as well.
A good negotiator makes sure that both sides are happy with the end result. It doesn’t always end up that way, but learn not to take it personally if it doesn’t. Don’t jump to being offended if it doesn’t work every time. Both sides are working toward the same goal, of getting the best deal. Develop the right mindset and get yourself in a good place mentally and you are well on your way to becoming a great negotiator.
Build Your Family
Honestly, I truly think of so many people in this industry as my family and I love growing that family with each positive interaction I encounter. You may in business for yourself independently or as part of a host, consortia or franchise, but you still need to have the feeling of being a part of a family or team. This may not be the typical definition of what a team is traditionally but in effect you are a part of a team within this industry. You are not selling your own product. I truly believe that your team consists of you and the suppliers of the products you are selling your clients. What qualities establish a good relationship in this team from both sides?
- Mutual Respect – We will not always love everyone we work with, but to be able to consistently work together with mutual respect, courtesy and consideration is crucial. This certainly isn’t always easy. It often takes a good deal of emotional intelligence and control to step back and trust that each side is doing the best they can with what they have. That may mean staying away from social media until resolutions are found, or if social media has been used to be sure to call out the resolution in the same place. This speaks volumes for building respect and trust.
- Collaboration – Be willing and able to share ideas based on your experience and unique knowledge and situations. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance to seek understanding and hope to have your business needs be met. Remain willing to provide feedback in a positive, constructive way, as this is a tremendous quality. We all grow from collaboration, new ideas, processes, technology and even product can emerge when we work together optimistically.
- Change Readiness – The travel industry is nothing if it isn’t ever changing. In fact, if you don’t handle change well, this may not be the best fit for you. Honestly though maybe none of us really handle it well, however we must learn to expect it and do the best we can to have a positive attitude around it. Learn to roll with it. Natural disasters, airlines schedule changes, media influences, just to name a few, are most likely not going to stop. Let’s do our best to adapt and initiate a ‘what can I do to help’ mentality to find alternatives and solutions.
Honestly none of these concepts are earth shattering, but if anything helps us get out of ourselves and look at how others are engaging with us, it can be quite impactful. I’ve been brought up with the concept of The Golden Rule – treat others as you wish to be treated, which has served me pretty well in life. I’m not here to argue or debunk this theory, but what if we shifted our thoughts slightly to – treat others as they wish to be treated? Putting others first, considering their needs or how they prefer to be treated is a skill, dare I say gift, that would serve the world well and perhaps catapult us all to new pinnacles.