Written By: Jason Coleman, Business Development Manager and MentorU Coach – Uniglobe Travel Center
Consider the following excerpt:
“Today, more clients than ever are questioning the value of [travel agent] services and asking agents to reduce their commissions.
“Unfortunately, it is expected that there will continue to be downward pressure on commissions because technology has made it possible for clients to conduct many [travel booking] activities for themselves online. For example, [travelers] can look for the [vacation] of their dreams over the Internet right from their own home, surfing the Web while still in their pajamas… What everyone seems to forget is that technology is only a tool; [retail travel] is still a people business. In the end, successful transactions are still built on trust and the ability of the [travel agent] to solve the clients’ problems and help meet their needs.
“Compared to selling a service, selling a product like a house is relatively easy because you can simply show it to the customer. He can then see it, touch it, feel it, and make sure it works as promised. Selling service is much more difficult since you don’t have the opportunity to offer a test-drive or to show people a physical object they can pick up. To sell a service you must sell value. You are essentially saying, ‘Pay for my time, my experience, and my knowledge and I will give you a greater return than what you will pay.’ To customers everywhere, value is linked to one thing: their needs. What they value the most is getting their needs met.”
Sounds like a typical rah-rah speech from a keynote speaker at any travel industry conference, right? You may have wondered why I kept putting certain words in [brackets]. It is because this excerpt comes from the book 111 Ways to Justify Your Commission: Value-Adding Strategies for Real Estate Agents and Brokers by Michael Lee. WHAT?! You’re wondering why I am reviewing a book for real estate agents and brokers and recommending it for you in Travel Professional News? Here is how I discovered the book and why I think it applies to what we do every single day.
As you know, I am an avid business book lover. So, one day when I was at my public library, I started searching for my next read. I do not remember the keywords I used, but I discovered this book called 111 Ways to Justify Your Commission. It was not until I found the book on the shelf did I notice its target market was the real estate industry. I am so glad I spent a couple minutes flipping through before tossing it aside. As I read the introduction that included the excerpt above, I found myself replacing the words real estate agent/realtor with travel agent. I was shocked how accurately it applied.
The book has six parts:
- Establish Value
- Client Selection and Relations
- Business Practices
- Increase Your Value with Education and Professional Development
- Give Them More Than They Expect
To be fair, not 100% of everything directly applies to the travel industry. But I discovered a wealth of great information and new ideas in the book I could translate to our industry.
Idea #1: Establish Your Value from the Very First Contact
For years, I had been going through my daily routine, talking to new clients, making bookings, and servicing repeats and referrals. Not once could I recall ever asking my clients about what they valued. It’s like my frustration when I see a customer service survey with the question “Did we meet or exceed your expectations?” You know the type of question I’m referring to. My problem is they have no frame of reference; they don’t know what my expectations were from the start.
Your travel business is no different. You may come up with a standard definition and explanation of your value, but if that’s not what the client needs or wants, there’s a disconnect. It could very well be that you two are not a good match. But I always like to probe a bit with new clients, discover what they value and expect, and tailor my response to that.
Idea #49: Gather Video Testimonials from Satisfied Clients
We all know how important reviews and testimonials are, but are you proactively asking every client for one? As Lee writes, “while written testimonial letters are very effective in selling your value, video testimonials are even better because potential clients can actually see and hear past clients saying how great you are” (p. 87). It’s so easy these days, everyone has a video camera in their pocket, and most people aren’t at all shy about taking that selfie video on vacation to make everyone at home jealous.
Find a way to ask, encourage, or even incentivize clients for sending you a video testimonial while they’re on the vacation you planned. If you got them an upgraded room or suite, ask for a testimonial video to show off their accommodations. Beachside videos, sun deck testimonials, and short clips from exclusive events or actives you arranged are the most ideal. But you won’t get these tools if you don’t ask!
Idea #87: Let Them Know You’re a Serious Professional
I am never more embarrassed to be a travel agent than when I go to an industry conference and see people going to workshops and walking the trade show floor in shorts, sandals, or t-shirts. Presentation is everything. We can’t expect to be treated like professionals if we look like we’re on vacation ourselves! You must always think of your visual presentation as marketing. How are you marketing yourself in the way you dress and present yourself to clients and prospects?
I can’t imagine trying to meet with a client considering a $10,000 Crystal cruise without dress slacks and a sport coat – tie not essential in 2018, thankfully! No seriously, do you think it is effective marketing to try to promote high dollar packages and products and not look the part? Consider any other professional specializing in luxury goods – jewelry, cars, designer clothing – the sales professional looks exactly how we expect; they’re dressed to impress and understand the role appearance plays in marketing.
“The right clothes can make you appear trimmer, healthier, and more confident” (p. 152). It’s not just about how you present, but the right look can also help you feel better too. And that’s important in communicating your value!
These are just three of the 111 ideas Lee includes in his book written for real estate agents and brokers. They are directly applicable to us as travel agents as well. Despite the title and focus of the book, the content can be easily adapted to our industry; it contains many very useful ideas and topics you can apply to your business.
Don’t be surprised if I review and recommend another book for real estate agents in the future. Copying ideas from other industries is a fantastic way to stay fresh and relevant. It’s another way to justify your value!
111 Ways to Justify Your Commission: Value-Adding Strategies for Real Estate Agents and Brokers
By Michael Lee
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Kaplan Publishing (August 7, 2007)