Written By: Diane Petras, CTIE, President – The Travel Institute
Do you want to sell more, make more, and receive more referrals? I believe the obvious answer is yes. If you agree, the next step is to commit to learning more about your own behavior and work toward self-awareness and skills that will bring you success.
There are two types of skills that affect career success. First, job-specific skills, such as learning about a supplier’s product and online booking tools, are “hard” skills. The other type of skill, “soft” skills, are less tangible and involve things like listening, empathy, and communication. Soft skills represent the foundation for success in any profession, and they are critical to your success as an agent representing travel options to clients.
Improving soft skills helps break through to a new level of success, building loyalty for your brand AND winning more customers. How do you rate on the following soft skills?
- Great Communicator: The importance of communicating well can’t be emphasized enough. But good communication doesn’t always come naturally. We develop this skill throughout our lives by observing, studying and practicing. When you use clear and concise language, remain attentive and ask clarifying questions, you put your customer at ease and create an environment for open dialogue and trust. Conversely, if you use jargon or industry acronyms to impress, you are likely to confuse. Take time with your customers to describe and explain what you mean in common terms. Your clients will appreciate this, just as you appreciate the same from your doctor, lawyer, accountant, and other professionals. How do you rate as a communicator?
- Active Listener: Listening is often cited as a critical skill in the workplace. Communication breakdowns caused by poor listening are blamed for misunderstandings with clients and suppliers, reservation errors, delays in closing sales, and so forth. The best way to improve listening is through training, the same way we learn and develop other skills. Without significant instruction, most of us will not develop good listening skills. Unless you stop and listen, take notes and repeat back what you heard, you can’t truly understand your customer’s needs. And, if you are face-to-face, active listening also involves eye contact. You will be judged on this skill by your customers whether you realize it or not. If they don’t feel heard, they won’t say, and they also won’t stay with you as their travel professional. How do you rate as a listener?
- Empathic Style: The more you listen, the more you can empathize, or relate with and understand, the likes, dislikes, concerns, and needs of your customers. Many psychologists have strived to understand why people act in certain ways, choose certain products over others and, ultimately, make buying decisions. The underlying premise is that satisfying certain needs is what motivates a purchasing decision, whether the product is travel or an automobile. Knowing your customer’s needs is critical to selecting the appropriate destination, mode of travel, and supplier product. Do you find it easy or difficult to understand customer behavior and buying decisions? How do you rate for ability to empathize?
- Organized Approach: We all share at least one thing in common: 168 hours in a week! And, if you are selling travel, you know first-hand all you need to accomplish in that period of time. Making decisions based on your ROT, Return on Time, is a necessary skill. Being organized, you maximize your ROT. Some people have a variety of “if only” statements to explain why they don’t have enough time to do the things they want or need to do. If only I could say no! If only I weren’t so busy! If only I were younger! If only I were older! Do any of these sound familiar? No matter how valid these “if only” statements may be, you will control your time only when you accept responsibility for doing so. Find AND use an organizational tool that works for you. Or, try a simple checklist—our brains love checklists! And who doesn’t love crossing things off their list? Regardless of your intentions, the biggest barrier to achieving success might actually be you! How do you rate in organizational and time management skills?
- Positive Thinker: Oh, the power! Positive thinkers are high achievers. Positive thinking is essential personally and professionally because it helps overcome adversity, angry customers, and everyday stress. And when your customers are stressed, they may need to understand the benefits of a well-organized vacation for their overall health and morale. Remember this whenever you are talking to your customers, no matter what kind of day either of you has had. How do you rate as a positive thinker?
If you feel you could improve on one or more of these soft skills, I have great news! Building soft skills is at the very core of our certification programs, designed to address the unique needs of the frontline sales agent (CTA®), the agency owner or manager (CTC®), and the business leader (CTIE®) and available on-demand for you to start at any time! The Travel Institute certified graduates hone these soft skills, and independent research proves they earn more.
Do you want to sell more, make more, and receive more referrals? Invest in yourself during our Promote Your Professionalism event this July with 50% scholarships on certification and break through to your next level of success.