By Craig Satterfield, CLIA Elite Cruise Counselor Scholar
Those of you that have read this column over the years know that I think that education is the key to success in this business. You have gone to Cruise3Sixty, ASTA Conventions, Luxury Travel Expos and have spent countless hours on webinars. You have taken the time to visit resorts and hotels in your personal travels. You are basically ready and willing to attack any and all requests for travel in your niche. So now what? How do you harness all this information to the benefit of making meaningful and profitable sales?
Share the wealth of knowledge you have and crown yourself the expert in your chosen destination or type of travel. It just isn’t good enough to advertise yourself as a travel consultant….. after all it’s a big World out there and the likelihood of you knowing everything about the whole World is pretty unlikely. It would be like a doctor that knows everything about the human body. If I came across that doctor I would run the other way!
Unfortunately the sponsors of all of the travel related programs you are familiar with don’t spend any time at all after their excellent product and sales programs to help you market yourself as an expert. You have invested many hours of your time and quite a few dollars for training and famsvisiting special destinations and cruises but now you are on your own.
It pays to advertise. Yes, you may have learned how to market your travel business but you also must never forget that YOU are the most important element in your business. Advertising yourself is even more important than that escorted tour to Rangoon you are trying to sell. Let your entire database know about your expertise in a new destination you may have discovered and did some training about. Share your expertise in even local drive to destinations too.
Explain to your clientele what the initials mean at the end of your name. If it isn’t something people really know, like M.D. or PhD. they will not have any idea that you have been trained with CLIA or Travel Institute. Once they know this you can expect them to brag about you to their friends. Everybody wants to know and use the best people in any industry and you are no exception.
Plan a destination or cruise seminar at a local library or club house. Emphasize your expertise and who you are and not just some product you are trying to sell. Your overall experience is what you have to sell first, then the tour or cruise. A good way to practice this is to get involved in business mixers. You meet other business owners that are trying to improve their businesses as well. You have the chance to get up in front of the group and sell you……remember you are the most important thing you are selling!
Use this information everywhere including your newsletters, emails to your clients, and of course, your business cards. Maybe even have several different cards printed with your various accreditations or destination specialties listed on it and give them out depending upon who you are talking to and what their potential interests are. Brag about yourself in social media and take the time to explain what your training is all about and what benefits there are for those that work with you. Give your followers a reason to share these posts with their friends and in this way build your business.
Make yourself invaluable to your clients. Everybody loves insider information about a cruise or destination they are visiting. You can write an insider’s guide on your specialty destinations or favorite cruise ships and email this “private” information to clients booked to these destinations. These tips are much more valuable in your client’s eyes when they come from you and are not just the run of the mill info off the internet. You could write tips on the best ways to board a cruise ship on sailing day or some tips on specific airports that might be gigantic or confusing, especially if these places are new to your clients. This will make you so much more valuable to them. They will respect the time and energy you have made to become their personal expert in travel.Don’t forget to add “what-ifs” if there are issues during their trip like lost baggage, flight schedule changes or cancellations and required visas. This could avoid those 4AM phone calls from your clients at the airport wondering what to do. If your clients are traveling with their families, you could also email a parent’s guide to traveling with kids. Sometimes the most obvious suggestions are the most valuable. Cruise lines now have such extensive kids programs you would be appreciated so much more by sharing some specifics about those programs based upon the cruise line and ages of the children.
Very important: Don’t be afraid to blow your own horn, be a self- promoter and share freely your expertise. Use the shameless Kardashians on TV as a perfect example of self-promotion. Also realize you actually have something much more valuable to share then they do. It is human nature to want to work with the best people you can find regardless if it is a doctor, contractor, computer geek or travel professional.
It is time to put you on the pedestal.