How To Be A Good Travel Agent And Increase Sales
Well, I used to be a travel agent ("travel consultant" was my official title) and must have done something right as I consistently got highest sales for my area. I have since moved on to another job and don't mind telling you now some of my tips and ways I discovered on how to be a good travel agent. I've also since booked many travel products with agents and can understand too from a consumer point of view what works and what doesn't.
A lot of this may seem like common sense to some of you but many people don't have common sense so it is worth writing out. You might find that you are doing some of these things but not all. Try to do as many as you can and see if your travel agent sales improve.
While every travel agent has a unique personality and will need to find her own "groove", try to incorporate the following:
Be friendly but not fake
If you don't exude a certain amount of friendliness and warmth, people are just simply not going to be drawn to you enough for you to convince them to book that product that they're on the fence about. Hey, if there's a more smiley travel agent sitting beside you who welcomes them into your shop, I'm sorry to say, but you missed out on that one.
So here's what you should do when a potential client walks in the door: acknowledge them with a smile and hello if you can (if you're on the phone, still acknowledge with a smile!). Ask them how they're doing, if you can help them out, if they have any questions. Common sense but you'd be surprised how many agents fail to do this!
Try to be sincere here and not too friendly to the point where you come across as overbearing and fake. For many people, that is a turn off.
Of course, if you work as an online travel agent, you don't need to worry about the "smile" part but certainly be friendly and polite in your e-mails and phone calls.
But know who is worth your time
I just said not to brush anyone off but any travel agent with a reasonable amount of business is going to have to pick and choose the inquiries she feels are more worthwhile to spend her time researching. How many times have you as a travel agent put hours into developing a price quote and package for an inquiry only to have that person not book?
While there's a certain amount of luck involved, learn to read people as much as you can for signs of seriousness. People who are actually serious and not just curious are a better use of your time and more likely to book with you.
Don't brush anyone off
I used to find that a few of my co-workers would not give many people the time of day who would come in asking annoying questions like "how much does it cost to fly to Toronto?". It was an annoying question because people would ask this ALL the time and to us, although Toronto was a popular flight destination, it was also a very boring one and it would get tiring answering the same question over and over again with some enthusiasm.
For some reason, probably because I was very young, I had the energy to always answer this question politely and with respect. I would almost always print off a price quote too for these people.
Much to my co-workers' surprise, many of these people ended up coming back to book with me. It is clearly because I didn't brush them off the way my coworkers did.
You are not going to be successful selling travel if you don't know anything. Indeed, it takes quite a bit of knowledge in order to find the cheapest flights, the best vacation packages to suit your clients' needs, to be able to answer questions, to sell your product to clients who are sitting on the fence.
There are new resorts opening all the time, airlines are constantly changing, etc. Keep yourself on the up and up of what's going on in the travel world. How can you do this? Make a point of talking to clients who have returned from trips you sent them on. Where I worked, we used to have to keep a journal of return dates for our clients and call them to ask how their trip went. While this is a nice touch in a way, some people might actually find it annoying. However, the point is to talk to as many people as you can about what their experiences have been.
There's a ton of information you can read online these days and there are more travel websites for people to leave reviews on than I can count. Watch the travel channel on TV, buy and read books that were written for travel agents. Just immerse yourself in travel!
Of course, one of the best ways to do this is to travel as much as you can yourself! One of the myths about being a travel agent is that you get to travel all over the place all of the time for free. While there may be a few travel agents out there who are lucky enough to have this kind of setup for themselves, the majority do not live this lifestyle. But more than likely you will have access to some good discounts so take advantage of them and get traveling! If you've been there yourself, it will be much easier to sell it.
Sure, lying might get you a few sales but it will also eventually give you a bad reputation too and a bad reputation can be very hard to recover from.
If your clients ask if you make commission, be honest. If you made a mistake and accidentally booked something incorrectly, don't make up some wild excuse that it was the airline's fault. Tell the truth and let your client know that you're doing everything possible to fix it.
I found myself caught in a lie before and it was NOT pretty. Save yourself from this.
What is most important to your client? Find out and focus on that
Is it price? For many people it is. For these people, you will absolutely need to find the best deal possible because money is important to them.
For some people, dates are most important, for others it's location. Some people are really concerned with flight times, other people don't care so much. Some people want direct flights, some don't mind a few stop overs if it will save them money.
Obviously, most people will have many things that are important to them. Try to find out what they are and to what degree these things matter to them.
Know your competition
These days, your biggest competition is the internet. Many people think that they can find cheaper deals online than going to a travel agent. While in some cases, maybe it's true, lots of times, travel agents have better access to deals that may be hard or impossible to find online! Tell your clients this.
If you do everything I told you to do, your clients will see the value in you and won't feel the need to go to the internet. Well, some still will and there's nothing you can do about that. Work with the ones that you can and keep them coming back to you!