Having Fun with Group Travel

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

I personally love group travel, especially when I organize the group and am part of it. If that is something that you would like to do, we can call it: HOW TO MAKE CLIENTS YOUR FRIENDS!

Or, we could rephrase it to say, how to have a great time with your clients. 

I consider myself to be very lucky! I have traveled with many travel agents who became my dear friends, and I hope to continue to do so. These are some of the great gifts of life: travel and friends. What a joy to meet new people with one big common denominator – travel.

I would never have met these wonderful people if I hadn’t organized those tours. In these cases, they were FAM Trips and Tours for Women. The travelers were travel agents and their companions from all over the USA and Canada, from different backgrounds, ages, views of the world, but all sharing a love of travel and traveling together. I have to confess that this is the cherry on top for me, the part of my work that I look forward to the most!

To ensure the success of a wonderful and smooth group tour, you need to make sure that you will be the Travel Leader. (Yes, if you organize a group, you become the Travel Leader.)

Let’s go over some basics:

  • Decide who will pair the roommates: you, or will you let the travelers interview each other? If you decide that you will be doing it, ask questions, such as, do you snore? What do you expect from your roommate? Also, ask other questions pertinent to your specific trip.
  • Decide if you will all travel together from one gateway or meet at the destination.
  • Decide how much “free” time and/or optional tours you will offer to your group.
  • Decide on the number of people you are willing to include on your trip. In my opinion, keep it small for your first few groups to make them more manageable.
  • Decide if tips for drivers and tour guides and are included or not. And if not, whether you will collect from the group and present the tips to each professional, or let each traveler give individually. (Please advise your travelers ahead of time to avoid surprises!)
  • Set some ground rules before the trip, or as soon as you arrive to avoid future problems. (Trust me, problems happen, and I could write a book about them!). For example: ask travelers to let you know that if they have a problem “today” to tell you “today,” and not “tomorrow.” It is hard to solve problems from “yesterday.”
  • Medication – People seem to believe that once they are on vacation, it means “I will not take my medication.”  This is a big mistake and can jeopardize a great trip.
  • Respect: Personal views on politics, race and religion are very sensitive.  Decide how you want to handle them if they come up! 
  • Make sure that you will be the only one communicating to the tour guide and tour organizer. That way, you avoid “too many tour leaders” and everyone knows who is who.
  • HAVE FUN, MAKE FRIENDS, AND PLAN ANOTHER TRIP!

Always cheering for you!

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Travel Advisor/Agent or Sales Person

Dear Travel Advisors/Agents,

As the owner of two tour operator businesses in the past, one of my duties was to hire TAs to sell our tour packages. We hired many travel agents and I had to train them all to sell our specific packages to Latin America. I taught them our market, geography, and product.

At that time, most of the sales requests came by phone from all over the US and Canada. We tried finding good TAs through newspapers ads, going to local travel agent schools, and offering good commission to experienced TAs from other tour operators (spreading the word through our own TAs.)

Let me remind you that this was during a time at the very beginning of the internet’s popularity in business. Big companies had very expensive websites, but there wasn’t much more – like Google, Social Media and all these tools that make life a bit easier.

It came to a point that in desperation I started to try to hire salespeople from other industries and tried to teach them travel, thinking that if they could sell one thing, they just need to learn a new product.

Well, that experience totally backfired! I realized through this experience that if an experienced salesperson can’t really relate to a product, it made it much harder for them to sell. I realized that if they couldn’t or wouldn’t buy the product that they were selling and really relate to it, it was harder for them to sell. I also noticed that novice travel agents were so in love with travel that they did much better learning new sales techniques than the other way around.

I don’t regret taking this time and learning from this experience. The company was short on staff to answer phone calls at that time, and we couldn’t afford to lose calls. I learned a lot and never made the same mistake again. I actually improved and focused on teaching experienced travel agents and lovers of travel how to be more comfortable in dealing with prospective clients.

If you are a new travel agent/ advisor and want to improve your sales skills, feel free to pick my brain! After all, I improved my skills in teaching in the best way. 😉

Cheers!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

 

The American Dream

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

I have been posting blogs about how to succeed as a travel agent since 2017. Once in a while, I post other types of blogs that are not specific to travel agents, but more about kindness, empathy and caring for others. For those who know me, I really believe in being kind, and that if you don’t have anything nice to say, avoid making a fool of yourself and don’t say anything at all.

I’m not sure how long you have been reading my posts and blogs, but in case you don’t know much about me or my reasons for writing and wanting to help travel agents/advisors, here is a very short version of the story of my life. I call it The American Dream.

I was born in Brazil, and in January of 1988, my husband, my 1-year-old son and I came to Los Angeles. All we had with us was $2,000 and 3 suitcases. We lived in a 1 bedroom, where we slept on the floor. It was a very hard beginning.

All of the ups and downs of almost 35 years belong in a good book with lots of laughter and tears. The point I want to get to here is that I started to work as a travel agent, and soon after that I decided to start a tour company that specialized in Latin America. The company became very successful. When Travelzoo started, we had a weekly Top20.

Eventually, I sold that company, and years later I started another one with a partner.

It came to a point in 2016 that I felt that I had worked enough, I had conquered enough. My husband and I live in a beautiful home, we travel extensively throughout the world, and we have more than enough material things. We are also blessed with successful and happy kids.

These are my beliefs:

– If I do something I love, I don’t ever need to work a day in my life.

– I can’t take material things with me when I die – only my good deeds and my legacy.

– I truly enjoy seeing people succeed, life is not a competition.

– I have so many blessings to count, and am especially grateful to this country. I love to pay it forward.

So, if you are reading this blog for the first time, or have read my other blogs, please know my true intentions. I am truly cheering for you!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

 

Knowledge, Expertise and Empathy

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

We are all hoping that the number of bookings will increase because of the new rules about mask requirements on airports, airplanes and cruises. With the changes, travel agents/advisors must feel a lot of empathy for clients’ needs and fears, anxieties and expectations. Many times, we expect that ALL clients will respond the same way to news about the masks. This can create a false sense of reality. Being ready to explain to some clients how they can feel “protected against Covid” in this new environment demonstrates the real knowledge and expertise of the TA.

Knowledge comes from dedication in learning about a location(s) but the nuances and details come from personal experience. Offering empathy is a skill that is not teachable, but inheritable. It doesn’t matter your sex, political or religion affiliations, it probably comes from your DNA. This whole combo of knowledge and empathy translates into a powerful tool that makes you an awesome Travel Advisor, ready to go the extra mile for each and every client. Clients will be sure to tell family and friends about you, and in a couple of years your business becomes a great success.

I highly recommend that you eventually become a mentor to new agents and/or to others who struggle with any issue in the business. Use your empathy to understand where others are lacking. With your knowledge, you can guide the other person how to succeed. If all of us can focus on growing and helping others to do the same, we can build a better tomorrow for us all.

As my mom used to say, when you just give a fish it will help with only one meal. Teaching someone how to fish helps them forever.

For all the great minds out there, pay it forward!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

 

Can People Learn How to Sell?

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

There are many attributes that make a good Travel Agent/Advisor, and knowledge is a very important one. Caring is another. But your expertise in sales will seal the deal. How you go about it and your timing can make or break the sale.

If your client/prospective client feels pushed or rushed, it can backfire. When your response takes too long, the client could feel neglected and move on to another agent. Despite all your knowledge, if the client doesn’t feel convinced or enthusiastic, things can also backfire.

Some people are naturals at sales. It feels like they would sell their family members if they could, just for fun. Others, however, feel like they “unsell.”  For example, if you go to a specific store ready to buy a product and the salesperson “sells” you a reason not to buy it. You leave the store without the product asking yourself why you changed your mind when you were so ready to buy it?

Confidence shows in the voice and also on the skin. It is the same as for insecurity and fear – what people project can be felt and even “sensed” by the person on the receiving end.  The good news is that people can learn, and with practice and dedication can become as good (many times even better) than the natural salespeople. That is because they learn new techniques yet have also experienced rejection.

When I had my tour operator business for many years one of my areas of expertise was to teach my agents. I loved walking around the office listening to how they interacted on the phone.

Feel free to pick my brain. For me, sales is like playing my favorite sport, tennis. You need to stay on your toes for flexibility and pay attention so the ball does not hit you in the face!

Cheering for you!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

 

 

Closing Sales and Keeping Clients Happy (Part 2)

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

I hope you were able to take advantage of the tools I provided last week, or at least they made sense and you can soon start using them.

Another important piece of advice is to always be yourself, and to continually try to improve to be the best self you possibly can be. It’s like playing a game or a sport, some people are just naturals, and some need a little more coaching. Eventually, when we put in the amount of dedication required, we all come out on top – it is just a matter of time. Clients appreciate this and can see who we are, and how much we care. That comes through right from the beginning, and even later in the “game.”

“Eat, live, love travel!”  Make travel a conversation piece wherever you go. For example, have a T-shirt with a picture of a beach with a saying, “Life is better on the beach.” Do the same for a purse or backpack, hat, or anything you wear that others can see. My suggestion is to introduce yourself slowly, like the new kid in town – so, I wouldn’t use the name of my company or my phone number. I would let people recognize me and approach me to talk about what they see. Just to have a chat, and when they ask what I do or if I sell travel, then I smile and say yes.

A travel seller can become like the popular kid in school that all the other kids want to hang out with and exchange phone numbers with. It’s different than with the pushy kid that tries to give everyone their phone number, LOL!

This plan is great for seeing people at church, grocery shopping, association clubs, at the pharmacy, in the neighborhood, especially when you have just started out, or decided to focus more on selling travel. It is also great for those who are selling travel on the side while having a full-time job.

Having a Specialty:  I usually recommend that a TA eventually find an area that he/she likes and feels most comfortable selling. Some people love to sell the Caribbean and cruises, others like to specialize in adventures, some like Asia, and others do river cruises and Europe. If you decide to sell the Caribbean and cruises as your specialty and someone approaches you and wants to visit the UAE, you can easily use your specialization and sell a cruise to that client, starting or ending in Dubai.

It is important to remember that by being a Travel Agent/Advisor you have the experience and expertise and you are sitting in the driver’s seat. Show your client a great vacation and you will have them for life!

Cheers to you!

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Closing sales and keeping clients happy PART 1

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

How many requests from clients/prospective ones do you receive a week? How many proposals do you send? And how many of them turn out to become a sale?

What if I can give you some tools that can help you turn most of these into a sale?

Ready?

TAs, I understand that the most common practice is to use the basic questions: when, where, how many people, and budget. Most of the communication is done by email with itineraries back and forth, follow up, and sometimes they end up becoming a sale. Others don’t.

Before I start giving you some of the tools, let’s think about a woman going to buy a dress for a very special occasion. She has a light blue dress in mind, and her budget is $300. She gets a salesperson who talks to her and understands how important this event is to her. Even though the salesperson understands the budget and color, based on her experience and expertise, she recommends a lavender colored dress, for which the price is $100 more. After the woman tries it on (a bit reluctantly) she feels like a princess and falls in love with the dress.

Even though your client/prospective one comes with a budget for a vacation and some other ideas in mind, they need the guidance, experience and expertise of a TA to have the PERFECT vacation. One that can make them feel special in the same way the lavender dress did in the example above.

One common “mistake” is using only emails to communicate with the client/prospective one to send proposals. It is sterile and lacks a personal touch, and the TA loses an opportunity to show their experience and expertise.

Another common “mistake” is to think that if the client/prospective outlines their preferences and/or budget they are not open to other ideas. Don’t be afraid to offer your expert opinion on what might suit them better. If they haven’t been to their preferred destination before, or if they are not familiar with the destination, the TA can and should guide them to something more appropriate by learning a bit more about the clients.

For example, a family of 5 (2 adults and 3 young kids) want to do a cruise on Azamara. Well, they may not know that Azamara doesn’t have ANY kid’s programs, so they will be miserable. Offer a cruise that is more kid friendly! It is definitely easier to explain this by phone than through proposals by email.

Next week I will bring you more tools. Don’t miss it! Meanwhile, feel free to reach out with any questions.

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What is your best profile?

Dear TA’s,

I have posted before that travelers use agents/advisors for the same reason patients use doctors. I think that this is kind of common sense.

But there is an important point that I want to make: there are good doctors, and not so good doctors. For example, a patient goes to a doctor with horrible headaches. Once the professional learns about the symptoms, he/she prescribes strong pain killers (side effects included) and hopefully the pain will be cured.

Another patient goes to different doctor with the same symptoms. After the professional spends some time asking questions about the patient’s daily routine, workout habits, etc., it becomes clear that the pain is coming from sitting on a bad chair every day for 10 hours of work. After recommending changing the chair and standing up every 30 minutes, with no meds (and no side effects) the symptoms were addressed, and the cure will be permanent.

Why am I telling you this?

A TA should deal with a client or prospective one using the same methods as the second doctor. Don’t just “fill out the form.” Engage with your client. Learn more about their lifestyle by asking about hobbies, entertainment, food, and work. Don’t interview – just tell them that in order to make their vacation perfect you would like to know them a bit better. If you need to, tell them about the “good doctor” like I explained above.

While you are talking to them, be 100% present. DO NOT MULTITASK (you wouldn’t like your doctor to do that, right?) That way, even if they give you a small budget to work with, the fact that you now know more about them, such as restaurant preferences, entertainment, etc. you can tell them that in your expert opinion, they might be better off on a more expensive cruise, for example. You would rather know that they have a vacation that suits their expectations, rather than being miserable and calling you every day to complain.

That is not only being a “good doctor” but knowing that you will close every sale and earn respect from every client – kind of like going to the casino and knowing you will hit every jackpot!

Cheers to you!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

 

Clients vs Friends

Dear TA’s,

I have read over and over again that many Travel Agents/Advisors are disappointed that their friends and family don’t support their businesses. I have had two very successful Tour Operator businesses before, and I always believed that mixing business with family and friends could lead to many misunderstandings.

Both sides try their best to help each other. The TA feels that he/she is working harder to please the friend/family member. By the same token, they perceive that they are being taken advantage of since they can be reached at any time during the week or weekend.

The same happens to the friend/family member who feels that they are not asking for as much as they could be asking a stranger to avoid putting extra pressure on their personal relationship  – but at the same time believe that they might have gotten a better deal someplace else.

And that is how many misunderstandings happen. Friendships can be broken, and Thanksgiving and Christmas can take on a very different tone. We might even find those friends and family suing each other on Judge Judy!

I remember that as a favor many years ago, I sold an airline ticket to my manicurist with no profit since she needed to go visit her mom in El Salvador for an emergency. I would have felt horrible by profiting with any money in this case. The departure time on the ticket was 11:59pm, one minute before the next day. She arrived at the airport on the wrong day (the day after) and at 11:00pm she called my cell and wanted me to fix the mistake. She blamed me for the mistake, and I lost my favorite manicurist.

I always recommend that people in business count on strangers to become clients, and eventually their favorite clients will become friends.

How about you?

Cheers to new friends!

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Do you Listen?

Dear TA’s,

When a prospective client calls and tells you that they want to go on a cruise for the first time, and you learn that they are a couple, early 40s, looking for a 5-day cruise, and want your recommendation since they know you are an expert – what is your response?

I can tell you that this advice can be the most crucial part of the equation and will reveal whether you are a successful travel advisor/agent, or just trying to survive in this business.

Many TA’s feel the urge to start talking about their knowledge of cruises to eventually book the cruise. But, as much as they know about cruises, they lack knowledge about the prospective clients. This will not only delay the sale, but most often, waste everybody’s time, making the experience frustrating for both sides.

The best approach is to try to learn more about the prospective clients (even if they seem in a hurry or distracted).  Learn as much as you can about them, so when you offer your recommendations they will be happier, not only appreciating your knowledge, but how you can make all their dreams come true.

Listening is an important skill that not everyone knows how to practice. Don’t expect to remember all the details, write them down. Follow a guideline of questions, you learn a lot by letting your clients talk. Make them feel relaxed and not judged. Find something they enjoy talking about it.

People usually like to talk about food, cars, clothes and hobbies. These types of subjects usually don’t cause any reason for disagreement. Try one of these, see what your prospective client reveals about themselves with that. So, for example if you talk about food you can mention that your favorite food is Italian, and your client says he/she likes Thai. Then you ask for names of good Thai restaurants she/he recommends.  You can then Google how expensive the restaurants are. Slowly, you’ll build a profile of your prospective client to see what kind of ship and room will suit them best.

Clients and prospective ones (and people in general) like to know that their needs are being understood without having to repeat themselves over and over, and that they are not being judged or misled. Budget is a concept that needs to be considered very carefully; what is expensive in my eyes, could be pocket change for someone else, or vice versa.

The biggest mistake a TA can make is to assume what the budget of another person is based on their appearance, or on their own reality.

Listening with all senses is the secret!

Cheers!

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