Selling Travel – The Time Factor

Selling Travel Can Be Fun, But There’s Something You Should Know

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If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you have been surfing the ‘Net looking at those super attractive websites put up by host agencies. Nice looking, aren’t they?

Now I have nothing against host agencies. They fill a valuable niche in the distribution of travel products and most of them are reputable and do a good job.

But I think there’s something you should know.

Host agencies are, by definition, for-profit enterprises whose business model is built around attracting a small army of outside agents (or home-based agents, or independent contractors, whichever term you prefer).

They don’t just want one or two, they want as many outside agents as they can possible get.

And so they spend a lot of time and money on marketing and advertising, especially the kind of marketing and advertising that is designed to get you to open your wallet — NOW!

Selling travel or host agency hype?

Look familiar?

In a way, they are like the beer companies that run TV ads implying that if only young guys would drink their brand they’d find themselves at the beach surrounded by beautiful girls in bikinis.

In a similar way, many host agency websites and marketing pieces imply that becoming one of their agents will mean you will find yourself traveling the world in luxury, sailing on magnificent cruise ships, staying at posh hotels, strolling on pristine beaches. Well, perhaps.

In the host agencies’ defense I will say that travel agents are more likely to realize those fantasies than beer-swilling young men. I know. I’ve tried both.

But the point is that behind the glossy images there is a reality. A fair number, in fact. But today I’d like to talk about just one — the time factor.

Selling Travel Takes Time

This is something the host agencies would rather not talk about, but selling travel takes time. Let’s say you want to sell cruises. Great idea! But did you know that most experienced travel agents recommend that you start laying the groundwork for that sale a year (some say 18 months!) before the date of sailing?

And if you want to build a group cruise around a pied piper, which is another great idea, you will have to factor in the time it takes to find that person and convince him or her that committing to a cruise that is a year off makes great sense.

And don’t forget that host agencies won’t be sending you the commission check until one or two months after the ship sails!

In other words, it could take up to two years between planting the seed for that cruise and cashing your commission check.

Selling travel is like a pipeline

Selling travel takes time. Just like a pipeline.

This is what is known to sales pros as the “sales pipeline.” The idea is you put “stuff” (prospects, sales activities, etc.) in one end and, after traveling some distance (which in this case is measured by time), completed sales come out the other end. The sales pipeline is a metaphor, one that can be daunting or reassuring.

It’s daunting because it can look like getting paid is a long way off and will require a fair bit of work. Still it can be reassuring because, as sales pros have learned, if you know your job and do what you need to do you can predict, often with uncanny accuracy, how much commission money you’ll be getting six, nine, twelve months down the road.

Before I entered the travel industry, I trained B-to-B salespeople for major corporations and we talked a lot about the sales pipeline. Most professional salespeople found the metaphor more reassuring than daunting. For some new home-based travel agents, however, it’s just the reverse.

That’s why I would rather you hear it from me, now, before you sign up with a host agency, get disillusioned and ask the host to give you your money back — which they won’t do.

But you don’t have to fear the sales pipeline. The example I used above is a bit extreme. Yes, every sale involves a pipeline — that is, there’s a time lag between finding the prospect, making the sale, and getting paid — but most pipelines are way shorter than two years, perhaps just a few months.

I encourage new agents to try to sell some simple products — hotel stays, rental cars, fly-drive combos — for travel that will take place fairly soon, while they also lay the groundwork for larger, longer-term sales.

One way to get your feet wet is the use the techniques taught in the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course to put together a cruise or tour with friends and family, perhaps an “irresistible” last-minute offer with an attractive price tag. If you only convince mom and dad or a single couple you know, you’ll be ahead of the game. You’ll be doing invaluable product research and your reward will be months rather than years away.

Another point to remember, and one that bears on the pipeline metaphor, is that selling travel is a bit like building an annuity. Most people who book with you once will book with you again — assuming, of course, that you prove your expertise and provide good customer service!

Many cruise lovers cruise yearly or twice yearly. Looked at from this perspective each sale is not a single sale but just the first of many. The more regular cruisers (or tour goers or all-inclusive resort enthusiasts) you add to your client list each year, the richer your pipeline grows in the future.

Yes, selling travel is fun, selling travel is rewarding, but selling travel takes work and takes time. It’s something that the host agencies won’t tell you.

But I don’t sell a business opportunity like the host agencies, so I’m free to explain, in detail, how the business really works.

If this discussion hasn’t scared you off, you probably have what it takes to succeed as a home-based agent.

Oh, and by the way, unlike those host agencies, I will give you your money back if you’re dissatisfied. No time limit. No questions asked.

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Selling Travel – The Time Factor was last modified: October 21st, 2015 by Kelly Monaghan