best advice for new travel agents

Top Agents Share Their Best Advice for Starting Out in the Travel Industry

Part II

Hindsight is meant to be 20/20. It’s exactly the reason why I thought it would be a good idea to poll an audience of top travel industry experts and ask them…what advice would they give someone at the beginning of their career in travel.

What I received in return was such great feedback that the material spanned not one but two articles. If you missed part I, you can go back and read the other top nuggets of advice here

And because I’m not JK Rowling, and this is not The Chamber of Secrets, there is no reason you have to go back and read the Philosopher’s Stone, aka Part 1,  first. I list these pieces of advice in no particular order. Heck, if you want…you can scroll down to #9 and work your way up if you prefer. 

But seriously…this is the advice that the top agents in this industry said they would give to an FNG starting out. 

Best advice for a new travel agent

#1 Always be learning

All expert agents agree that the learning never stops. Although it’s true that as agents become more successful, whittling out time spent on educational pursuits becomes more of a challenge. Still, this industry changes every single day. Especially right now. What is true about entry requirements to a country could change overnight. 

The best agents make time to keep themselves up-to-date. They continue to sign up for webinars and read industry news to ensure they stay on top of trends. They set Google alerts. Yet another reason it’s great advice to pick a niche. 

Best advice for a travel agent

#2 Fire your family

In Part I of this series, I talked about guiltlessly firing your client. But what happens when your client is your mother-in-law? Are you allowed to give her the boot? I guess that sort of depends on how awkward you want this year’s family BBQ to turn out. The real trick lies in never agreeing to work with MIL in the first place. 

Almost all top agents have a horror story to tell. It’s just not worth the drama that typically ensues as a result of missed expectations. No matter how hard you try to over-deliver for family, they are just not going to appreciate your efforts. 🤷‍♀️

Trust me…it’s not worth the hassle. But having said that..hahaha…you’ll do it. I know you will. You know how I know?…’cause regardless how many times I’ve been burned…I still do it. Still, it’s good advice. Maybe one day I’ll learn the lesson.

#3 Trust in your knowledge

When you are just getting started…this industry can be overwhelming. You are meant to be an expert. But you can’t know everything right out of the gate. So take some pressure off of yourself, and don’t worry about all the stuff you still don’t know. 

Top agents will agree it’s human nature to struggle with imposter syndrome and fear that we aren’t smart enough. But we are. Your clients come to you looking for solutions,and they will trust you.  As long as you know just a little bit more than them..they will grant you some leeway. (unless they are your family – see tip#2)

Honing your craft will take years but rest assured, even as you are starting out, trust that you know more than the average client knows about travel. Then, build on that.

The best bit of advice – be honest.

If you don’t know the answer to something you think you should, don’t pretend that you do. Once you lose the client’s trust, it’s almost impossible to get it back. Simply say, “Huh, that’s a great question, Fred. You’ve stumped me. Let me look into that and get back to you.” A touch of humility can be endearing.

Best advice for a travel agent

#4 Stop discounting AND instead, charge booking fees

Struggling with Imposter’s Syndrome often leads to unnecessary discounting. Our gut reaction is to question our fees and think we don’t deserve to charge what we are worth. Have faith in the value you bring to a client. Most of the top agents will say they wished they had made the shift much earlier on in their career. 

I think I once heard Dr. Phil say…” you teach people how to treat you,” and it sounded oh, so clever. If you have the confidence in your skills to charge the prices you charge, your clients will agree you are worth your rates.

The biggest objection to charging booking fees is the fear of losing a booking to an agent who doesn’t charge fees. I say…let those other agents get bogged down with the penny pinchers. Work smarter…not harder.

#5 Follow-up

Okay…I’ll be 100% transparent here. Not one agent said this, but I swear…that’s only because I think the top agents just assume it’s part of the process. So many newbies to the biz will work so hard to put out a great quote and then do nothing –  Nothing but cross their fingers and hope for the best. They think that because they’ve sent out an amazing quote, it should stand on its own. I get it. That makes sense, but it doesn’t work that way. 

Some clients will engage more than one agent to get a quote. Often, it’s the agent who follows up the fastest that will get the booking – even if their quote isn’t exactly perfect. Clients are often excited at the beginning of the holiday planning process. Take advantage of that excitement and strike while the iron is hot.

And the best news….so many agents NEVER do this so right away; simply by following up right away, you wipe away much of the competition.

How soon should you follow up? I always like to set the follow-up time during the initial consultation, and I’ll set the date to within 24 hours of receiving the original quote. It’s a fair assumption that if a client engages an agent for a consultation, they are eager to book. Take advantage of their excitement stage.

#6 Create an A-Team of suppliers you can count on

Most agents have a list of preferred suppliers they use in order to take advantage of preferred commission structures. That’s pretty common.

But top agents shared this insider tip…

Within each preferred supplier, make a connection with one key person in that organization. Get their direct phone number. Don’t rely on the randomness of the call-centre rotation.

Build deep connections with that contact and funnel all business through that agent if you can. They’ll appreciate your loyalty and pay you back in turn. 

This secret strategy builds mutual trust. And when the shit hits the fan…and it will, it’s good to have a connection with someone inside an organization who has your back and will fight for you and your client.

#7 Proofread everything and then be sure it’s in English

I swear by Grammarly. That’s my plug, and I’m not getting paid to promote this stealth ninja writing aid. It is so worth the pro-version price. Your professionalism depends on your ability to communicate effectively and without error. That’s step one. 

But even beyond the grammatical pandemonium between there, their and they’re, every pro agent will tell you that the devil is in the details. 

Before sending out any correspondence to a client about a file, take a moment and think, would my 87-year-old granny understand these documents? Does it all make sense? Sometimes, we are so in the forest when it comes to industry lingo that we forget Granny might not understand that ORD is short form for Chicago O’Hare. It’s better to err in over-explaining than under-explaining.

But also, every good agent knows, all it takes is one letter juxtaposition, and your client might be flying to DC rather than Houston. Take a moment…and proof EVERYTHING.

#8 Use a CRM straight out of the gate

Best advice for a travel agent

The more we know about our customers, the more apt we are to customize holiday packages that meet their needs. Most host agencies will come with CRM software as part of the support they offer. But top agents will say that they didn’t realize just how crucial it was to master the software from the get-go. 

Note down even the slightest piece of information a client tells you. You just never know when it might come in handy to know that Harold got his undergrad in viticulture and enology from Cornell when he decides to book his trip to Mendoza with you.

#9 Evoke the 24-hour rule

You know that 10-second rule every new parent employs…the one where your kid flings out his pacifier into oncoming traffic, and you slam on the brakes, open your door, reach out to retrieve it and pop it back into his mouth as if no one is looking? That’s a good rule.

And you want to know another equally good rule? Never respond to a client or a supplier within 24 hours if you are thoroughly pissed. And I don’t mean the drunk kind of pissed, but truthfully…maybe you shouldn’t respond in that instance either.

But nah…I’m talking about the times when your first inclination is to drop-kick your client and flip them a cockatoo. (see Advice tip #2.)

We’ve all been there. 

It could be the result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication, misinformation…Whatever the miss it is. And you could be 100% right. But as my ex-husband used to say…you can be right, or you can be in a happy marriage. Same, same. 

Never send an email in righteous anger…ever. And actually, don’t send the pithy passive-aggressive type either…You know the one…the one where you think you are being so clever and no one gets your sarcasm but you. Yeah…I’ve been down that road a few times. They get it.

The 24-hour rule simply states…go ahead and write the email – get your frustration off your chest but don’t send it. At least for 24 hours. I swear to you…you will feel differently in the morning. And even if you don’t…it doesn’t matter. Feel content in knowing that you are right. There is no need to lose business in the pursuit of letting everyone else know you are right.

In short…get over it.

And with that… these Tips from Top Agents come to a close. 

And if you are new…and just getting started in this industry and I haven’t completely scared you off yet, why not book a No-Strings-Attached and complimentary discovery call with me below. I’ll either desperately try to talk you out of it (just kidding) or direct you on the next best step to take.

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