Selling is the most difficult, most important and most rewarding job in travel. Finding people their dream holiday or organising an important business trip matters.
The benchmark for success in any company is that the sales person does such a great job the customer returns again and again.
Indeed, the most rewarding way of growing sales is through repeat business – assuming it’s not driven by the need to discount, but rather a feeling of trust nurtured between the sales person and customer.
To create trust, the sales person needs to demonstrate a unique combination of skills that make a travel adviser a special person.
They must demonstrate mastery of the destination or product they are selling. They need to build a bond and rapport with the customer. They will go the extra mile to ensure the trip meets their client’s needs and be there for them if things go wrong, or plans change. And they will keep in touch so the customer feels cared for even after their money has been taken and the holiday enjoyed.
Of course, not all customers will seek or demand such a special level of care, but we do live in a society that increasingly values companies and services that save us time, and we will buy from people we trust.
The old adage that people will buy from those they know, like and trust is as true now as it has ever been. And when that booking happens, as a Travel Counsellor said to me very recently, it makes us feel “amazing”.
The opposite of that is how we feel when we don’t get the booking – especially if it’s a family member or friend – or how we feel if things go wrong.
It hurts because we care, but we won’t win every customer or every booking. So we must be resilient and, as Paul McGee says, “Sumo” – in other words, “shut up and move on”.
It may sound harsh, but in a business like ours, we don’t have the luxury of taking the time to feel sorry for ourselves.
The next customer needs us to feel happy, positive, upbeat and ready to arrange the perfect trip for them.
If you read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he says a trait of leaders in great companies is talking less about themselves and more about the team.
Nowhere is that more appropriate than in travel, where the special qualities the sales consultant has to possess means the company must be centred around him or her and the people who support them.
That is why we believe in supporting and celebrating those who do the most important, most challenging and most rewarding job of selling and booking travel – our Travel Counsellors, and the team of special people around them.
In fact, it could be said that, as leaders, our role is to serve. In the words of Harry Truman: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”.
Steve Byrne is chief executive of Travel Counsellors