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Adam Rog was at top of his game as a travel advisor, specializing in selling luxury cruises and frequently closing deals with six-figure price tags. Needless to say, he’s good – really good – and knows the business like the back of his hand. Hailing from Florida, Adam recently moved to Toronto to take on the position as Director of Cruise Product for Travel Edge (formerly The Travel Network), responsible for training and supporting inside and outside advisors. It’s an important role, as cruise is a key segment of the company’s sales. So what’s the secret to being successful in the field? “Take great technology, great agents, great product knowledge – you mix them together and you get a great result,” Adam tells CT. Here, he offers up his best advice to travel advisors interested in growing their business.
1. Product knowledge is key.
It’s no secret that when it comes to being a successful travel advisor, understanding the nuances of the product you’re selling – particularly when it comes to the cruise market – is of the utmost importance. Adam is an advocate for self-education, and throughout his own career, has employed various tactics that he recommends other advisors adopt as well. For one, he suggests, consume as much content as you can; read brochures (two a week is his magic number) as well as relevant magazines and newsletters. Being aware of the finer details will allow advisors to offer a higher level of service and better understand what product is best for what client. On the same point, Adam recommends investing in yourself professionally. Oftentimes, one might be so fortunate to be invited on hosted FAM trips, but advisors should consider paying for their own voyages – even if it means shelling-out the full-price – because of the pay-off that can result. When it comes to closing a sale, after all, it’s about being able to “show, and not just tell,” Adam says. "When you can describe the experience, price becomes secondary.”
2. Ask open-ended questions, and then listen.
Step away from leading with common questions like how many nights a client wants to get away or how many people they are travelling with. Such inquiries have one-word answers and don’t do much for a travel advisor in terms of offering elevated service. Instead, ask open-ended questions; get to know everything you possibly can about the travellers you’re working with. Know what they like, Adam recommends, for everything from hotels to food – these are things that you will roll-in later when you present options to them. For example, find out if they’ve done cruises before and if so, with what line(s)?. What hotels do they really like, and just as importantly, why? “Then it’s your job as an agent to fit them into something.” Repeat their interests back to them and relate it to specific onboard experiences available in the marketplace; for example, if your client is a foodie, let them know about a well-known chef who has restaurants with a specific line. “Paint the picture; create the environment they’re going to be in, and then let them buy it from there,” Adam says, emphasizing that travel advisors should be sure they truly understand what their clients’ expectations and desires before crafting their perfect trip.
3. Recognize that the cruise is just the beginning.
“The cruise is only a portion of a trip,” Adam stresses, so travel advisors should recognize it as the starting point of any booking. Think of necessary add-ons, like flights, pre- and post-hotel stays and tours, and of course, travel insurance. “Where you’re going to turn around and get value as an agent – and I don’t just mean commission value but value with the client – is identifying pre- or post-opportunities, especially those that might be exclusive,” Adam says, citing private tours of the Vatican or after-hours access to the Sistine Chapel as examples. There may also be an opportunity to book optional excursions to add-on during a cruise itinerary. Not only will taking care of all aspects increase the ticket price, it will allow your service to shine and keep clients coming back (and recommending you to their peers!).
4. Maximize efficiencies.
For Adam, time is money and so the ability to maximize efficiencies can prove paramount to a travel advisor’s sales success. At Travel Edge, for example, travel advisors have access to its proprietary Agent Digital Experience (ADX) technology, on which they can search inventory for 12 cruise lines, with filters such as port of embarkation or disembarkation, specific dates, etc. Adam says this takes away the need to call a cruise line for information, and with the ability to also book flights and hotel, advisors can compile an entire quote in less than two minutes using the platform. What’s more is that options can be pulled into a professional document for the client – polished-off with an advisor’s personal branding at the top – which means that there’s no need to cut and paste information from a third-party, like an advisor might do when using a cruise line’s direct booking system. Without the ADX system, Adam says the process of getting quotes and building a document for a client might take upwards of 20 minutes; with ADX, that timeline is cut down to two minutes. This allows travel advisors to provide prompt service while opening up the opportunity to take-on more business.
5. Maintain relationships with clients.
Ultimately, Adam says that being a successful cruise specialist comes down to an advisor’s relationship with his or her clients. Having a well-rounded client profile will allow an advisor to offer the best service possible. Call clients on special days like birthdays and anniversaries, Adam recommends, and connect with them regularly, even just to check in. Also, he adds, know where your client wants to go next so you can speak to their desires while also keeping an eye out for valuable offers in the market. In addition, be there for clients when they’re on the road, even if it means missing a New Year’s Eve dinner to help fix a problem (something Adam has had to do). “You’re responsible for your people when they’re around the world. They trust us with their most valuable asset – free time. So you do what you need to do.” Further, Adam says, treat all clients like VIPs, whether they want a seven-night or a seven-week trip. He refers to an experience he had with a client who came in to book a three-night voyage – his wife had passed and he just wanted to get away. So, Adam went through the process, giving the client attention and all necessary information. Months later, the same client returned to book an 86-night voyage, looking to Adam for his service because of the treatment he had enjoyed during his first visit. “It’s not just the right thing to do, but you never know what’s going to come back afterwards.
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