Many travel advisors arrive at the profession because they are passionate about travel and helping people. But let’s face it, passion doesn’t pay the bills. Success is predicated on the ability to sell. Some folks are natural born sellers, but truthfully, most aren’t. It was a life lesson that our keynote speaker Dan Chappelle, aka The Wealthy Travel Agent, experienced early in his sales career. Key Notes On Travel was pleased to present his series Bulletproof Your Travel Business because we too believe selling is a skill set that is cultivated over an entire career.


Selling, not Marketing

At the heart of Chappelle’s series is the notion that travel advisors need to be laser focused on selling, not marketing. He asserts that in the travel industry lexicon, marketing has become confused with selling. He does not mince words: “I want to be crystal clear…the travel agency is the commissioned sales force of the travel and tourism industries. Not the commissioned marketing force; the commissioned sales force. You can spend as much as you want on marketing but you’re not going to get paid unless somebody buys something.”

Marketing versus Selling


Chappelle encourages advisors to examine their habits to determine whether they are in fact selling or marketing. Here’s how Chappelle teases the two concepts apart.


  • Reactive, requires a financial investment and indiscriminately attracts any and all customers.
  • Marketing creates prospects.


  • Proactive, requires an investment of time, targets specific prospects and is a controlled process.
  • Selling creates buyers.

If advisors find themselves leaning too deep into marketing, Chappelle advises it’s time to make a paradigm shift from a marketing-focused organization to a sales-focused enterprise.

How High Achievers Spend Their Time

In the process of getting serious about selling, advisors might be wondering how to best allocate their time. “You want to focus on the things that are going to make money,” instructs Chappelle, “not the non-revenue producing activities.” He calls revenue-generating tasks “high-value sales activities” and they include pursuing leads, assembling quotes, executing sales and performing follow-up. Chappelle suggests 65 to 70 per cent of a 40-hour workweek be dedicated to high-value sales activities.

Prospecting 101: Do This, Not That

In Chappelle’s opinion, the best way to gain a new customer is to ask for a referral. So forget cold calling. He's also tepid on advertising, which he considers only moderately effective. “The best way to get to a customer is to proactively ask for referrals,” he says.

Prospecting Gold: "The Strength of Weak Ties"

How many times have friends or family leaned on your travel knowledge, only to book elsewhere? Why is that? Chappelle alleges “the reason most people will not do business with people close to them is because they don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. They would rather deal with someone they don’t know well.”

He asserts only 10 to15 per cent of all business results from an advisor’s inner circle. The real potential exists in your network’s network, via a phenomenon known as “The Strength of Weak Ties.”

Chapelle breaks it down: “At any given point in our lives we have 20 or 25 people who fit into our ‘circle of influence’ or ‘level one relationships’ … 60 to 70 per cent of your business will potentially come from [two degrees of separation] and then it will drop exponentially from there. If we know this is where the business is going to come from, doesn’t it make sense to have a systematic process that we can regularly use to access those people?”

Persistance Pays


On the subject of follow-up, Chappelle encourages advisors to be persistent: “Forty-eight per cent of people give up after the first contact. Twenty-five per cent are going to make a follow-up phone call and give up after that…Eighty per cent of sales are made after five or more contacts. Why? Because it takes time to build trust in a relationship.”

How to Ask for Referrals

How do you reach your network’s network? You ask to speak with them, says Chappelle. “If the folks who are closest to you aren’t going to buy from you, the key is not to ask them to buy something from you; the key is to ask them for help… people like to help each other.”

And when crafting that call to action, Chappelle instructs advisors to use precise language.

“Put it out there that you’re looking for a specific customer travelling to a specific destination, [on a] specific product. You’re not just asking anybody to come book travel with you. That’s how you really, truly, make money prospecting.

Three Quotable Quotes from Dan Chappelle




KNOT Subscriber Question

“I heard you say, ‘The fortune is in the follow-up.’ What is the best strategy for following up with prospects without feeling like you are pestering them?”

Chappelle’s answer: “If you don’t want to feel like you’re pestering them, that’s your problem, not theirs. They’ve reached out to you in some way, shape or form. They’ve contacted you for information about a trip and you've done the work on your end. You use a combination of calling, leaving a voicemail, actually talking to them or e-mail. And if you have their permission, text them. Life gets in the way. What may have been a priority that day becomes less of a priority [the next]. Your job is to keep it in front of them so that it remains a priority.”



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