NAME: Dan Prior
TITLE: Sales Manager
TERRITORY: Ontario and Atlantic Canada, based in Toronto
YEARS IN TRAVEL: 19
NAME: Dean Neville
TITLE: Sales Manager
TERRITORY: Western Canada, based in Edmonton
YEARS IN TRAVEL: 30
NAME: Sylvie Murdock
TITLE: Sales Manager
TERRITORY: Quebec and Ottawa, based in Montreal
YEARS IN TRAVEL: 27
In this world of multi-channel distribution, how important are travel counsellors to Transat?
DP: Travel professionals are still our main priority in terms of distribution channel and supporting Transat. We invest heavily in our travel retail partnerships and, overall, we see that year over year the growth is there with these accounts.
SM: We invest a lot in travel counsellors in different ways, such as continuous product training.
How many Business Development Representatives are on your team and what are their roles?
DN: I have four BDRs. Their primary role is to build business by looking for new opportunities and providing support to our retail partners. They are both hunters and farmers when it comes to business opportunities.
SM: I have five BDRs who share the territory of Quebec and Ottawa. Their role has them wearing different hats such as influencing the sales increase in their territory, conducting effective trainings, working closely with their assigned agencies.
DP: I have five BDRs in Ontario and one BDR handling Atlantic Canada. The role can be summed up into three main priorities: growing business, managing existing accounts and educating both retail partners and consumers. Their responsibilities include actions such as building business plans, looking for new opportunities, managing marketing and advertising plans, training, conducting presentations, liaising between our external clients and our internal departments, and the list goes on. Ultimately, they are the face of Transat to our clients and play a huge role in ensuring we are being supported.
What is the most important part of a BDR’s role?
DP: The most important part of the role is gaining a deep understanding of the client’s business in order to identify what Transat products and services can be offered to the end client. From there it is educating the travel professionals on the product, offers and advantages so they can in turn create a persuasive sales pitch to their client. Ultimately anything can be sold to a client if a persuasive enough sales pitch is provided! We need to help our clients with that pitch on the large portfolio of product that we offer.
DN: The key role is to develop relationships with our accounts, making sure that they are both educated and informed on the Transat product, which in turn will lead to incremental sales growth.
What sort of training does Transat offer to travel counsellors and how do agents engage in it?
SM: Training is an important part of our success. My team offers online training every Wednesday for all travel counsellors. We also have our Training Academies twice a year. Moreover, our representatives are often requested to do specific training in the agencies in their territories. We can definitely say that there is a lot of committed travel agents who, without fail, actively participate at our seminars.
DP: With individual accounts we conduct webinars and even record webinars and post to our internal social media outlets and newsletters. Often, we tailor the presentations to certain products; for example, in the past we have incorporated more of a workshop-style presentation surrounding Europe as we felt the need to offer more of an interactive style of presentation with a focus on identifying specific products to the needs of clients.
DN: My favourite is in-house training, where my team can pinpoint the needs of each individual office (such as Facebook campaigns).
Are there Transat incentives, and if so what kind?
DP: Transat’s exclusive rewards program is the Bonbon loyalty program. Agents earn Bonbon on all products booked with Transat. All points are deposited to a prepaid Mastercard, providing the agents with cash rewards for booking Transat.
DN: Often times we will offer incentives where agents can earn up to 10X the regular amount of Bonbon points. We love hearing how agents spent their Bonbon dollars - there are some great stories!
Why do you love the travel business and what motivates you?
SM: Travelling in itself is a wonderful journey composed of dreams, experiences and unique discoveries. It is said that booking a trip is the only expense we treat ourselves to that is richer in return, and it’s absolutely true!
DP: I love the travel business because we are selling experiences. Many industries can only focus on the advantages and benefits of a given product, but beyond that there isn’t much of a story. Travel offers an endless conversation surrounding features and benefits of various products, whether it is cruising, air travel, touring, self-driving, five-star resorts or B&Bs, and then the added layer of all the experiences the trip offered – from exotic foods, dining experiences, sightseeing, to people met… The entire journey is so unique to every individual and the sharing of these stories creates the inspiration to want to travel more. It is exactly this that offers an advantage in selling, in my opinion, because so often it is that passion about a trip that will sell people and not necessarily the features and benefits.
DN: I was fortunate to grow up in the business on the retail side. My friends would go to the lake and my family would go on an overseas adventure. That narrative has stuck. I am motivated by teaching and disseminating the knowledge that I have gained through the years.
How has the role of the BDR changed in the past few years?
DP: I think technology has brought forth new opportunities and efficiencies in how to develop business, but at the end of the day it is still working with existing and prospective clients to identify opportunities, teaching them about how your product will bring them revenue and providing them with the right products to do so. I think the role is a lot more demanding than it ever was, and the same is said for our travel professionals. When I first started in the industry as a BDR in 1999, e-mail was a new thing and reps were just coming out of the days of using pagers.
SM: The role of the BDR has become better defined over the years and their number one priority is to influence sales.
DN: Overall, the BDRs have become more focused on the needs and opportunities of accounts. In our organization, our inside sales team has the same level of autonomy as a BDR, thereby allowing our BDRs the opportunity to develop more business.
How do you see the role of the BDR evolving in the next five years?
DN: It has been and always will be to develop business. In my opinion this role will always be needed - we won’t become obsolete.
DP: With how people are being trained to receive their information now through their applications and social media there is such access to information and a lot to wade through, it will be more important than ever to have a trusted, human contact that can have the sales conversation and help make sense of it all.
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