Simply Sales with Scott
Written By: Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales, Avoya Travel
Building a successful travel agency is not simply a result of being excellent at being a travel agent. Success now requires the wearing of four different hats. Each hat represents areas of your business that need your attention. The amount of time you wear each hat on a daily basis will vary over time and depends on your business model. However, each hat must be worn regularly or your agency will not reach its full potential.
Travel Agent Hat
Most likely you started your business because you are passionate about travel and wanted to help people explore the world. If you opened a restaurant you most likely love food. If you opened a shoe store one would hope you like shoes. Most people learn their trade or find their passion while working for someone else and then decide they would like to take the risk and move out on their own. A great idea but without learning about the other three hats the chances for success diminish. Being a great chef or knowing more about shoes than anyone or being an amazing travel agent will not be the primary driver of a profitable small business.
This hat will most likely be the one you will need to wear the most and will enjoy doing so. Therefore you should keep up with your product knowledge and hone your trade on a regular basis. Indeed like putting on the other hats, you should schedule time each week to develop related skills and gain more knowledge. If it is not literally on your schedule then it will not get the attention it deserves.
Every business needs marketing as noted in the words of Peter Drucker, “The sole purpose of a business is to find and keep customers”. That is a simple definition of marketing that reminds us that without customers your business is doomed. It is the real truth to the erroneous adage of ‘if you build a better mouse trap the world will beat a path to your door’. You can build the best trap ever but if no one knows you built it I promise there will be no path to your door. Your goal should be to be the best travel agent possible but you also need to wear the marketing hat especially early on in the life of your business so that you can answer the knock on the door.
This hat may be a very uncomfortable fit as marketing can include so many different aspects of trying to reach customers. From merchandising to advertising to social media to public relations, the list goes on and on. The key here is not to try and master all of these and other marketing approaches but to make sure they are handled. This is an area where outside resources may be your best bet. Marketing can not only be expensive but it can pull your time away from what you love to do, being a travel agent. Therefore unless marketing is your expertise then put the hat on regularly only to review the progress of your providers. It is harder to have someone else wear the other three hats so if you can outsource marketing then you spend more time wearing the other three. This doesn’t mean you don’t ever need to wear the marketing hat it just means you only wear it for a shorter time and more of that time can be focused on the keeping than the finding!
Sales Person Hat
Yep, no matter what you do or what kind of business you run, you are in sales. If you are successful wearing the marketing hat then the good news is you have plenty of demand but unless those customers buy from you it will all be for naught. Many people dread even the thought of wearing this hat as they conjure up less than professional sales experiences. But sell we must! If that still makes you squirm then just think of sales as helping and relating to people in a way that provides extraordinary value.
The process of selling anything is exactly that, a process. It follows a set pattern and with each step there are skills needed that require practice. Therefore you should not only put on this hat when you are dealing with customers but also for a few hours per week to learn more about the techniques and systems used in sales. There are great books and resources available but once again only if you schedule time to study sales will you learn the craft.
Michael Gerber said it best when he said ‘most business owners spend too much time working in their business instead of on their business.’ All business owners need to put on this hat on a scheduled basis to plan, set goals and analyze where they have been and where they are going. For those who enjoy wearing the sales hat this is the antithesis. Each week you need to go over your numbers, determine what is working and what needs your attention. Like marketing you can outsource accounting and even analysis but it still needs your time and attention to create strategy.
You probably became a business owner so you could call your own schedule in addition to other reasons. You will be well served if a part of your weekly schedule is dedicated to time wearing each of the hats needed for success!