Building Profitable Relationships with Clients
Being in any kind of client-facing job isn't easy. Managing expectations, meeting deadlines, assuaging egos, and handling different personalities all come as part of the territory. Travel clients are no different; as such, travel agents have to work hard to ensure that they develop good relationships with them.
However, what is unique to travel agents is the requirement to maintain good relationships with everyone they meet. Let's talk a bit more about why this is necessary. A travel agent is primarily responsible for providing travel solutions.
A client walks in and wants a hotel room based on a set of criteria that they have been unable to negotiate for themselves. Now, suppose you have a great relationship with the hotel manager that the client wants to stay at. You make a phone call, and voila! The client gets what they want. They think you're some kind of magician.
Of course, we both know that there was no magic involved here. You've simply cashed in on the relationship that you've built with that manager over the years. All those birthday cards, small favours, pleasant phone calls have been leading up to this moment.
In the travel business, relationships are everything. Behind every hotel, cab service, restaurant, or bar are ordinary people like you and me. The best travel agents recognize this and use this information to cultivate great relationships that can help both parties when the need arises.
If you're a travel agent wondering how you can develop these relationships yourself, read on!
It might sound like strange advice, of course, everyone should be helpful all the time. You'd be surprised by how much of a difference being helpful makes in developing good relationships with other professionals in the travel industry. You'd be even more surprised by how many travel agents simply don't care about this.
They can still be successful, but there's always a limit on their success because they can't offer the connections that the best travel agents can. So, what does it mean to be helpful for a travel agent? It means that you should assist in any way you can without the expectation of a reward.
You're sending business towards all these other services, so they like you already, but you need to make sure that you're not always trying to get the upper hand on them. Be personable, get to know the person on the other side, and find out how you can help them.
Maybe you have connections with a great concierge, and a popular restaurant manager loves attending concerts. Get some tickets and send them over! It's important to remember that the end goal isn't to extract value from the relationship but rather for the value to come out naturally.
Be More Personal
You should aim to be professional at all times, for sure, but there are ways of getting more personal with other professionals in your industry without being their friend. As we've already stated, these are normal people at the end of the day. An individual is more likely to do business with someone they like.
They probably won't dislike you if the relationship is strictly professional, but they're also unlikely to like you either. They will most likely be rather ambivalent to you. You have to change this attitude. You can do so by trying to get to know them more. You don't have to know their deepest darkest secrets to do so either.
It's all about making them feel comfortable and relaxed when they talk to you. Ask them about their day, their lives, tell them a funny story. Anything really to get the ball rolling. The key thing to note here is that this is not a one conversion goal. It will take a long time to properly develop a good enough relationship with them.
However, once you do, you'll see that they offer solutions to your problems. This is something that most other travel agents will not be able to arrange. If the restaurant says they have no space, they have no space. However, if you have a great relationship with the manager, they might just find a spot for you.
This is a trait that most people don't care much for in professional relationships. The reasoning for this is normally that business is removed from such concepts. In the end, the bottom line dictates everything. When it comes to travel agents, however, loyalty goes a long way.
Why is this the case? Well, the straightforward answer is that the professionals in the travel business are dependent on each other. That means that you may get a better commission by sending your client to a particular hotel, but the current hotel you have a good understanding of always help you meet the client's demands.
Sure, a big fat commission for you is great but sacrificing the relationship you built-in return may end up costing you much more. When you've built relationships with various professionals in the industry, you must stay loyal to each other. In doing so, you ensure that the client gets treated to the best service wherever they go. Ultimately, you get more referrals and repeat clients.
In conclusion, travel agents should focus on building good relationships. Furthermore, once they're established, the aim should not be to make them profitable but for the benefits to come naturally and be mutually beneficial.