When I was new to the travel industry, I wanted clients desperately. I would work on any requests that came my way, never asked for a service fee, and ended up feeling overworked and underpaid. I recall many times where I would spend hours researching an itinerary for someone, only to have them tell me they’ve changed their mind, something’s come up, or never return my messages. Then, there were the “price shoppers”. ”Is this the cheapest price”? The ones that questioned every single quote I gave them and basically wanted me to do the work of an online booking engine, finding the cheapest deal possible.
It can be easy to get frustrated with price shoppers and time wasters. It’s tempting to place the blame on them, but the truth is, it was my own fault. I failed to set boundaries with them and they walked all over me. When I stopped pointing my finger at someone else, owned what I was doing to attract undesirable requests, everything changed.
What I realized is that I needed to create a few hoops for potential clients to jump through before I put any effort into their vacations plans. They needed to work a little before I worked for them. I designed a system to do just this. It’s not perfect, but it makes a huge difference and most of the people that come through the system, end up being ideal clients, who value my services, are willing to pay a fee, and book lucrative travel. There are a lot less of those who disappear without warning.
Just a quick footnote: I don’t put every single client through this system….only brand new ones. If they are repeat clients, or a solid referral, I don’t bother with the system. It’s a judgment call for the travel professional.
The Time Waster and “Price Shopper” System consists of 3 parts:
1. A Travel Interest Survey:
I noticed that I spent a lot of time in an initial conversation with a new potential client asking the exact same questions. I started to write down the questions I asked a new person and put these together into a “Travel Interest Survey”. Then I asked them to complete the survey on their own time, so they weren’t wasting mine. The beauty of it is – if they don’t complete the survey, I forget about them, move on and feel good knowing they would have wasted a LOT more of my time.
Here are a few questions in my survey:
- How many travelers and if kids are included, what are their ages?
- Is this is a special occasion?
- Do you have specific dates, or a window of time?
- How long do you want to travel?
- Do you know where you want to go or do you need me to recommend a destination?
- What was your favorite hotel/resort and why?
2. The “Interview With Denyse”.
The average person has no clue what a travel professional does. So rather than get frustrated with him or her, OR waste an hour of my precious time explaining what I do, I created a document that lists common questions about what I do, how I work with clients, why I got into the business and do what I do, and how I get compensated. Then I answer each question.
3. Free Consultation and Travel Planning Deposit
In the beginning it felt difficult to ask a brand new potential client for a fee to get started working. So, I would give them one freebie. I would offer a free, 30-minute consultation. And this is where the Travel Interest Survey and “Interview With Denyse” played in beautifully.
So here’s my system for clients requesting travel other than cruises:
1) A potential client sends an inquiry through website.
2) I reply with a “thank you for your inquiry” e-mail. I indicate the best way to begin is by scheduling a free, 30-minute consultation. I note the two things to be done before the consultation: A) Complete a “Travel Interest Survey” and B) “Interview With Denyse”.
3) I schedule a free consultation by sending a selection of 3 or 4 dates and times that are available. I also remind that I will cancel the appointment if I do not receive the completed Travel Interest Survey before the meeting.
4) If a survey is not completed, I send one last email asking if they would like to reschedule the appointment, or not. If they do complete the survey, I review before the appointment and then put together a few itinerary options that I use as talking points and get a better feel for budget and travel tastes.
5) I hold the consultation, discuss the options, get more of an idea of what’s desired, and indicate that in order to proceed, a $200 trip planning fee/deposit is payable. That deposit is non-refundable, but will come off the price of the itinerary when booked.
This system effectively filters out a vast majority of clients that waste travel professionals’ time and stretches them thin.
My system for Signature Events at Sea is somewhat different as it has its own marketing in place.
Denyse H. Turner
Signature Events at Sea (a division of Rx 4 Fun Travel LLC)
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