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Virtuoso Launches The Virtuoso Trust

August 15, 2008 By: Ruthanne Terrero

Virtuoso reports that it has created a “Professional Development Matrix,” which identifies the top skill sets and knowledge that luxury travel advisors need to be optimally successful in selling. The luxury consortia is hosting its 20th annual TravelMart this week in Las Vegas.

The matrix, which will be used as the basis for all of the organization’s training programs for its members, identifies four key development areas that are vital for agents: client relationship management and marketing; sales skills; product knowledge; and business skills.

Mindy Exum, managing director of training for Virtuoso, said the organization is working very closely with some of its most successful members to evolve the matrix and the courses that support those practices. “Essentially, our goal is to try to replicate our top star performers without the 25-year learning curve,” Exum told Travel Agent. The development team is guided by a “Professional Development Trust,” which is chaired by Anne Morgan Scully, president of McCabe World Travel. Scully “has contributed her vast knowledge and long-time passion for education and development,” Exum said.

Exum said that Virtuoso has also worked with a professional sales training organization to customize Virtuoso’s selling-skills courses. As a result, more than 50 interactive, professionally developed courses will be available to Virtuoso members, including customer service skills, negotiation and advanced selling techniques. Courses will be supplemented by a series of proprietary courses developed by internal curriculum development experts and based on the experience of Virtuoso’s “star-producing” agents. Additional curriculum provided by the organization’s travel supplier partners and tourism boards is presented through product education modules. Note: Virtuoso will continue to work with The Travel Institute, integrating the two groups’ educational programs so members can work toward certification.

“Our research shows that it’s simply not enough to be a destination or a product expert if you’re going to succeed with today’s affluent consumers,” said Exum. “We’re finding that our top advisors— those who are most accomplished and proactive in developing their relationships with their clients— are actually becoming experts in their clients’ overall lifestyle. They really almost have to do this in order to anticipate their clients’ needs. It’s with that knowledge that they’re able to deliver experiences that are truly noteworthy and not simply selling them travel products or itineraries.”

Virtuoso has kept a keen eye on training its members, and with good results: The agents that have participated in its LBD (Local Business Development) training program have produced sales nine times higher than their peers who have not completed the program.

Virtuoso’s new training program allows luxury travel advisors to “drop in” 24/7 on many training programs on a course-by-course basis. Most courses are accessible via a newly installed online learning management system, which can be facilitated in person, on webinars or through self-paced study. The courses are available to the agent for one year— so they can go back and refresh their skills as often as they want during that time. It’s also trackable by managers.

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