Beware of Negative Spin

Do you have a one-minute sales pitch? This would be the brief—yet exhilarating—self-description you use when you meet up with a potential client. If you've joined a country club or an association to bolster your client list through networking, it's imperative that you have your pitch down pat so that it's ready the moment someone asks, "And what do you do for a living?"

Ruthanne Terrero, CTCAs an entrepreneur, you'll want to present yourself and your business in a manner that is focused and effective, short and powerful. The trick is to make it sound natural or else everyone at the club will start to avoid you. People don't want to feel as if you only care about them to increase your sales.

But what's wrong with saying something like, "I create very special vacation experiences for a select group of clients and I'm able to do it cost effectively because of the relationships I have in the industry. In fact, I've just set up an itinerary for Tuscany where we'll stay in a private villa. We'll sample regional cuisine and wine for a full week before jetting over to the AmalfiCoast." If I heard that from someone I'd be grabbing her card out of her hand and inquiring when the plane was leaving!

Tailoring Your Message

A message like this, of course, could—and should—be tailored to each specific situation. If you're with a parents' group, focus instead on your ability to create itineraries that include special activities for children. If you're at the spa, adjust your message to include your knowledge of wellness vacations and the latest spa resorts. It's important to keep it relevant. You should also be able to regale them about the high points of some of the vacations you've planned for yourself. Keep these tales brief as well, however. You want to rein them in, not bore them to pieces.

Stay Positive

It's also key that your personal pitch not be a litany of negative spin about your competitors. Few things turn off potential clients more than hearing someone they don't even know getting bashed. If you decide to take the route of intimating that your competitor is going out of business, you'll look more than foolish when they're quite happily—and profitably—in existence the following year and the year after that. You'll also look as if you don't have enough positive things going on for yourself if your main interest is in talking about everyone else.

Many of the most successful travel agents I know admit that they are not just selling travel, they are actually selling themselves. These top producers can deliver a message of confidence and knowledge to their would-be clients in 60 seconds or less. So start practicing your sales pitch now, and strive to cast yourself in the most positive light possible. And remember: You're also selling dreams.

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC EDITORIAL DIRECTOR rterrero@questex.com