Taking risks, fulfilling dreams and building client trust and sales took center stage at Sunday’s general session for DARE, the 2019 National Conference for Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
Sailing to the Caribbean and Bahamas on Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas, more than 1,000 travel advisors heard from multiple motivational speakers, including Debbie Fiorino, chief operating officer of World Travel Holdings, and Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of the cruise-selling brands.
That duo "rose" from beneath the Royal Theater's stage (see photo in slide show above) to pump up the audience as the first full day's session got under way. Agents learned that the three cruise brands constitute the fastest growing division of World Travel Holdings.
Daly and Fiorino also said that WTH now looks at those cruise selling brands as "business to business" in nature -- as it moves away from the term "home-based."
Instead, the company considers the advisors as small businesses and works directly with them. While cruise sales look good, Fiorino had another tidbit: "We're killing it in land."
Daly pointed out that the conference, which continues through Sunday morning, will share words of wisdom with agents and provide insight on key areas of opportunity. He emphasized that "2020 is looking very solid."
The day's programming certainly featured plenty of motivation, but also sales advice and business tips -- delivered in individual presentations by Vicki Freed, senior vice president, sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International, and Janet Wygert, vice president, strategic partnerships, Carnival Cruise Line.
In addition, guest speaker David Horsager returned for the second year in a row to focus on “trust” and what that means in business. Here's a look at the motivational, achievement and trust highlights from the first full day's programming.
Fiorino: “Yet” is a Gift
As the program unfolded, Fiorino told attendees that it’s never too late to start living a dream and reaching for goals. She also told them not to think that someone is doing better than they are in business.
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle,” she said. “Do not compare yourself.”
Fiorino continued: “There is only one person to compare yourself to – the person you were the day before – and if you are getting better, great,” she said. But if not, she urged agents to follow the advice of Scarlett O’Hara -- “Tomorrow is Another Day.”
Also, if an advisor laments about something they want to do but says, “I haven’t done it ‘yet,’” she emphasized the following: “’Yet’ is a gift and you are good enough to get to the other side of it.”
Quoting the philosophy of her boss, Brad Tolkin, co-chairman/CEO, World Travel Holdings, Fiorino said that advisors must have the determination to take risks, as “if you never hear 'no,' you will never hear 'yes.'”
Telling advisors to believe in themselves, she also told the advisors to remember that the person people “see” as totally successful in every facet of their life on social media isn’t the full reality.
For example, people tend to rave about the good stuff on social media, but they also don't post the issues they may have with families, jobs or other facets of their lives.
Giving a few examples from her personal life brought chuckles from the crowd. Fiorino added: “If you think it is ‘roses’ all the time [on social media], then I’ve done my job. You have been fooled.”
With that in mind, she told the agents to have confidence, to step out of their comfort zone, to stop comparing themselves to others and to have the courage to take risks. She urged them to go back to their travel business with that philosophy -- and discuss a new marketing idea, step out to partner with a cruise line, create a themed group cruise and so on.
Freed: Find a Sweet Success Spot
It’s critical for travel advisors to be crystal clear as to what they bring to the client or potential client, said Royal Caribbean's Freed: “Whatever your sweet spot of success is, you need to tell it."
Using a creative “candy” approach, with brightly colored presentation slides displaying images of yummy treats, Freed talked about how advisors can answer their phone to be sweet not salty: “The way you answer the phone is critical,” she said.
Have a proactive approach, be friendly and briefly tell them you'd love to help them plan a vacation. “Even if they’re calling and they are not planning a vacation, you are putting that in their mind,” she said. “You are putting the message out.”
Look at “local flavors,” or the group possibilities right in your own backyard or town, Freed said. Sprinkle in social causes. Most importantly, don’t let clients “get stale” as candy might do.
Royal Caribbean’s research shows that three of five people who cruise on the line and then come back for another cruise with the line have switched travel agents. “Don’t let them melt away,” she said, “because that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to them.”
She suggests doing things such as sending Thanksgiving cards – not selling anything, just thanking clients for the opportunity to help them plan their recent vacation and telling them how much you enjoyed creating that special program for them.
And she says listen for the golden ticket – the little tidbit of information in a conversation that can be the motivation for them to book with you. Maybe the male client says his 10-year-old granddaughter wants to do this or that.
“Nurture that little golden ticket,” Freed stresses. She also advises agents to “kick out the Sour Patch kids, those clients who never really buy" from the advisor.
Also, the most successful travel partners get lots of business from satisfied clients who make referrals and repeat themselves. “They become your chocolatiers,” Freed stresses.
Wygert: Dreamers versus Achievers
Laying out the dilemma for small business owners and travel advisors, Carnival's Wygert urged advisors to dare to make their dream happen: “There is a difference between those who dream and those who achieve," she said. "Stop dreaming and start doing.”
She “dared” the agents to also share ideas with others, to help flesh them out. “The ideas become better than you originally thought,” Wygert emphasized.
She advocated that advisors stand up for themselves and defend their views. She urged advisors to become comfortable with what is uncomfortable for them.
Giving a personal example, she explained that she had a fear of fish, and so she ventured into the ocean (horrified at first) to learn to scuba dive. It got easier after awhile, and today, she’s PADI-certified.
She also dared the advisors to help people, not just to send their thoughts and prayers, noting that it’s powerful but “I dare you to do more,” citing “our friends in the Bahamas.”
So how does one “dare” in their own travel business? “Talk to people,” said Wygert, as “you never know whom you’re going to meet. Talk to people. Share. Listen to what they say.”
Do something new in your business, she urged the agents, noting that could be a different marketing approach, cold calling or finding a group: “Shake it up in your business.”
Horsager: Trust is Everything
Asking the audience to stand up and do something physical with their arms in place, David Horsager, a "global trust expert" had advisors' attention. They followed along intently. But suddenly it became clear the entire exercise was a trick. The theater became quieter and people sat down -- somewhat bewildered or even a bit irritated.
Horsager’s point went right to the heart of business trust: “You do that in marketing, in content and [other business practices] and you’ll lose trust in less than a second. People are tricking people all the time. The lack of trust is the biggest issue you have.”
He defines trust as a confident belief in a person, product or organization, and says that every single time trust increases, it’s a metric for success. Success is not a result of leadership or sales achievements. It's because of trust, Horsager stressed.
In addition, he says that the number one reason to work for an organization isn’t money, isn’t benefits: It’s that employees seek trusted leaders more than anything else.
On the agency side, it's good to know that nine of 10 people who don’t trust someone would not make referrals to them. The only way to increase referrals is through trust.
Another interesting factoid? Research shows that 92 percent of people would trust their senior leader more if that leader would be transparent about mistakes.
What does trust contain? He cited eight things. First it’s clarity, as if there is too much complexity, the client loses trust. Then it’s compassion, as people trust those who care more than simply about themselves. Also inherent in trust is character, competency and commitment.
He made it clear: Agents shouldn't try to build a team, a relationship or anything else in business unless they build it on trust. Otherwise, "you will go extinct."
More Coverage of DARE
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for additional coverage of this week's 2019 National Conference of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
Stories planned include the cruise sales executive panel discussion moderated by David Crooks, senior vice president of product and operations, World Travel Holdings, and also a brief technology update by Sandi Szalay, vice president of information technology for the three cruise selling brands.