Get Rich Quick in Cruise Selling: Two Agents Explain Their Secret Sauce

 Being a cruise selling superstar sometimes isn't always about being a long-time agent. Just ask four Cruise Planners’ franchise owners who have sold between $350,000 and $1.1 million in cruise travel.

These agents -- all of whom have been in business for less than three years -- spoke on a “Get Rich Quick” discussion at the recent Cruise Planners conference in Hollywood, FL. 
What characterizes agents who can soar above the crowd? What makes them productive sellers? Here's a snapshot look at two of these stellar sellers.
Everything is Possible
A former computer hardware sales person, Monica Pollack ( of Cruise Planners in Franklin Lakes, N.J., is a stay-at-home mom.
Having been out of the corporate world for some time, Pollack just envisions what she wants; she says that absolutely makes things happen.
She opened her business in March 2011 and, in just 20 months later, had posted $592,000 in sales. Pollack’s secret sauce includes a hefty dose of networking.
Every time she plays tennis or goes to the gym she talks travel. But she doesn’t sell. “I like to make friends,” Pollack says.
Multi-tasking is also something Pollack lives by. She works out on an exercise machine in the morning, takes along the laptop and, simultaneously, completes travel suppliers' Webinars. 
“She calls out to people, she never waits for the phone to ring,” stressed Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder, Cruise Planners, who moderated the panel discussion.
Fee told the agent audience that Pollack continually educates herself, sees the possibilities and never tells clients she doesn’t have time to do this or that.
Regardless of the circumstances, Pollack isn't afraid to sell and never lets the business walk. For example, Pollack had a client who told her they could get a Norwegian Epic cruise $700 cheaper at Costco.
So Pollack decided to go as a tour conductor, bring her in-laws and tapped her friends and other contacts to buy additional cabins. That offset the price differential.
“I think that’s the secret sauce, as I filled the group with no pressure… and I called every single person I knew,” Pollack said. Essentially, she sold another 10 staterooms, one of which was a two-bedroom family villa.
Pollack sells cruises but also wanted to learn how to sell African safaris. So she asked Ker & Downey to teach her about the experience. “Everything is possible,” Pollack believes, noting “I’ve never been to Africa.” 
But she set up dinner for clients at her home and brought in a Botswana expert. She asked the vendor to create the most magnificent African vacation package possible for a family – thinking the clients who think it's too expensive can always “come down.”
The clients looked at the magnificent luxury accommodations and asked, “Why does the hotel look so empty?” Pollack explained that it would be their private mansion. She inked an $80,000 sale and earned $11,000 in commission.
Take Time to Listen
In March 2010, Maria Tilton ( – formerly a hair stylist and a home builder, someone with no previous travel industry experience -- opened her Cruise Planners agency in Clarksburg, N.J.
Her first year’s sales goal was $300,000 but she posted $450,000. In late 2012, less than three years in business, she’s at $1.1 million in sales.
How did she do it? One tip is that she’s extremely active on social networking sites. She networks with friends who now share with her on Facebook and send her referrals. There, new contacts and friends of friends can see her experience and her passion for the business.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m really easy going,” she stresses, noting that she does things like putting up photos of her kitten on her business Facebook page. “So they see a normal, easy-going person, not just a business person.”
She also believes in face-to-face networking and participates in multiple local networking clubs. Those clubs typically bring together business owners, with only one person in the group selected to represent a specific type of business such as a restaurant, bank, health club or travel agency.
For an agency, those fellow group members can become friends and colleagues – people with whom you can partner on local promotions. Tilton also says they often call upon her to book their personal and business-related travel.   
Find a networking club that fits your style, she said: “I walked in my first day in one of those networking clubs and sold two cruises to a stranger.”
One of the big promotional tips marketing experts mention is that agents should pass out business cards to everyone. In contrast, Tilton stressed: “I never ever pass out my business card.”
Instead, she listens to what everybody else says.  “At the end of the conversation, they ask for my card,” she emphasized. ”
From Fee’s perspective, “she makes herself real…She doesn’t sell anything, she builds a rapport with people to see how she can help.”
Tilton doesn’t do any advertising. She doesn’t do a lot of land-based sales. But she also doesn’t say “no” to anything, travel-wise.
When one of her clients wanted to go to Dubai, a destination about which Tilton knew nothing, she told herself: “I’m going to put my big girl pants on and I’m doing it.”
Fee says Tilton’s attitude is the secret sauce – she just won’t let the business walk away.

Two other agents who spoke on the panel, Cheryl Darwell and Terry McKinney, are featured in another Get Rich Quick story published in the Jan. 28, 2013 print edition of Travel Agent..