Diane Bower is a vivacious top-selling independent contractor affiliated with America's Vacation Center and based out of her home in Charlotte, NC. One of her claims to fame: She once closed a sale on horseback. Agent Bio
"My daughter takes horseback riding, and I usually get on a horse during her lesson," says Bower. "I'm on a horse, I'm on a muddy trail, and I get a call on my cell from a client looking to book a Seabourn cruise. I tell her, 'I'd be happy to discuss this with you,' and I talked for 12 minutes before she could get a word in...I jumped off the horse, got out a pen and paper, wrote down the credit card information and reservations numbers, thanked her, then got back on the horse."
That scene is representative of Bower's crazy life, and she wouldn't have it any other way. "I work so hard," she says. "I work every day, and I take my laptop with me on cruises. You have to be a lunatic to work as much as I do and bring in the amount of business I do," she continues. "Sane people are way too slow; I'm always going at 110 miles per hour." Bower has three daughters, one of whom is an AVC-affiliated independent contractor with a high conversion rate in her own right.
While she's relatively new to the industry, selling travel seems to come naturally to Bower, who is 42. "I've only been selling travel for five years, and I can't believe how easy it is," she says. "I originally took the position just until I found something else, and I'm still waiting; this is too much fun." She moved from a tech job to work for the agency with which she had been booking travel, MyTravel.com, where she started in the call center shortly after 9/11. "I was the number-one seller for every month until March 2004," she says. Her dissatisfaction with her situation was growing, and that's when she began to consider becoming a home-based agent. "I thought, 'Why do I have to clock in and out?' There was constant harassment from management; it was so restrictive, so limited," she recalls.
"I met someone on a cruise who was working for AVC," she continues. "At the time I wasn't interested, but I talked to [AVC owner] Brad [Anderson] all summer, and one day I called him [and said], 'Give me a contract, I'm ready.'" She made her first sale in September '04, and has since risen to the elite ranks of independent contractors, having broken the AVC monthly sales record in consecutive Januarys.
Anderson says that if she continues at her current pace, Bower has a chance to top $5 million in sales during 2007. She books mostly Royal Caribbean and NCL cruises, as well as some Carnival and Oceania. "My bread and butter has always been the mass-market cruise lines," says Bower. She stresses the need to find a niche and stick with it. "I am not a jack of all trades, master of none," she says. "There's no money in that; you have to be a specialist. I also sell a lot of add-ons, trip insurance and pre- and post-cruise trips."
Bower utilizes her "leisure" time—and her three daughters—to meet potential clients. "I talk to everyone," she says. "I don't sit with my kids during flights; we split up and work the plane. We're all very social, and I can't tell you how much business we've gotten from flights between Charlotte and Orlando, all people going on cruises." Being social while staying in shape has also paid dividends. "I've sold everyone at the gym a cruise or a vacation, and at least one person they know a cruise or vacation, and I get a lot of referrals." —Dan Butcher