Are you able to communicate easily electronically with the other agents within your network? If not, it's time to rethink your host agency. There's nothing more dynamic than being able to reach out to someone for expert advice when you need assistance with the simplest matter, especially if it's a colleague who is familiar with the way you do business.
Networks can also be used by agents who may suddenly have access to hard-to-get guest rooms at a top resort because someone in their group has just dropped out. Or, they may have just had a bad/terrific experience with a supplier that they'd like to share with their colleagues.
It's vital to your success as a home-based agent to be able to have as much information as possible at your fingertips in real time.
Nexion, a host agency, has just launched Nexion Town, an online networking community program that connects its widespread travel agent members with each other. The goal is to increase collaboration among its agents, which in turn saves those agents valuable research time. As a result, Nexion ends up with a base of agents who are more knowledgeable and who have more time to sell.
Travel Counsellors offers its agents throughout the world the ability to connect with each other. What's unique about TC is that it has a vast membership in the U.K. who are also able to share information on their hometowns. The ability to find out the best, affordable places to dine in London knows no bounds in this case! Some of the large brick-and-mortar agencies (Protravel comes to mind; see Home-Based Travel Agent, February 2008) are able to hook up their home-based members with their Intranet systems, allowing those agents to enjoy working from home and yet be keyed into the savoir-faire of the top agents who are working in offices throughout the country.
Meet face to face
While you are focusing on communicating with agents, don't forget that face-to-face encounters work quite well, too. Take the opportunity to travel to your host agency's conferences and be sure to make the time to get out to the industry events that are scheduled for your area. Webinars are another good way to feel connected with your colleagues. Don't fall into the trap of being too busy to network; share knowledge and learn from your fellow experts in the field!