Chances are, some of your clients are already feeling a dramatic negative impact from the travails of the sub-prime mortgage market. One of the ways the crisis is affecting the consumer market is that those who were granted loans with relatively low two-year ARM interest rates are now getting hit with increased rates that dramatically increase their monthly mortgage payments. Adding to the problem is the fact that many of these loan holders are having difficulty refinancing because the value of their homes is now less than what they paid. The problem is nationwide, and it's a mess.
These unfortunate loan holders aren't the only ones being impacted by the problem, as the recent declines in the stock market will prove. Although stocks are likely to recover, since, as we are being told, the global economy is actually quite healthy, many of your clients are going to take a robust hit in their personal investment portfolios and in their 401 nest eggs as well.
As a result, it's time to face the fact that a certain portion of your client list is not going to be taking that vacation they always enjoy in the coming months. Because you know that now, you can plan ahead to keep your revenue level intact by focusing your attention on selling vacations to those traveling types who tend to be recession proof.
Here is my list of potential clientele that can help bolster your sales in a soft market.
This is "101" advice, but I suggest you team up with a bridal shop to host a travel night for potential customers. Keep in mind that you're dealing largely with Gen Yers here. They'll be asking you where the hottest destinations are so that they can return home from their trip with bragging rights.
• Destination Bachelor and Bachelorette parties
Close friends are not going to pass up the chance to party together to celebrate a pal's upcoming nuptials. If you've booked one of these trips in the past, follow up now with everyone who traveled to see if any of them have gotten engaged. Tell them you've found a new all inclusive that they must see, and regale them with tales of the nightlife they'll find there.
• Girlfriend Getaways
Women are spending the money to indulge themselves with their friends. If you are up to date on the new hotel spas that have opened over the past year, you'll be well-armed to give your female clientele a reason to travel. If they bite, be sure to follow up with them six months from now when they start to reminisce about how much fun they had.
• Senior Citizen Groups
This age group tends to have their money invested in safer vehicles than stocks, so will be likely to be unaffected by the wildness of the market.
Becoming the agent for a senior center with active members is a gold mine. Don't assume they don't want to spend money. The prevailing thought among many seniors these days is that they aren't taking it with them so they want to spend now. Ask to host a travel night at the center and be prepared to discuss destinations and resorts that provide plenty of activities for those who are very mobile and for those that are less so.
• New Cruisers
Once you've gotten a first-time cruiser hooked on the high seas, they typically look forward to their next sailing. Use the deals that are in the marketplace to find them affordable trip dates and also check to see if there are further discounts for early-bird bookings or for using a certain type of credit card. Be sure, however, not to rebate your commission; your revenue stream is not up for grabs.
Along those same lines, it's probably time to reexamine your service fees. Are you charging according to the same fee schedule you put into affect when the airlines cut commissions 10 years ago? Did you trim your fees after 9/11 to accommodate the softness in the market? If you answered yes to either question, I suggest you call your attorney or tax advisor and ask them if they have raised their consulting fees over the past five to 10 years. Accordingly, raise yours proportionately. Your services are equally valuable, as is your time. Don't undercut yourself by second-guessing the value of selling dreams and selling them well.
Ruthanne Terrero, CTCEDITORIAL DIRECTOR [email protected]