|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
Are you working from home or in an office that doesn’t have a storefront, and starved of new contacts? Here are some tips to increase your networking skills and up your profits.
Compile all the business cards you’ve collected in the past six months. Maybe they’re still stuck in your wallet or your purse or in a drawer. Try to recall the conversations you had with each person and then devise a reason to call them. Was it with a regional sales rep who told you her company has co-op money to share with you to promote her cruise line? Was it a woman you met while standing in line at the supermarket who asked you where you got your great canvas bag that has “Jamaica” inscribed on it, who was thrilled to hear you are a travel agent because she can’t for the life of her find someone to help her with her family reunion?
Hit the phones now, but be sure you take some good notes before initiating the call. You don’t want to sound as if you’re just dialing for dollars.
Ask for referrals. If you have a list of clients who have been quite happy with the itineraries you’ve planned for them lately, give them a call and ask them if they have any friends who have been talking about taking a trip. There’s been amazing coverage in consumer publications about the high value of having the right travel advisor, so you should consider yourself a hot commodity these days. Consumers are still not certain how they can find a good travel advisor, since many of you have gone virtual and no longer have offices on Main Street that they can drop in on.
Create referrals for your clients. Jot down what they do for a living and see if there are any synergies among them. Perhaps Diana Smith should network with John Jones because they’re both small business owners in a city dominated by large corporations. Maybe one is a fledgling importer who visits Asia often, and the other spent years living in Singapore and Hong Kong and knows all the top business people in those cities or is simply savvy about the best places to eat there. Host a networking party to bring all these good people together. Keep them aware that you’re their best contact for travel, but let your people skills shine as the conduit who is enhancing their businesses for once. They will love you for it.
Is your significant other retired or free during certain times of the week when you’re not? Ask them to sign up for group activities or networking groups so that they can be your liaison in the region. Load them up with your business cards so they can serve these up when the conversation turns to cruising or trekking in Nepal. It will get them out of the house and perhaps you’ll come up with some new friends to boot.
We’re talking a lot here about handing out your business cards, but don’t forget to ask for their card in return. Only then can you reach back out to them without stalking them in the checkout line at Whole Foods Market.
Speaking of which, don’t ignore the growing trend of neighborhood natural supermarkets. Perfectly ordinary people are becoming dairy-free, gluten-free and vegans. Foodies are big business. Fussy foodies can be even bigger business if you truly cater to their concerns and their desire for enhancing their discriminating palates.
Hope this helps. Give some of this a whirl and let us know how you do!