Some years back Tom Peters, the well-known management guru, observed that one of his favorite quotations was: “Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be extraordinary.” How many of us truly and consistently choose to be extraordinary in what we do and who we are? Doing so will change your business and your life for the better, it’s really pretty simple and the cost is minimal. You can’t get a better deal than that!
About two-thirds of my consulting clients are medium to large travel agencies and they almost always provide good service to their customers. Sure, a few provide acceptable service and some give excellent service, but the vast majority of them are just “good.” All of them readily agree that constant improvement is a necessity. Yet they almost invariably lump extraordinary with incremental improvement. What I’m talking about is leaping to a new level of service, client relationships and competency.
Why be extraordinary? First, it will help you grow your business exponentially. The sad reality is that only a tiny portion of those selling travel operate at this level. Be extraordinary and you created a highly meaningful differentiator for your business. Being exceptional in all you do will dramatically increase client loyalty and repeat business. It’s also the right thing to do and it just plain feels great when you know you’ve provided exceptional service.
Several years ago, my friend Craig Beal, a very successful travel retailer and Africa tour operator, sent me a book he had read called “Mr. Shmooze” (that’s the correct spelling and it’s by Richard Abraham). Of course, my immediate thought was “What’s he trying to tell me?” But he assured me that there was no hidden message and, in fact, it was an excellent book because it really highlighted what over-the-top, extraordinary behavior was.
While technically it’s fictional, it is based on a real person’s actual behavior and it’s chock full of examples of how, in the simplest of ways, each of us can be extraordinary and do extraordinary things every day. It’s worth the extremely quick read. In the interim, here are some suggestions on beginning your extraordinary journey!
Be passionate about what you do: Happily, travel professionals tend to excel. You love all things travel, particularly your specialty (you do have one or two, right?). Passion alone won’t sustain your business but it’s a must-have ingredient in that blend of skills and traits.
Be competent: Travel professionals are pretty good about learning as much as they can within their specialties, particularly when it’s product- or destination-focused. But generally they can use some serious improvement in selling and marketing skills. Pay attention to those as well and devote the time to getting good at them. Take advantage of your host agency’s or consortium’s marketing and training opportunities. Focus on continuous improvement.
Be committed every day: You have to work hard as well as smart. Like most things in life, once the novelty wears off, you’ll need that commitment to continue along the continuum towards extraordinary. But it’ll be worth it!
Be consistent: Client relationships are extremely important in the success of any business. Most business people fail to continually nurture a blossoming relationship. You’ve worked hard to develop that relationship so don’t let it atrophy after the sale. Continue to be extraordinary at every opportunity and your customers will come back to you for their next trip.
Be self-focused: Recognize that what you have to sell is you and what’s between your ears. Hundreds of thousands of people sell the same products and destinations that you do. While you obviously have to be selling the same places and packages, devote time to demonstrating to your clients why they should be doing business with you. At least part of the reason is because you’re an extraordinary person doing extraordinary things.
Be creative: What will surprise and delight your clients before, during and after their trips, and what will cause them to tell their friends about what you did for them? The whole cycle of vacation planning, traveling and reminiscing is fun. Keep it exciting. Keep them motivated and find creative ways to be in touch regularly. Throughout the year be on the lookout for the opportunities to do something extraordinary for them.
Like beauty, “extraordinary” is in the mind of the beholder, but being an exceptional individual who does exceptional things for your clients will be a key differentiator for you, as well as a foundation on which you can build enduring client relationships and a basis for exponential business success.