Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
As I write this, I’m attending Virtuoso Travel Week at Bellagio Las Vegas, where a record 4,842 attendees are holding more than 450,000 face-to-face meetings. It’s an impressive showing that brings together the world’s top suppliers and advisors in the luxury travel niche for practical business meetings, brainstorming and networking.
As part of the opening session, author Daniel Pink, whose books include the bestseller To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, shared some of his sales insights. In particular, Pink asserted that the old maxim “let the buyer beware” is out of date. Today’s sales environment is best described as “seller beware,” because consumers now have access to the same raw information as the salesperson. As a result, successful businesspeople should focus on knowing their customers and finding the problems they will inevitably miss in their research. By being attuned to their clients’ needs and solving problems before they even arise, travel agents can affirm their value to clients.
Virtuoso agents are already masters of sales, as evidenced by the fact that they account for more than $15.5 billion in travel sales annually. But times are continually changing, and if agents want to stay relevant, they need to adjust to a different sales environment. Virtuoso has a number of unique programs that take travel planning in new directions — and we’ll take a closer look at some of those in the next few months — but its overriding philosophy, which Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch passionately referred to during his opening remarks, is that travel advisors bring the human element to an enterprise that is, at its core, about personal growth. Due to this emotional aspect of travel, agents will never be entirely replaced by online sites.
However agents go about it, their goal should be to maximize the precious vacation experiences of their clients. Travel Week is so special because it celebrates this important endeavor. And for this week, at least, thousands of professionals are focused on the best ways to make their clients’ dreams come true.