Connecting With Signature

Kenneth Shapiro I recently attended Signature Travel Network’s annual conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (See our home page at TravelAgeWest.com for full details.) This was the first year the conference was held at the convention center instead of at the Century Plaza Hotel, and it’s a credi

By: Kenneth Shapiro

I recently attended Signature Travel Network’s annual conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (See our home page at TravelAgeWest.com for full details.) This was the first year the conference was held at the convention center instead of at the Century Plaza Hotel, and it’s a credit to the organization’s success that it has outgrown its former digs. In fact, with 1,125 agents and 500 suppliers, the conference and trade show was the biggest in the organization’s history.

Michelle Morgan, the group’s president, sees even further growth ahead.

“Today our network includes 178 members, 300-plus locations in 25 states and 1,000 consumer Web sites, collectively generating over $2.2 billion in annual travel sales,” said Morgan. “Our goal is to continue to attract quality agencies to our network, while remaining true to our business principles and member requirements.”

One of the things that I like about Signature is that no matter how big the organization gets, there is a down-home quality to their conferences. It’s not anything easily described, it’s just a vibe. For instance, Morgan was clearly moved when she honored Ellie Knight, one of the organization’s longtime staffers, who is leaving the group this year. With Signature, there are often these moments where the organization’s leaders let their guard down and are not afraid to show the human side behind their professional exteriors.

This attitude seems to run throughout the organization. The theme of this year’s conference was “connected,” and while many of the speakers addressed variations of this theme from connecting with upscale clients to connecting to the Internet to connecting across generations there was hardly any mention of the obviously strong connection Signature members feel toward the consortia itself.

Nobody would ever accuse Signature Travel Network of not having a solid business approach, yet there is another lesson to be learned from its success. This is a sales-driven industry where personality matters, and while every agent has to be professional first and foremost, letting your guard down and connecting with clients can often help you just as much or more in the long run. K.S.

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