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Earlier this month, Virtuoso held its annual Travel Week in Las Vegas, and nearly 4,500 attendees participated — a record for the event. Besides speed dating-style networking meetings for suppliers and Virtuoso travel advisors, there were also a lot of practical business and sales strategies discussed.
In one meeting I attended, Virtuoso chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch pointed out an interesting aspect of the advisor/client relationship. He said that the sales process often starts with a customer focused entirely on the advisor’s destination knowledge, but over time, the customer comes to value the advisor because of the chemistry between the two of them. In fact, the client eventually trusts the advisor with all kinds of vacations, regardless of the destination.
“The client is ultimately saying: ‘The important thing is that you are an expert in me — in what I like and what I want out of my travels,’” said Upchurch.
Upchurch believes that if there is a good advisor/client relationship, the client knows that the agent will use his or her network of connections to make up for any lack of expertise. Being honest with a client and developing a strong personal connection is crucial to building the relationship.
As Upchurch said in his Travel Week opening remarks, Virtuoso’s travel advisors are serving two types of core clients: those who benefit from an advisor’s expert knowledge of particular travel destinations or products and those who benefit from a specialist in that specific traveler.
“In either case, there is a relationship with trust, value and collaboration as the basis,” said Upchurch. “With so many ways of researching and booking travel today, our real value lies in the totality of the relationship between the advisor and the client throughout the travel life cycle. If working with a travel advisor is seen as just another way of booking travel, we have probably lost before getting started.”
Expertise is important, but travel advisors ultimately can’t know everything about every destination. By becoming an expert in your clients’ preferences, you take service to the next level and can win over a client for life.