You Can’t Afford to Work for Free!

Commission-based jobs can be great in so far as there is no cap on how much you can earn. The downside, of course, is that you only get paid if people buy.

As a travel agent, the added hazard is that most of the information and pricing that is available to you, is also available to anyone else with an internet connection.

The further complication is the number of unscrupulous people out there, who have no problem pumping you for information, and then use your advice and expertise to go book it online.

So how does as travel agent manage either the unscrupulous, or those that simply can’t seem to make decision? Here are a few strategies we employ to minimize this problem:

  1. Give priority to those prospects who are repeat clients or referrals. These people have already been sold on your services, so it is unlikely they are going to play games with you.
  2. Place a value on your time. Unless it is a repeat client, we won’t book products of low value, or with little commission. It takes just as long to book a $10,000 trip as it does a $1000 trip, so you need to refuse certain bookings. Occasionally you may get an indication from a prospect that some low value booking may lead to something greater, in which case you want to make an exception to the above rule.
  3. Set a time limit. We spend a maximum of 10 minutes with a prospect unless they offer some indication that they are going to book. Some people seem to just want to talk, but never want to buy. You need to politely excuse yourself after your time limit has been exceeded and move on to a higher value prospect.
  4. Don’t price-match. If someone calls us and says, “We want to go on this trip on this day, and we saw it advertised for this price”, we advise them to book it where they saw it advertised. Even if you can meet the price (which usually you can), you don’t want clients that are motivated solely by price. The reality is that the on-line agencies cut their commission to offer slightly lower prices. They are able to do this by handling tremendous volumes, and paying their poorly trained staff very little. They also add booking and cancellation fees. Don’t be tempted to cut your commissions – this becomes a race to the bottom.
  5. Don’t book air. There is no commission for booking air, and we don’t feel comfortable charging our customers a fee to do so. We recommend customers do their own air, and we generally don’t book hotels or rental cars either. The one exception of course, is for high-value customers who we are already making a good commission from. These clients we don’t hesitate to do these things as a courtesy out of respect for the large purchase they have made with us.
  6. Use a ‘plan to go’ fee. If a prospect presents a complex request that will require a great deal of research, we acknowledge that right away. We simply tell them that their request will require some research, which we would be happy to conduct – but not for free. We deal mostly with cruise products, so generally we suggest to prospects that they pay a $100 fee up front for us to conduct their research. When they book, we will give them a $150 on board credit in addition to any other credits they may be eligible for. This a great deal for the client, because they get an additional $50 they would not have gotten, and it’s a great deal for us because we ensure we’re not wasting our time doing research for someone who has no intention of booking.

Ultimately, you need to have respect for your own time, and make sure you minimize the amount of work you end up doing for free. You need to do this unapologetically.