As business owners, we know that today sales just doesn’t come through the door. It takes time and effort. Tactics and efforts people had used years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. Instead marketing efforts to create and build ongoing sales has changed. Success really involves building relationships, being found, showing your travel expertise, your specializations and then creating your own opportunities.
Don’t Feel Powerless
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re powerless, but it’s important to reverse that mindset. Things have changed and one of the best comparisons I’ve seen and experienced is how to search, find and land a new job today. Years ago, finding and landing that new job was perusing the job ads sections in newspapers. As the Internet came about, people had to transition, searching online through different job boards. But today, successfully finding and landing a new job is not “playing the job board game.” The most successful way is finding key companies you want to work for, get to know people who work there, and utilize diverse ways to do that - LinkedIn, networking, going to as well as creating events, attending conferences within your industry, training, and more.
It really involves a new mindset which is, “What opportunities can I create for myself?”
And this is what we need to focus on when finding ways to grow our businesses. We need to create our own opportunities, and don’t depend on opportunities coming to us.
Create opportunities through relationships
One very savvy travel agent professional I know came into the travel industry after working in a completely different industry – banking. Over the years she’s successfully grown sales for the agency she works for. She’s managed to create opportunities through diverse ways. One? In the area where she works, there are a few different high-end communities where active retired professionals reside. She’s managed to build relationships within those communities. The result? She has several diverse core groups that she creates special cruise and tour itineraries for. And she also escorts these groups as well. They adore her, appreciate her expertise and it’s all come together. Instead of waiting for business to come in the door, so to speak? She’s created ongoing sales opportunities by building genuine relationships.
Another Success Story — Chicago’s Tony P
Tony Paolella is a wonderful success story when it comes to creating opportunities by building relationships. Over the past 15 years, Tony has breathed the Greater Chicago area networking scene. He’s built strong, genuine and trusted relationships with top business leaders in Chicago himself. And he knew he wanted to take this to a new level. The result? He created Tony P’s Networking events with another business colleague and friend, Co-Founder, Greg DeKalb.
They run different events each month, and their goal is to bring people together in Chicago’s professional community, where people can enjoy an energetic, elegant networking experience. It’s not a “pass your business card around” environment. Instead it’s getting to know diverse professionals in a fun, great location, learn more, and building meaningful genuine relationships. Tony P’s Networking events are well attended and a success. I’ve I met some terrific people, and I’ve been building some genuine relationships with these people.
PONANT Cruises’ Edie Rodriguez, Americas Brand Chairman & Corporate Special Advisor
I had the opportunity to talk with Edie Rodriguez, Americas Brand Chairman & Corporate Special Advisor for PONANT Cruises. In our discussions, I mentioned that today, people and their businesses need to stand out. In the travel industry, travel advisors realize they have to specialize, and be known for what they do best. Beyond that? They need to find ways to create new opportunities. PONANT is a terrific example of having a specialized product, along with successfully creating new opportunities as they grow.
Edie and I then discussed a bit more about PONANT. They’ve been in the yacht luxury expedition business for over 30 years. I asked Edie, “Can you share a bit more about the history of PONANT and where they fit into the cruise industry?”
Edie explained, “April 2019 marks our 31rst Anniversary. Started by our founder who was a passionate seaman and acquired three years ago by Groupe Artemis we are extremely well financed. Today we have 8 ships with four more on order and we sail everywhere in the world that you can go to if it is touched by ocean water except the Galápagos. As to where we fit in, our Ships are small with vessels from 62-260 guests. Size does matter and, in this case, small is better. It allows us an intimate environment where guests can be as active or not, as they wish. It is always about the destination and our itineraries are quite special.”
PONANT’s Uniqueness & Growth
Then Edie and I talked more about PONANT and being a leader. I asked Edie, “What has PONANT done to create its uniqueness, leading to new opportunities?”
Edie said, “Our new ships are unique in design as we continue to evolve. In the yacht expedition world, we have been in this business longer than anybody else in the space and with the newest fleet of hardware.”
PONANT continues to grow, with the introduction of its third and fourth Explorer ships this year. Le Bougainville debuts in April and the Le Dumont d’Urville debuts in August. I asked Edie, “What makes these Explorer ships more unique and eye-catching?” Edie shared more, and said, “One is the Blue Eye Lounge, the world’s first underwater passenger lounge. The Blue Eye Lounge is on the other Explorer ships, and PONANT has two more Explorer ships coming in 2020. Additionally, they have an infinity pool with a reverse current for exercising and always heated to 82F that leads to a three-tiered marina platform. They are all named after famous French explorers for modern day exploration.”
PONANT’s Differentiation and Growth
Edie has mentioned that size does matter when it comes to the yacht expedition world. PONANT’s new Explorer class ships accommodate only 184 guests yet have unique features. And this is where PONANT really differentiates itself, and creates new opportunities, including special itineraries. I asked Edie, “Can you share a bit more about those opportunities?” Edie explained,
“Smaller ships allow you to get in to more unique and varied ports and that is what we have created with our itineraries that go around the world.”
Edie and I then covered more about PONANT’s growth, having 12 ships in 2021. With this, PONANT will be offering more unique itineraries, ocean and sea. I asked Edie, “Having the newest ‘hardware’ is where PONANT also elevates the experiences your guests on board can enjoy. Can you share a bit more?”
Edie said, “On board we offer varying lectures and activities to enjoy. In 2021 we will launch the world’s first luxury exploration yacht that will go to the North Pole and many other places. All of our ships are certified Clean Ships and we are very environmentally sensitive.”
Creating Opportunities and Suggestions for Travel Advisors
When it comes to creating new opportunities PONANT excels. I asked Edie, “With your expertise in this area, what suggestions can you provide travel advisors? What should they do to create their own new opportunities as a way to build their respective businesses? And with that, creating ongoing engagement, so these clients continue to book with them, anticipating and enjoying their lifetime experiences, and building memories?”
Edie shared her ideas and explained, “Travel Advisors should register on our website and learn more about us via our training, webinars, collateral, etc. They should then focus on our itineraries and Theme Cruises to start to promote PONANT to grow their PONANT business. They should pay attention to our Quintessential Collection of itineraries, as these are great tool to build group business. Lastly, we have lots of Sales support and they should reach out to their local Director of Sales for marketing and sales support.”
Takeaway Thoughts on Creating Opportunities
Learning to focus on creating opportunities is what travel advisors need more than ever today. It really centers around using and growing expertise along with building genuine relationships, focusing on finding and then creating opportunities.