There are many critical conversations about being a travel advisor now. At Travel Weekly's recent virtual CruiseWorld conference, Kimberly Wilson Wetty, owner and co-president of US-based Valerie Wilson Travel, spoke with TravelAge West senior editor Emma Weissmann to share her tips on selling cruises in an age of the pandemic.
To build her own confidence, Wilson Wetty said first and foremost is being honest with herself. It's important to understand and accept that there will be good and bad days.
“Take a deep breath and be kind to yourself," said Wilson Wetty, who regularly practices meditation to help her refocus her thoughts. "Really believe whatever is in front of us, we're going to get through it."
Practice is key, she advised, when Weissmann asked how agents can improve their selling.
"If you’re unsure about selling something, practise. It’s like a muscle, it has to be worked. I practice my 30s pitch in front of my mirror, the more you do it the more you become confident of your rhythm and that will come across when you talk to your customer or supplier.
Reaching out to customers will give travel agents "a far greater opportunity to connect on a level". At Valerie Wilson Travel, there is an initiative called four-by-twelve in place, Wilson Wetty said. Advisors are encouraged to call four of their clients by noon each day to stay in touch.
While not all clients are ready to travel, advisors should nurture the relationships they've cultivated with them over the years and check in on them, she said. And, as her mother taught her, always answer the phone with a smile—clients can hear it through the phone.
Wilson Wetty noted that the pandemic also presents a fantastic opportunity to reach out to potential new cruisers, with the tremendous amount of work that the cruise industry has done to make it a safe way to travel. They can encourage clients by sharing the best practices suppliers are using with regard to sanitisation and health safety protocols, but never make any guarantees.
This current crisis might be a good time for travel agencies to reinvent their business and hone in on the partners who can grow the business together. "Marketing dollars are going to be in shortage as we go into 2021, so you can be more focused on your marketing plan and who you want to be partner with and try to direct the business to a handful rather than everybody... You want to be more targeted than ever at who you’re selling."
Weissmann asked what advice Wilson Wetty would give to younger advisors who may not have the confidence that comes with years of experience.
"I'm always reminded that our seasoned talent learn from the younger talent, it’s a blending of both and like a shaking of hands," she said. A mentor programme can be created for younger advisors to share about skills and confidence in areas where more senior advisors may not have, for instance technology or the ability to speak firsthand about a destination with passion.
"It’s recognising that everyone was given talent, and everyone with that comes confidence."
Keen to hear more from cruise experts on how to drive strong cruise sales? Sign up for Travel Weekly Asia's upcoming CruiseWorld Asia Regional Conference on 15 December. More information about the event can be viewed here.