South Florida NACTA Membership Director, Ed Davis, uses his background in the technology industry to great effect in the travel world, where he specializes in adventure travel, leisure getaways, and specialty vacations at Sea Sun & Tee Travel.
Yet he relies on the personal touch to find business. Davis finds that the data management and ease of access provided by technology tools couples well with the relationships he builds through personal contact.
Davis notes that in finding new business, connections provided through family and friends—where establishing a relationship is part of establishing trust—often make good leads. But joining a business-networking group is one of the best moves a travel consultant can make. It will provide contacts and leads, and can also help you hone your presentations skills and develop your 60-second speech. When the opportunity arises, Davis suggests asking for permission to call or e-mail new leads, then doing so within a short time frame. “Find out what they’re looking for, and provide two options—don’t overwhelm them with choices.” He is also quite intentional about whom he reaches out to. “I don’t use blast e-mails. If I see a Disney or golf special, I send it to a specific client list. It’s important not to overwhelm their inbox.”
Using technology to simplify this approach is one of Davis’ tricks of the trade, but he advises travel consultants to tread lightly when it comes to using technology— particularly social media and e-mail. “Enter gently. Don’t go in and start pushing every button if you’re not tech savvy. Consider your business and marketing plan. Participate in webinars and training. Consider taking a community education or college class to learn a new program. Take the time to walk through a system’s tutorials and help menu items, to become acquainted with its tools.”
Davis also acknowledges that tech training can be overwhelming. Choose wisely, he suggests. “Prioritize what you’re spending your time on. Be choosy about training sessions and webinars. Know what’s going to help your particular clients.” More important advice: “Quality check all drafts before they are published, for both layout and content. Send them to a friend to open up on their cellphone. Just because they look good on your computer screen doesn’t mean they’ll open up the same way.”
One simple tech tool Davis has used to great effect is Excel. He uses the spreadsheet to manage clients’ basic data and preferred method of contact, and adds “interest” columns that include bike, hike, golf, wine, and other items. “I can filter the data and create a mailing list directly from Excel.” If you’re still keeping client notes in manila folders, Excel might be the one tech tool you want to learn this year.
Still, Davis never loses his personal touch. “Call before a client goes on a trip. Check in on them about travel documents, contact numbers, and other things they might need. Call to follow up afterward. Even if you prefer e-mail or texting, call.”
Written by Jennifer Reynolds.