Andy La Gette joined Travel Counsellors in November 2016 after working in travel for 20 years. He spoke to us about how he built up a successful business, despite having no database of customers, when he decided to start his own travel business and join the Travel Counsellors family.
I had been working in travel for 20 years before becoming a Travel Counsellor, but the last 10 of those I was in a Management position so I wasn’t doing many front line sales and I didn’t have many customers I felt would come with me. This meant I had to start with a clean sheet. So, I decided to take a different approach to finding new customers, and identified groups of people who I could approach to start building my customer base.
Friends and family
The first group were friends and family. I made it clear I was not just looking for passive support; I didn’t want just a message of good luck and a list of their friends. So I asked each of them to speak to three of their contacts before sending me their details. I did feel a bit harsh asking my friends and family to do this for me, but they were all surprisingly happy to do it. I gathered over 100 new leads from this, and I knew they were high quality. They all knew who I was, exactly what I do and they were all expecting contact from me.
The ‘reconnect’ group was the most daunting, but in many ways the most surprising. I spent a couple of days going through my contacts on social media and finding names from my past, many of whom our only connection was sharing a class in high school! I did feel a bit cheeky and I wasn’t overly confident it would work, but I sent them messages to see how they were and to re-introduce myself. I sent 112 messages out, 32 of them replied and 3 of them booked with me in my first month - a further 2 booked two months after I started. The biggest surprise was a guy who I barely knew at University but now owns his own company and, as a result, I book all of his company flights! It’s amazing that what seemed like a stab in the dark has yielded some great results.
In the run-up to becoming a Travel Counsellor, a made an effort to attend as many events and social occasions as possible. I attended various birthdays, celebrations, BBQs, pretty much anything where there was an opportunity to tell people about my new business.... even a pint in the pub was a chance to meet people. This helped me get into the habit of always being ready to promote myself, and it really paid off when a couple of bookings came from people I had told about my new business.
One time, my barber asked if I could find him a weeks’ holiday ‘somewhere hot in Europe’. I’m from a long-haul background so Europe isn’t really my strong point but I called another Travel Counsellor who I had met on my induction training, and she helped me put some ideas together. I went back to the barber’s shop that afternoon and he booked then and there.
Another time, I was chatting to fellow Dad in the school playground and he asked me if I do ‘anything to do with Portuguese villas’. Again, I called on the help of a fellow Travel Counsellor and within a couple of days he made a booking. Now he has referred me to a number of other people who have gone on to book with me! So I’m really happy I resisted the temptation when he asked about Portugal to say ‘No, I only deal with long-haul’.
So, my main and most valuable piece of advice is go out of your comfort zone. Whether it is approaching new clients, saying ‘yes’ to a destination you’re not familiar with (there are so many Travel Counsellors and people in Head Office you can call on to help you out) or anything else… just go for it!
If you're considering starting your own travel business from home, and you're wondering 'where will I get my customers from?', take a look at our blog for lots of great ideas and tips. Click here to read.