Home-based agent Melissa Erskine, eager to build her groups business, knew to keep her eye out for a ‘pied piper’, a key client with a strong network of contacts. And boy, did she ever find one.
Erskine, based in Burlington, ON as a Travel Specialist and Owner of iDream Travel, part of Nexion Travel Group (Canada), made a great connection with a woman who runs a family Facebook page that has over 120,000 followers. “She asked if I would be interested in organizing a group trip over the school Spring Break 2019.” Erskine got to work and the rest is history.
Erskine was recently honoured with the Rising Star Award at Nexion Travel Group’s annual conference, CoNexion. The event took place aboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas.
Erskine’s sales have grown threefold over the past year. She joined the travel industry following a career in social work and now specializes in family-focused cruise groups.
Sphere caught up with Erskine to ask about her sales success.
Sphere: Your three-fold sales growth is amazing. What sent your sales skyrocketing?
Erskine: “My turning point was attending Cruise360 back in April and taking a course in developing group business. I enjoyed it so much that I skipped another seminar to take a more advanced course in groups.
“I had connected with a ‘pied piper’ who runs a family Facebook page in our area that has over 120,000 followers. She asked if I would be interested in organizing a group trip over the school Spring Break 2019.
“I was going to arrange something at an all-inclusive resort, but instead, the training I did at Cruise360 inspired me to arrange a group cruise.
“Within the first 24 hours I had over 300 requests from families hoping to sail on my Royal Caribbean group cruise.
“Currently, I have more than 90 cabins booked for my group cruise. I was able to accommodate a few other larger families on different sailings as there were no more large cabins left.
“Making the connection with the ‘pied piper’ in my niche market has helped me to increase my business this past year.”
Sphere: What are 3 best practices for finding new business and closing sales that you find have really worked for you?
Erskine: “First, connect with a pied piper or niche group of people with something in common and look for ways to create an experience for them. A group travel experience is a great way to connect people and increasing sales.
“Second, when creating a vacation group experience, offer value outside of the typical ‘cookie-cutter’ trip that cannot be easily replicated. For example, during my group cruise, I will be present onboard and be offering a special ‘welcome party’ for my guests filled with surprises.
“Third, selling my value. I have found that telling my prospective clients about how booking with me at iDream Travel will be beneficial to them. For example, how I will provide full support while clients are in destination should any issues arise, or that I will assist in pre-booking excursions or special meals.”
Sphere: What are 3 ‘worst practices’ that you avoid at all costs?
Erskine: “1. Not following up with clients or prospective clients. 2. Not participating in training opportunities from organizations like Travel Leaders, CLIA or through suppliers. 3. Not keeping up with my social media.”
Sphere: What skills did you develop in your career in social work that really work well for you in your career as a travel agent?
Erskine: “The ability to listen to people and hear what they are saying is a skill I was able to transfer over to my new travel career. It has been valuable in qualifying prospective clients as to the best travel options for them. And the skills I learned in keeping good case notes has really helped me to keep great documentation for my business.”
Sphere: Why did you choose Nexion and what do you like most about their program?
Erskine: “Nexion Canada has been an integral part of my success as a travel agent and business owner. I chose them after a lot of research of host agencies available in my province. They offered the best option for training and education to someone who was new to the travel industry.
“Nexion Canada’s affiliation with Nexion in the U.S. and Travel Leaders Group has ensured that I have great relationships with suppliers at the best possible commission levels. Nexion also has a yearly convention called CoNexion that is invaluable in connecting with other agents and suppliers.”