The Client Relationship Formula
By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

It’s funny how the topics in travel agent forums change based on how busy advisors are. When they aren’t busy, most topics focus on how to get more clients. When they are busy, most posts are about how those same clients are being unreasonable, indecisive, or generally giving them a headache. Don’t get me wrong, I know that these agents are still incredibly appreciative for these clients but wish they could find a better way for them to work together.


Good news! I have a suggestion that has worked for most agents, and I would like to share it with you.

My “secret formula” works with all types of clients from budget to luxury and is appropriate whether you are working with a first-time client or someone you have worked with before.

Here’s what it boils down to: you must control the advisor-client relationship. Unfortunately, most travel agents don’t do that. Here’s the typical scenario for most advisors:

A client (whether new to you or repeat) reaches out about a trip they want your assistance with. The travel advisor immediately begins asking questions like, “When do you want to travel?”, “How many people are traveling?”, “What is your budget?”

In other words, they want to know what they “need” to know to start getting pricing and quotes together so this trip can be booked.

There are certainly times when this approach works fine. The advisor gets the information they need, provides the client a quote, and the client books. Done!

However, quite often it doesn’t happen that way. You give the client a quote and then they want a quote for something else, or the price is significantly higher than they expected (because their expectations were unreasonable), or the dates need to change.

The reason this happens is because the advisor skipped an important conversation. Whether the client is new or repeat, the advisor didn’t have enough information. They thought they needed just enough information to book the trip, but that’s not what successful travel advisors do! They curate vacations and make dreams come true. To do that you need more information.

Here’s a formula I have found works much better for everyone:

  1. Find out the why
  2. Demonstrate value
  3. Evaluate how firm the plans are
  4. Determine who the decision maker is and their timeline
  5. Get agreement on how you will move forward
  6. Ask questions needed to generate quotes

If you are working with a new client, you need to also add another step between 4 and 5 that is [4a. Explain how you work]

Question number one is all about finding out WHY the client is interested in this trip. You want to make sure you understand what is important to them so you can meet those expectations. Rather than jumping right into the “where are you going/when do you want to go/how many people are going” and then running off to get pricing, you need to determine more about why the client is interested in this particular trip. In doing so, you will know what to include so you can create a trip they will love.

However, you are NOT second-guessing the client. You are just looking for more information. Ask questions like:

  • Have you traveled to this destination/with this vendor before? (If no, what motivated them to pick it?)
  • Are you celebrating or is this trip for a special occasion?
  • What will make this trip fantastic (do they want to relax, see certain sites, have particular experiences, etc.)?

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