Have you ever been scrolling through social media and see photos of a friend or family member on vacation, only to realize they didn’t book it with you? Any travel agent who has been in business for more than a few months has had that experience. But knowing it happens to everyone doesn’t make it any easier!

Many travel agents are perplexed about why their friends and family don’t book with them. In many cases they never even talk to you about their trip. And why is that? While there are lots of different scenarios, I think it boils down to this:

They don’t really understand what you do.

Most travel agents assume people know what they do and the benefits of working with them. That is simply not true. Many people don’t know that travel agents are still around, and those who used to work with an agent probably assume that you are a human booking engine. They don’t understand the depth and breadth of knowledge you have and – more importantly – the connections you have to get the most from their vacation budget.

So, how do you make sure they do know what you have to offer so they will book with you?

First, you need to qualify friends and family just like everyone else. Everyone is not your client – even if they are related to you. Sure, you can talk travel with Uncle Jack at the annual Christmas party, but that doesn’t mean that you really want his business. Is the type of travel he does in your wheelhouse? Is it something you really want to do? Sometimes those “quick and easy” bookings turn into nightmares. Save your bandwidth for your ideal client.

After you have qualified the friend/family member/potential client, recognize that the holiday party isn’t the best place to have an in-depth conversation about what you do. There are far too many distractions to have an in-depth conversation. Tell Uncle Jack you would love to help him with his travel (people really respond to having someone say, “I want to work with you.”), and ask when a good time would be to get together one-on-one. It’s important to know their timeline because many people are going to be booking travel in January, which is less than 2 weeks from now! They may want to get together in a few days. Or they may not be in that much of a hurry.

Also, keep in mind that they may not realize that you can assist them if you don’t live nearby. Assure them you can – and do – work with clients all across the country.

If the person you are talking to doesn’t have any immediate plans, make sure to get their email and physical address so you can put them on your mailing list. (If you don’t currently send out a regular email newsletter – that is the number one thing to put on your 2020 to do list because they work!) If your agency or consortia has print pieces you can send them, make sure you sign them up for that. Our agency is a member of Virtuoso and I would want them to receive Virtuoso Traveler – which is designed to both inspire people to travel and understand the value of working with a travel advisor.

What to do with those clients who aren’t a good fit but want to work with you? Tell them that your area of expertise isn’t a good fit for what they do and refer them to a colleague who does do that.  And when you run into those people who are certain they can plan and book their own travel better than any travel agent out there, just file that information away so you don’t waste time and money marketing to them. There are lots of people who love planning and booking their own travel, and while they probably aren’t getting the value from their budget they think they are, you will never convince them to let you help. That’s OK. That’s not your client. Just move on!

The bottom line is that friends and family aren’t great prospects just because they are friends and family. They are only great prospects if their travel interests match your specialty. But it is your job to educate them about what you do and how it can benefit. Don’t assume they understand what you do, because they probably don’t.