One of the quickest and most effective ways to substantially increase your sales is through groups. However, putting together groups and filling them are two very different things. But you don’t have to wait until you have years and years of experience as a travel agent to go after groups.Don’t do what I did! I spent many, many weeks putting together groups that never traveled because I failed at filling them. All that time, energy and effort was lost. Why? I chose the wrong “pied piper.” Eventually, I did put together and fill my very own group with an excellent pied piper and it was awesome. But I learned the hard way what it takes to fill a group.I’ve noticed that many travel professionals have very little understanding of how to fill a group. Typically, they go about it the wrong way. They see a travel opportunity they would love. They hold space. And then they try to fill the space. Your odds of filling a group this way are slim to none if you have no platform.What is a Platform?A platform is an engaged following. A platform can be physical or it can be virtual. In essence it’s the sum of your e-mail list, Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, LinkedIn connections, etc, etc. But it’s not just the sum of these. It’s the engagement with these that’s of value. If you have an e-mail list with 3,000 contacts, but only send the e-mails created by your consortia loaded with supplier specific information, your engagement with that list may not be that strong, which weakens the power of your platform.Most people DO NOT have a platform sufficient to fill their own groups. So what do you do without a platform? Does that mean you can’t go after groups until you build one? No way!The solution: Joint Venture Partnerships. My sister company, the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs has been teaching this strategy for a few years. You can even study it in depth in Module 6 of GIFTE’s Make Money Selling Travel Blueprint, an online learning program that teaches travel agency owners how to establish and implement their very own client attraction plan. Follow this link for more info: www.makemoneysellingtravel.comWhen it comes to the joint venture partnership strategy, we’re not talking about small potatoes. Business owners in the GIFTE community, using this strategy have booked six-figure river cruise groups, traditional cruise groups and land based tour groups that are netting them $30,000 - $75,000 in commission. Yes, that’s for 1 booking.How is it done? The basic concept is to partner with a business owner who already has a PLATFORM of followers that are ideal prospects for the type of travel you want to sell. For example, if you want to put together a River Cruise group because you love the experience, think about the common or shared interests of people who like to go on River Cruises. They are likely to love food, wine, exploring Europe, art, etc. Where are they hanging out on a regular basis? One place is wine bars. Another is small winery wine clubs.Instead of trying to fill the group yourself, partner with a business owner who has these types of people as their existing customer base. For example, as with the above reference to wine bars or wine clubs, you could partner with the owner of the wine bar or winery by offering a revenue share in exchange for escorting the group. So it’s not only a free travel experience with their best customers, they get paid to go on it. And they should! They will be working….hard! The other benefits to the business owner is that it deepens the loyalty amongst their best customers and it’s a very unique thing to do that differentiates them from their competition.Partnering with business owners or heads of non-profit organizations is not just a great idea…it works!!! It’s worked for many members of GIFTE. It’s netted $30,000 - $75,000 in commission. Get 2-4 of those a year and you have a thriving business. It can work for you.So the moral of the story is that if you want to fill groups, you MUST have an engaged platform. It does not have to be yours, and if you don’t have one, you can partner with leaders who do.