One of the most important relationships you have as a travel advisor is with your vendor representatives. Whether they are called BDMs (Business Development Managers) or SAMs (Strategic Account Managers) or some other title, their role is to help you successfully sell their product to your client. They do that in many ways from training to problem solving.
Here are 5 ways you can develop and maintain those relationships:
1) Help them get to know you.
BDMs want to know who is in their territory – both those selling their product, and those with potential to sell it. In the old days of brick-and-mortar agencies, it was easy to know who was in a territory because you just walked into the office and met people. In today’s world of home-based agents it isn’t so easy. You should be able to find out who your rep is by either 1) visiting the vendor’s agent site, or 2) ask your host agency (if they won’t tell you, that should be a red flag about the host agency).
2) Be respectful of their time.
These are busy people who are often road-warriors. They work all kinds of crazy hours, but that doesn’t mean you should expect a response at midnight or on the weekend. Sometimes there are urgent situations where we have to reach out to a BDM on the weekend, but very rarely. And it has to be a real emergency which usually involves a crisis while a traveler is on their trip. Not every issue that a client is stressing about is an emergency.
3) Be reasonable in your expectations.
As much as a vendor rep may want to help you, you need to recognize that there are limits to what they can do. Just because there was a storm and your client missed the port of call they were most excited about doesn’t mean that they deserve a free cruise. (Remember, one of your roles as a travel advisor is to manage client expectations.) And remember that threatening to stop selling their product has never motivated anyone – it usually just annoys them. Also be reasonable when you ask for co-op funds or other assistance. Remember that they get lots of requests and cannot say yes to everything. Ask their advice and see if they think it’s a good idea. They have done this a lot and want to invest in opportunities that will have a return on investment, and they probably have a good idea about what works and what doesn’t with their product.
4) Honor Your Commitments.
Have you ever hosted an event and had a bunch of no shows? Frustrating, isn’t it? And it can be expensive too! You planned for catering based on people who said they were coming and at the last minute they canceled or didn’t show up. Sure, things happen. But how often have you simply bailed on an event because you didn’t feel like it? Do you really have to cancel? Or is that “emergency” that popped up something that can wait? Just because a client called and wants a quote shouldn’t mean you rearrange your entire day to respond. And if you commit to a FAM the importance of honoring that commitment is 100-fold. The bottom line is that you don’t want to end up on their “naughty” list (and yes, they all have them!).
5) Don’t forget to say thank you.
While I don’t have any real statistics about this, I would beT that for every thank you email a BDM receives, they receive 25 problem emails. It’s human nature – we are quick to complain and slow to compliment. Be that person that says “thank you”.
Many successful travel professionals will tell you that their relationships with their BDMs and their counterparts have been instrumental to their success. Having an insider in your corner is always a great idea!