The Transat Distribution Canada Sales Academy, which took place last week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, provided an opportunity for approximately 20 suppliers to interact with roughly 100 travel agents over the course of a week .
Each supplier, 24 in number, had 45 minutes to offer agents some concrete advice to better sell their respective products.
"All suppliers agree that a 45-minute presentation is a luxury in our business," said Andrea Mendelsohn, Windstar Cruises representative.
Getting to know the agents
By staying several days there, suppliers, often business development directors from a region in Canada, were able to enjoy networking dinners in order to get to know certain agents. "I cover a large territory in Quebec, so I do not know all the agents," said Valérie Gagnon, business development representative at Transat. "In addition, some are external, so it's a great opportunity to get to know these agents."
The statements were echoed by Trafalgar. "I love the fact that we can talk with almost all agents, face to face," said Jason Stremble, Trafalgar sales manager for the Greater Toronto Area. "It was important for me to stay the whole week to show our support to TDC, but also to the agents."
Nancy Laverrière, Transat Vacations St-Bruno
A specific product
The four training days were organized by themes: Europe, South, Cruises and Luxury, and provided the opportunity for suppliers to give some tips for selling the right product to their customer.
For Sabrina Gréca, Norwegian Cruise Line's manager of strategic accounts in Canada, agents need to experiment with a cruising itinerary to better sell this product, which, unfortunately, has many prejudices, from seasickness to concerns about the cost.
"More than 80 per cent of Canadians have never cruised," said Gréca. "Once an agent has gone on a cruise, they are able to sell it, or at least explain it, which is a big plus. During my training this week, I dismantled every objection. I gave them the words to confidently approach a sale cruises. The number of direct sales of cruises continues to grow due to the lack of training of agents in this area."
NCL will soon launch its online academy in French, for French-speaking agents.
Confidence is key
Mélanie Fortier, Trade Commissioner at Tours Chanteclerc, gave two trainings this week, one for Europe, the other for Luxury, to Quebec agents. "For high-end products, the agent must be confident and reassuring because we are in one of the few areas where the customer will pay a large sum of money but leave the agency without anything in hands," Fortier explained.
Like Mélanie Fortier, Charmaine MacDonald, director of national accounts, Canada, for Tauck, is a former travel agent. "Agents have the toughest job in the industry. If something goes wrong, it always falls on them. This kind of sales academy is an excellent idea. If it had been 15 years ago, I will certainly have done it!"