7 Ways To Work With BDMs
Pros deliver info on building business partnerships

with Martha Chapman

Rhonda LaFosse with Ron Lonsdale

Cynthia Perry and Rob Blowes

Appreciative agents pleased to pick up tips on how to improve their businesses

I cringe to say it: they were once called brochure bunnies.

They were the supplier sales reps who would visit your office to drop off the latest brochure, have a perky chat and generally be the smiling face of the company.

As with everything else in our business, that has changed. Today the role of the Business Development Manager is much more about ensuring the building of lasting relationships.

That was the theme of a well-attended breakout session at this week’s TravelMarketPlace East conference in Toronto. The lively panel comprised Marriott’s Cynthia Perry, Rob Blowes of CWT Blowes in Stratford, Ont., Rhonda LaFosse, Independent Consultant and Collette’s Ron Lonsdale, along with moderator Scott Koepf of Cruise Planners. Without further ado, here are seven great tips on how to work with your BDM:

l) Think how they think. If your sales with them are weak, will they want to lavish you with attention and dollars? As LaFosse stressed, it’s a give-and-take.

2) This was probably the most impactful tip we received: Request an annual meeting with your BDM to discuss a joint marketing plan. Be prepared with your sales figures (ideally by destination and itinerary) and a proposed plan including, for example, social media, advertising, direct mail and consumer events. According to Koepf, it will knock their socks off since so few travel retailers come so well prepared to the table. Note: chances are the supplier will throw 1-3% of your annual sales total into the marketing hat.

3) If you’re an independent, your sales totals may be “lumped in” with your host agency. Be sure your BDM is aware of how much you contributed to that.

4) They LOVE groups and will do whatever they can to make your groups happen. And they’ll remember you for it. 

5) Think how they think (see Tip #1) by being proactive, asking them where they need help – such as Puerto Rico right now, according to Perry. If you can turn some business their way in needy destinations, departure dates or hotels you’ll score big points. 

6) Don’t just think supplier. Think tourist boards and hotel chains, who might not be aware of your sales to a destination or hotel chain through, say an ITC supplier. Document that and you may have the ingredients for a pitch to that destination or chain. They have marketing dollars, too.

7) Say thank you. Yes, BDMs are there for the bad times, for the customer complaint times. But remember to thank yours with an email or even handwritten note when things go right. They need a pick-me-up (just like you do) and will remember you. As the old saying has it, “People buy from people,” and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.

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