Both agents and suppliers need to work well together in order for the partnership to pay off. To do this, you need to build a successful relationship with your partner agents.
This is your chance to learn:
It is crucial to build a successful relationship with agents because it is the agents who can put your activities into the market faster and more often than you can on your own. Not only that, but they can reach markets that might have been impossible for you to reach at all. If you want to distribute your activites worldwide, you’ll need to work with agents.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that don’t need a plan in order to build a successful relationship with agents. You might think that you can do it by just approaching a potential partner and seeing how it all goes.
The problem with this laissez-faire approach is that the customer is king, and in this case the customer is the agent. The agent’s satisfaction with the deal is crucial and that satisfaction is your number one concern when you’re trying to get your products listed on their networks. You need to make sure that you will be able to satisfy the customers they bring to you, because at the end of the day their business relies on them every bit as much as yours does.
The top thing that agents look for is a solid reputation and a quality product. They want to know that you’re an established business with a good reputation and a product that is consistently of a high quality. How can you demonstrate this to them? First of all, you could show them your testimonials page on your website, your Facebook page or your TripAdvisor reviews. Otherwise, you could think about putting together a sales kit. We have an e-book about putting together a professional sales kit that could be worth a read.
Communication is very important to build a successful relationship with agents. They want to know that you can communicate clearly and communicate well. This makes life much easier for them, which makes you a more appealing option. A good way to establish your communication credentials from the get-go is to ask them how they prefer to be contacted – ask them whether they prefer that you email them or call them and get the relevant contact details for each. This demonstrates to them that you are prepared to put in the effort to communicate clearly with them and make it easy.
Agents don’t know everything. They deal with such a diverse range of suppliers and products that there’s bound to be something they haven’t come across yet. Because of this, you need to be prepared to educate them about your product. This means they can sell it more effectively as well as answer any questions that they may get from customers that come to them. You could utilize your website to educate them, or you could prepare marketing materials such as brochures. These should be as easy to distribute as possible, both in hard and soft copy.
Even if you have done all the necessary work to make the agent think you are right for them, you need to make sure the agent is right for you too. You shouldn’t necessarily work with an agent just because they are there – you need to screen them to avoid any wrong partnerships. These are the 7 areas you should look into when trying to decide:
Especially if the agent is in an overseas market that you’re not as familiar with as your home market, you need to determine whether they are financially stable. Ways to establish this are asking about their credit history and rating, as well asking them about their history working with other suppliers such as you. If you’re not comfortable asking these questions straight up, there are professional credit rating systems you can use to check their score and financial health.
If an agent you are considering sells predominantly to senior citizens and you are approaching them with skydiving activities, this agent may not be the best fit for you. There may be some adrenaline junkie grey nomads out there, but that is a low-percentage play at best. This is why you need to ask them about their relevant experience and their customer base. You could ask them about how much experience they have selling activities to your ideal customer base and how well they know how to appeal to them. These are all talking points you can use when approaching a potential distribution partner to establish that they do in fact have the knowledge and the ability to sell to the audience you want to reach.
It makes pretty logical sense that if you’re entrusting the selling and distribution of your business to someone else, you want to know they’re good at what they do. To establish this, you want to understand how well the agent manages their business. You could ask them questions such as how long they have been in business, what sort of achievements do they have with other suppliers like you, or what sort of reviews from reputable sources they have and can show you. It’s all about getting a feel for their level of professionalism and competence so it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for reviews from your end as well.
The important elements here are the actual tangible assets the agent uses to run their business and serve their customers (and yours!). How up-to-date is their technology? Is their technology set up to sell products online? Another aspect to consider is their staff. Do they have enough staff to handle enquiries?
This is a similar consideration to the agent’s relevant experience. You need to understand how well you fit into their business plan. Try to get them to give you a sales projection for your products and how they plan to achieve that projection. This is with the aim of making sure that they are genuinely interested in your success. Possible screening questions you could ask them would be what they like about your product (to prove they have thought about it in-depth), or whether they might possibly represent any of your competitors.
This one is a no-brainer. You want an agent to sell your product for you, so you need to make sure they can actually sell it. You want to establish what resources they have to offer in their sales team, such as the level of staff training they provide and the policies they use to motivate their staff. This is all about understanding how their resources will work for you because, as we’ve said before, partnering with an agent is entrusting your product to someone else, so you want to make sure they know what they’re doing.
Similarly to establishing whether their sales team is cut out to sell your products, you need to establish their marketing credentials as well. You are partnering with them ultimately so they drive more sales for you in the long-run, so you want to make sure they can actually achieve that. How you can establish whether they are set up to do this is to ask whether they have a clear marketing plan and budget and a good network of contacts. You may have heard the expression “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well in this business, it’s both what and who you know. If the agent doesn’t know what they’re doing or doesn’t know the right people, it’s going to be a futile exercise partnering with them to improve your sales.
Once you have determined which agent you want to work with, you’ll need to draw up a contract for your agreement. The most obvious contract elements is how and how much you’ll pay them (monthly fee, percentage commission, flat per-sale fee, etc.). You need to make sure there is a clearly established expectation in this area so it’s easy to work out how much you owe them. You should also include your product range in the agreement so expectations about what you’re selling and they are reselling are really clear. Marketing materials are also important in the agreement. If you want to give the agent some leeway in the materials they use to sell your products, that’s up to you. But if you have a brand or a theme that you would like to maintain, or a particular market you want them to focus on, you should make sure this expectation is clear with the agent.
Reporting is another important element to spell out in the contract. They should be providing you with reports of how many sales they are making of your product, where and to whom. This information is crucial because it’s essentially the whole point of why you’re working with them. At the same time, there are reports you owe them as well. These reports focus more on payments, so they should include how much you think you owe them based on the payment agreement you established in the contract. There can sometimes be discrepancies between how much you think you owe them and how much they think you owe them, so make sure you clearly spell out how you arrived at the figure you give them. You should also establish how often you want reports – weekly, monthly, etc. Complaint reporting is another element to consider. If they are receiving complaints about your product, you want to know about it.
Adding an agent to Rezdy is a two-step process at the moment: adding a partner’s catalogue, and then sharing that catalogue.
In the partner’s catalogue, you’ll add the products that you want agents to resell on your behalf. In this catalogue, you can include all the relevant information such as the commission you agreed upon with the agent for each product.
Once you’ve added all the products and commission rates to the catalogue, you share it with the agent. A full walkthrough of how to do this is in the webinar at the top of the page, but in essence the point of this step is that you can provide the agent with a ready-made list of the products you want them to resell for you as well as the relevant information associated with that interaction.
It’s worth mentioning that if you have partnerships with multiple agents and you have negotiated different commission rates with each of them, or if you have a different assortment of products that you want different agents to resell, then it’s usually good to create a separate catalogue for each of them.
If you have the same range of products to resell at the same commission rate across multiple agents, then of course you can use the same catalogue for all of them.
Once you’ve created your catalogue(s), you need to add agents to them. You can either add existing agents you have in your Rezdy Agents List, or if you haven’t added any agents yet, your Agent List will be blank and you can just click on the right-hand side, on the blue button, to add an agent. Once you click that button, you’ll be brought to the Agent Set-up page. Here, you enter their details such as their name, email address and payment terms. You have options such as the customer paying the full price to the agent, making a down payment to the agent, or a full payment to you.
In the same step, you can alter agent permissions. You can give the agent permission to create an order directly in Rezdy, which is something we recommend. If you give them this permission, they will receive an invitation to create a free Rezdy account as an agent, which they can then use to place bookings on your behalf. The second permission is for the agent to be able to override products and prices per order. If you do not want to allow the agent to change your prices, such as if you want to keep your prices static, then simply tick the option to not allow them to do this. The third permission is to allow the agent to update orders attached to their agent code. This would allow them to log into their Rezdy account and change any orders that have already been placed. This would allow changes such as cancellations to be handled directly by the agent, rather than requiring them to call you about it and you needing to handle it. As with the others, you can either allow or disallow this when setting up the agent in Rezdy.
Once you have added the agent, you then choose which catalogue you want to share with them, which includes all the products, commission rates and permissions you set up when creating the catalogue.
And then, moving down the fields, you’ll then want to choose the catalogue that you want to share with this agent. The commissions will then show up according to that catalogue that you’ve chosen. And then, you’ll simply just click at “Add Agent” so that the invitation gets sent to your partner.
For more information about distribution channels, please check out our Distribution Channels for Tour Operators E-book. We’ve provided a link in the webinar as well.
Now that you know how to manage partnerships, you might be interested in setting commission rates for agents.
Try Rezdy for free, we’ll help you getting listed.