Home-based agents are generating more sales than they have since 2011, with an average gross dollar volume of $476,000 in 2015, up 45% from 2014, according to this year's Travel Industry Survey.
Travel Weekly senior editor Jamie Biesiada spoke with Joanie Ogg, co-owner of Ogg Marketing Group and the social community TravelProfessionalCommunity.com, about this evolution.
Q: Why the increase, and why is it happening now?
A: I think the improvement in the economy certainly accounts for the volume increase, because obviously things are better than they were before, in terms of the economy in general.
Additionally, I think that successful home-based agents have really evolved their business mix, and they've gone ahead and developed [niches or specialties]. They've really honed in on, maybe, one or more specific areas that they want to gain expertise in and that they really feel passionate about and that they really want to sell. They then go online with the use of not only CRM tools, which are ridiculously enabling at this point you can do just about anything you want with them and their social media presence and then the footprint that they have themselves with their own web presence.
It allows them to reach, via the internet or via social media, whatever they're using, those potential clients or customers who are within that specific niche and hone in on that.
Q: The survey found that 37% of home-based agents saw an opportunity to make more money at home, which increased with an agents' experience. What is contributing to that opportunity?
A: I think that it just goes along with people being in business for themselves and the responsibility [of owning their own business]. The pressure is there to work hard and get better and hone their skills, and then there's the pride of ownership, the fact that it's yours and it's your business.
Q: Naturally, the data shows that more experienced home-based agents make more money. How are they evolving to be more successful?
A: When they start out, they really don't have a lot of expertise. So what they're doing is probably handling transactions that are not so difficult, more basic if you will, more commodity-type sales: trips to Las Vegas, short-range cruises, less expensive cruises that are much more of a commodity-based offering. And as they gain experience and then also as they realize what they've been selling, and they realize what they really like to sell; that's when they would get into possibly having a niche or a specialty. They get into more complex sales. The more complex the sales transaction, more likely, the more money you're going to make.
Q: Are agents leaving more traditional agencies in favor of being home-based?
A: I'd say around the year 2000 is when things really started to change and home-based agents were gaining identity and respect from the supplier community and the industry in general, and it was suddenly OK to be home-based. It wasn't considered that you weren't taking it seriously. It meant you didn't have to sit behind a desk [in a brick-and-mortar agency] in order to be successful. You could sit behind a desk at home and be as successful with technology. So I think that trend has just been continually going uphill for quite some time now. I don't see that really changing as long as people continue to want to build their own future.