David Walsh is a numbers guy.

Walsh, the owner of CWCruises in Bradenton, Fla., an affiliate of Avoya Travel, has consistently monitored certain metrics throughout his career in sales, and it's paid off. He has been in travel since 2006 and was recently named a 2017 Pacesetter by American Express Travel.

Pacesetters are selected based on their sales performance, customer service and involvement in the agent community, among other factors.

Walsh's interest in using metrics to run his business started before he was in travel, when he was in other sales positions, but it has translated well. He tracks his closing ratios, average sale, average commission and more, and he uses those metrics to help him achieve his goals.

He is projecting that his agency will do more than $5 million in sales in 2018.

"The very first thing that nobody can help you do except for you is to choose what it is you want to accomplish," Walsh said. Then, he continued, you can use numbers to figure out how to get there, right down to details like how many calls can be made, how many emails can be read and sent and how many legitimate contacts can be touched over a period of time.

Once a goal is set, the most important metric agents can track is their close ratio, Walsh said.

"The more experience you gain, the better you will be at predicting where you'll end up; and also, if you have a certain goal, what you need to do to reach the goal," he said.

Walsh himself determines a goal, then breaks down what he needs to do to achieve it every quarter, month and even daily with a to-do list. It comes down to time management. Another important metric to follow is your percentage of returning customers; that number, he said, should be anywhere from 40% to 60% of business.

Walsh also tracks world events. In 2015, he forecasted that European travel would be down the following year, and he made sure his agency was ready to sell areas like Asia, the South Pacific and South America. He was right about Europe, and his agency's sales grew in a year that many did not.

"What's happening in the world, if you're [politically] left or right or in the middle, is affecting your customers and their travel plans," he said. "You've got to be prepared if a customer doesn't want to travel to a particular area."

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI