FORT LAUDERDALE -- Business development managers are a key source of support for travel agents, and new agents shouldn't hesitate to contact them, a panel of BDMs said at Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld.

"Make the effort, don't be shy, don't be timid," said Cindy Christen, BDM for the French luxury expedition line Ponant. "We remember you made the effort to contact us, and we will appreciate it and contact you."

Frank Robleto, BDM in South Florida for Carnival Cruise Line, said new agents are opening their doors every day and it takes a while for them to pop up on his radar screen. "We're not going to know who all of you are," he said.

In addition to phoning them or e-mailing them, some BDMs suggest channels like Facebook or Twitter. "Social media's probably a better way because so many of us are active on it," said Sonny Chatworth, sales director for Up and Away Travel, an air consolidator.

"Show initiative," said Dan Jemez, BDM for Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana for AIC Hotel Group (Hard Rock Hotels). "If I see that you're trying, that's the kind of person I'm going to invite on a fam, that's the kind of person I want to help grow their business," he said.

Lisa Fletcher, director of education and training for Gifted Travel Network, and moderator of the session, said travel agents who are knowledgeable about product but not connected to people are only half-ready for success.

"It's definitely a two-way street in building relationships," Fletcher said. "I'm not going to say it's all who you know, but it's more who you know than what you know."

Co-moderator Lisa Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Travel of West Chesterfield, N.H., told a story of how to use a BDM to get a sale done. She said she was trying to convert a client from a Viking Ocean cruise to Seabourn. The client didn't want a guarantee fare, like on Viking, but a solid cabin assignment.

Fitzgerald called the Seabourn BDM, showed him she had a sale in hand, and got an assigned cabin approved at the guarantee rate. "Show your BDM you're educated. He was happy to return the favor," she said. "The role of a BDM within that company is to generate revenue."


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