Gillian Williams was crowned Leisure Agent of the Year at the Travel Weekly Agent Achievement Awards 2016 in recognition of her staggering sales record and excellent customer service. Here, The Cruise Village homeworker tells us her selling secrets.

Q. How long have you been a homeworker?
A. Just for the past two years. When I first came to The Cruise Village I would work in the front shop and also log on from home in the evenings, but I now work full time from my little office.

Q. Why do you think you were picked as Travel Weekly’s Agent of the Year?
A. That is a tough one as everybody in the category is so great and each deserve to be recognised. Hopefully my passion for my job and for my customers shone through. I love the industry we work in; I truly value the relationship I have with my customers and suppliers alike and I thoroughly enjoy helping my customers plan the holiday of their dreams and making the experience as stress-free as possible.

Q. Are you planning to use or publicise your award to customers? How do you think it will help?
A. I am quite modest and struggle to shout about my success. Having said that, I have been telling all my customers. I think it might boost their confidence in me and show them just how passionate I am and could even give them that extra little reason to book with me. I have also been interviewed by the Southport Visiter newspaper. As a homeworker, looking after the Southport division of The Cruise Village, it is important for me to share my success with locals and build awareness of who I am and what I do, encouraging customers to book local.

Q. What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a homeworker?
A. I have never been afraid to take a chance. If you believe in yourself then you will succeed. Working from home was a really big step for me but I have lovely colleagues, a great support team and there is always someone at the end of the phone to help me. A lot of people ask if I get lonely but I am always on the phone or busy emailing that I don’t have time to notice I am on my own.

Q. What do you sell most of?
A. I would say it is a good mix of ocean and river cruises.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
A. Knowing when to stop working! My colleagues will tell you, I never stop.

Q. How do you attract new customers?
A. I get a lot of customers through word of mouth. I also use social media and host events. I have a good relationship with a Tea Rooms restaurant in my area where I have hosted three successful events over the last 18 months, with a fourth coming soon. Both social media and my events have attracted new customers and have proved to be a great way of becoming known in my local area.

Q. What’s the secret to good customer service and keeping clients loyal?
A. I love to listen to the customer and really get to know them. Quite often we will have a lovely conversation about their family or what they have been up to recently before we even get around to discussing their holiday. Hopefully you will never hear me sounding like an ‘order taker’ – I expand and elaborate on all areas of their chosen holiday and give examples from my personal experiences. I treat customers like family.

Gillian’s sales tips

Listen to the customer and be genuinely interested in what they are telling you.

Ask questions to learn what is important to the customer so you can find the best holiday.

Imagine the customer is a family member or close friend and treat them accordingly.

Gillian’s CV

2014-present: homeworker, The Cruise Village

2012-14: retail manager, Thomson

2009-12: key account manager, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises

2004-09: travel adviser, Lunn Poly/Thomson

2003-04: travel adviser, Airtours

2001-02: guest relations, RCCL