In sales, there are certain tenets that are universal regardless of your field of expertise, your product or your area of service. Particularly for hotels, the true salesperson appears to be a dying breed as our properties’ resources are usurped in favor of online distribution and other digital practices. But salesmanship is a universal concept, with a total effort from all departments necessary for success.
Though much has already been written in an attempt to distill ‘the art of the sale’ down to a few omnipresent axioms, hoteliers need to be reminded of these basic principles. They also need to be reminded that sales is a ‘group’ process that requires the engagement of the broader hotel team. It is the leveraging of the services, the processes, the physical plant, the day-to-day associate engagement and the consistency of having productive sales funnels.
My motto is to keep it simple. I’ve brought the following ten basics forward with me throughout my career, and have trained teams to use them effectively. In my 30+ years of executing, designing, training, building, and retooling sales, sales teams and sales-oriented organizations, the following have always been true:
1. Customer Response. The expectation should be that you respond with URGENCY to all customer requests and inquiries – in person (immediately), electronic (2 hours) or telephone (be available on the first call). If you do not, your Competitor across the street will. And if you are not available at the time, you must call back within an hour. It is all about striking when the iron is hot.
2. Partner with your customer and always deliver value. The expectation for your team should be to demonstrate a genuine interest in your customers’ businesses. Build a relationship, plain and simple. Know your customer on a personal level (anniversaries, birthdays, interests, children and so on). Understand the needs, objectives and the nuances of their business. And then share that knowledge with your guest service/internal teams. Remember, this is a ‘service’ industry.
3. Know your competition. Simply put, you must be an EXPERT on your competitors and your market. Know their past, current and future strategies. Pair your internal hotel teams of experts (a sales manager, a front office manager and an engineer, for instance) as a specific intelligence group. They will bring a well-rounded perspective and institutionalize that competitive knowledge.
4. Prime selling time. Even though the business world has ‘looser’ hours these days, you must still make yourself available at a minimum for 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Have the office covered; have the phones covered. Make sure your activities are focused on selling, not meetings. Be selfish and focused on productivity. Fish where the fish are.
5. Leverage all sales channels and resources. Understand the overarching sales deployment strategy of your organization, not just your role or territory. Maximize all sales channels that provide value to you, will expand your market, and will assist in your customer acquisition. Do you have a referral program?
6. Build business acumen. Start with your job description. Do you have all the relevant skills? What about that next position you are eying? Do you actually have those skills? Continue to take the necessary training to keep your skills updated and to keep you on a continuous path of professional growth. Mentor and train at all levels. Be cognizant of the business rationale for pricing. Understand the hotel’s sales strategies and be able to discuss them with your Customers.
7. Involve executive leadership in the sales process. Introduce the general manager and the rest of the senior executive team to your customers. Then assign key accounts to executive team members. Align executives across functional roles and utilize corporate resources to thank customers and close on business. Match a human resources manager with consumer product accounts, have your comptroller partner with your top banking or finance clients, or marry your engineer with mechanical vendors.
8. Customer correspondence. Create customized, customer-focused and error-free correspondence, regardless of the medium used. Ensure proposals are part of the sales process, clearly articulating the customers’ objectives and how they will benefit from working with you, while also defining what makes you, your product, or your service truly unique. Bring solutions and value to your customer at each and every interaction.
9. Ask for the business. So many people fear this part but as I’ve seen so many times before, you MUST proactively ask for the business! Ensure that all communication contains mutually agreed upon action steps to move the sales process forward. Particularly when it comes to situations such as large group site inspections, it is critical that those high up in the organizational structure, like the GM and not just the dedicated salesperson, ask for the business while they are on site.
10. Say “Thank you!” and trace for the next actions. Always thank the customer, thus creating a positive impression by acknowledging them in a way they will remember. Reward and recognize valued customers. Follow up after the deal is consummated and after delivery of your service or product. The bottom line is to always have a next step to further develop the relationship.
(Article by Bill Scanlon, published in Hotel Interactive on May 13, 2016)
About the Author
Bill Scanlon is a former member of Cayuga Hospitality Consultants.