Direct Group Business: The New Frontier for Hotel Sales Teams

Cory Falter

By Cory Falter

Aug 8, 2023

As the business world continues to evolve, hotel sales teams are presented with an opportunity to capture direct group business. From understanding a new target audience to tapping into the growing remote and virtual work culture, there is an abundance of prospects that hotel sales teams can capitalize on.

Let’s dive into how your team can drive new direct group business.

Understanding a New Target Audience

The rise of non-professional meeting planners—administrative assistants or other staff members tasked with planning a corporate meeting—has opened up the market for direct group business opportunities.

These individuals may not have any formal training in event planning, but they still require the same services and amenities as professional meeting planners. The key to success for hotels is providing the appropriate resources and support for these non-professional meeting planners.

It’s important to understand the challenges non-professional meeting planners face and what solutions they are looking for. Then, you’ll want to make sure you have the tools to address this vital segment of individuals.

Here are three ways to set your team up for success.

1. Optimize Your Website for This New Audience

Ensure you have the correct marketing strategy to address their issues and concerns directly.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do they land on your site when they enter their Google search?
  • Do they land on your generic site, or do they land on a specific meeting site that helps them know what you can do for them?
  • How easy is it for them to quickly get answers?

Often a hotel website only speaks to a seasoned meeting planner, assuming you’re there to immediately plan your meeting with a dozen questions to be submitted through an RFP. This can be confusing for the person who was tasked to simply get some answers.

If your website doesn’t quickly answer questions for a newbie planner, you’re alienating this growing segment of potential customers.

For each click they have to make, there is a likelihood they will abandon the process and move on to the next facility.

To attract more direct booking business from the fastest-growing segment of meeting planners, you must critically look at your website from their perspective.

2. Remove Any Barriers

Make it easy to do business with you.

Those professionals who have taken on this “side hustle” have little time to hunt down information. Having a solid group and meeting booking engine on your website is crucial. Often these meetings are smaller, so the individual will feel comfortable planning it all online.

Have a process for this so you turn new prospects into customers, then into long-term raving fans.

3. Lead with Education

Educate yourself and your sellers on how to guide these novices.

They may not know a rooming list or why it’s needed. They may not know the difference between a pre-function space and a ballroom.

Your sales teams should be prepared to provide education, then follow up with the necessary tools to make it easy for them. They also need to know what to communicate to their attendees to ensure they have the best experience at your hotel. This can be done during the selling process or after they have booked.

But if you don’t have a process, it likely won’t happen.

Once you understand how to market to a company’s new information gatherer, it’s your job to bring it all together and make it as easy as possible for them.

Tapping into the Remote Work Culture

The rise of remote work has created an opportunity for hotels to provide working spaces for collaborative gatherings. Hotel salespeople have an excellent opportunity to capitalize on this segment.

People are increasingly turning to these alternative venues—hotels, in particular—for offsite meetings since they offer more flexibility and comfort than a traditional conference room.

How can hotel salespeople capitalize on this opportunity?

They should start by understanding the intent behind a gathering.

People are looking for a space to discuss, brainstorm, and strategize—not just to meet.

The amenities provided should be tailored to specific objectives. This could include providing whiteboards or other creative tools in the meeting area or offering up snacks or meals that will help drive productivity—all while keeping comfort in mind.

Don’t forget about smaller events. Team up with local businesses for meetings, offering day passes to those who want to work remotely from your hotel, or even hosting networking events.

Additionally, sales teams should get to know their target market and create packages that appeal to these remote groups. This could include offering special rates on extended stays and other packages that entice them to return or refer their colleagues.

How can hotels prepare to facilitate these collaborative work gatherings?

Hotels can prepare for remote work gatherings in many ways.

First, they should ensure the space meets their guests’ needs. This could include providing access to video conferencing software and ensuring they have plenty of outlets and that Wi-Fi is reliable.

Hotels should consider a property’s physical attributes that will help facilitate team gatherings, such as natural light, modular furniture on wheels, ergonomic office chairs, USB ports and power ports, laminate tables, and not traditional banquet furniture. Furniture should be conducive to long days of mobility, collaboration, and productivity.

Next, they should have a plan for arranging team-building activities that can be done remotely. This could include scavenger hunts, online escape rooms, virtual cooking classes, etc.

Finally, consider offering food and beverage packages that can be easily ordered on an app and delivered directly to the room. This will help ensure that teams have a break from their work but can still stay productive.

By understanding the needs of remote workers, providing them with tailored services, and creating unique experiences for them, hotels have the potential to capitalize on this emerging trend and create a valuable offering for their guests. By doing so, they can help foster collaboration and creativity as well as build loyalty.

With the right strategies, hotels can become essential to the remote and hybrid work movement.

Beyond having suitable facilities, hotel sales teams should ensure they have the proper tools to make reserving a room easy and efficient. This means ensuring their online booking system is up to date and providing detailed information about available spaces on their website.

By understanding the needs of their target market, providing them with tailored services, and creating unique experiences for them, hotels can take advantage of these emerging trends and turn their property into an essential destination in the remote work movement.

About the author

Cory Falter

Cory Falter is a Partner and Visionary at Lure Agency and a consultant at Cayuga Hospitality Consultants. His company, Lure Agency, is a full-service B2B sales and marketing agency in the hospitality industry that helps in-house hotel and industry suppliers’ sales teams identify, convert, and retain more revenue using their proven science and soul marketing methodology. Since opening their doors in 2012, they’ve helped dozens of companies reach their revenue goals, including BenchmarkPyramid, TTI Technologies, and HotelExecutive. Cory is a proud father of twin teenage daughters and a former professional motocross racer, complementing the fast-paced culture of hospitality sales and marketing. He is also VP of Communications for HSMAI San Diego, and host of the InnSync Show on YouTube.

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