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Death of A Hotel Salesman: A tale of our times…

Haydn Kramer
Cayuga Hospitality Consultants

Apologies to Arthur Miller and his Pulitzer prize winning play, I plagiarize his title for context, that sadly is all too true, but perhaps, can have a happier ending. I refer to the state of hotel sales in general, and  of hotel sales leaders, not all, but alarmingly many during a time that will be called, “The calm before the storm,” by hotel capital markets and hotel sales departments everywhere in a year or so.

Time was when they strode across the lobby, gods and goddesses of the lodging universe, poised for tours in perfect heels and nails and hair; Armani suits and Calvin Kline dresses.  So, grand, so in control, so powerful.  The Directors of Sales and Marketing were the Kings and Queens of the hotel universe.

When the 80’s dawned, Marriott, Hyatt, Westin, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, were all well established brands, and within each hotel back office, no one was more powerful than the Director of Sales and Marketing, (DOSM); except the General Manager (GM). The GM drove a Porsche 911, (company car), and lived in a penthouse on property (gratis), and of course, free dry cleaning.

I will never forget the day, as a young desk clerk in Houston, Texas, when a DOSM, who had taken a liking to me, approached the desk, as I stood poised, (erect posture, hands behind back, there was no slouching or leaning, ever.), and said;

“You like what you are doing?”

“Why yes, I do…” I said, puzzled.

He gestured that I should lean in, over the desk, and said, “You need to get into sales, and I’ll give you three reasons:  We look good, We have fun, We don’t do weekends.” And he walked away, as I stood with a dumbfounded look on my face.  I went into sales.

I do know when this hotel sales malaise all started.  I remember, (as a new VP of Sales and Marketing), staring across the Hudson River from a Renaissance hotel in New Jersey, early in October 2001, a nauseating smoke still floating above New York Harbor, and a DOSM turned to me and asked, “What in God’s name do we do now?” I told her, “We will be OK, we will figure it out, sales will win the day.” Little did I know at the time that the rise of OTA’s, Centralized Corporate Travel Rate “blind bids”, and desperation would follow.

So, I love the discipline of Sales.  I love hotels.  I love hotel sales teams and leaders.  With that said, the current state of affairs in that hotel sales world, and specifically the DOSM, is bad, and in jeopardy of relevance.  What follows is a composite of behavior I see, and 11 ideas to combat complacency:

  • “I fill out reports, All Day!” OK, raise the Pirate Flag: One report for all; Equity partners, Asset Managers, Ownership entities, REIT’s, Management Company’s, Brand Managers, GM’s. One.
  • If you raise the Pirate Flag; Know your numbers, cold. No questions.
  • How many Direct Sales Calls with your team members have you made this month? This year? If it is less than four a month, change that.
  • Quit sending your sales team members to “Training”, teach them, first hand, real time. If you can’t, you’re in the wrong job.
  • “But Revenue Management has all the control”. You gave it to them. Take it back. Book better business than their model requires. Know your numbers.
  • You have 5,000 “Tentative” Room Nights on the books. It could make your property’s year. You are,” waiting.”  Get on a plane, go meet this group customer, and close. Ask forgiveness, not permission.
  • How many focused Guest Groups have you invited to a relaxed setting for beverages and insights into why they book? Why they don’t book?
  • Social Media:  How good are you?  How much do you use Instagram, Snap, Facebook, and most of all, LinkedIn?  When I hear, someone say, “Oh, I don’t use LinkedIn much…” There is a problem.  Where can you know the level of detail, insight and history of a decision maker in 30 seconds? Nowhere else.
  • Who manages the “Social Impression” of your Hotel? Yelp, Trip Advisor, Twitter, Facebook, Loyalty Member Customer feedback? Not you? You better make sure they are, on it, every day.
  • Your Web site is: rich in video and photographic content? Easy to navigate? Compelling? Easy to book from? No? Even if you are not ultimately in charge, take charge, or continue to suffer.
  • Watch “Glengarry Glen Ross,” the movie. Not the whole thing, just the opening monologue by Alec Baldwin. Reflect. Realize that the world of hotel sales is wonderful. Quit whining.

Well, I think that should do it.

Cayuga Hospitality Consultants specialize in optimizing sales & marketing efforts. Contact us today to learn how we can maximize your direct sales.


About the Author:

haydn-kramerHaydn Kramer is expert in sales & marketing and sales management. From “on the ground” direct sales with Residence Inn by Marriott to an Executive VP of Sales, Haydn has experienced a range of sales assignments across many brands and all lodging tiers. He was a pivotal member of Marriott’s “Sales 2000” task force that reinvented Marriott’s approach to “Sales” worldwide. Haydn was also entrusted with directing first “Large Market Sales Team,” which cross-sold all Marriott’s brands for the first time. He is disciplined and forgets no details, but is known to have fun while helping teams achieve sales success. He is an expert in the sales call process, true sales persistence, and the new advent of Social Media as a critical part of any effective hotel sales platform. He has consulted for Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and several boutique, independent luxury properties across the United States.

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