The International Network of Hospitality Consulting Professionals

Swashbuckling Hotel Sales: Stand and Deliver, or Perish

Haydn Kramer

Harsh words, Matey.

Yet, as a Hotel Sales Professional, best to heed them. Beyond the ravages of a global pandemic, is the obliteration of all you knew about how customers (guests) make decisions and the ever-accelerating algorithms of artificial intelligence. Time to face those high seas, or your days are numbered.

Since Melville’s whale, Hemingway’s Old Man, and dashing Errol Flynn’s “The Sea Hawk”, adventure on the high seas has always been an apt metaphor for eternal struggles. And you, my dear Salesperson, are in an eternal struggle.

Getting Hit from Every Angle

At the beginning of the pandemic, directions from key leaders might have included, (scale for “Grand Resort”, “Downtown” or hidden “Select Service “gem…), also apply to any industry:

The General Manager: “Stay safe, first! Keep a stiff upper lip! We’ll call you!”

The Controller: “Cut! Cut! Cut!”

The Chief Engineer: “We repair when we can, turn off the lights!”

The Human Resource Director: “Stay calm. I know I’m not there on property, but I care.”

The Revenue Manager (ever practical) cried, “Release the OTA’s!!”

And your corporate Vice President of Hotel Sales, “Well, certainly, this is bad. Maybe the worst time ever. We just need to try and figure out what to do, but you may be out—-for a while….”  Or you kept your “job” with no idea what to do. And suffered the guilt of a survivor.

Now, here you stand toes perched on the gangplank….

Hotel Sales of Old:

  • The facts now show that the decision you crave— is 70% made; before they call you, if they call you.
  • Chatbots and AI interface will qualify more potential clients than you could, ever.
  • Response time (that makes a difference) to internet inquiries; 5 seconds.
  • Cold calls are dead.
  • An average of 11 people may be involved in the ‘decision making’, not just your beloved “contact”. Thank you Gartner for those crushing stats.
  • Your old rolodex, CRM, database is valuable—but forever changed. How easy are those to use in their current state? Not? Better figure that out.
  • Clients are scared of  1) Covid-19, 2) commitments, 3) mistakes. Act accordingly.
  • Youth and Seasoned fellow Sales professionals are all on the same ship.
  • From “Influencer Sales” and (Forrester Research): In the next five years, a least a million “salespeople” will lose their jobs, (on top of pandemic):   B2B ‘Order takers’ will lose 22% in the United States, and 1/3 worldwide. “Explainer/Qualifier Salesperson” will experience a 25% reduction, “Gatherer’s, Nurturers, or “Let’s go to lunch” navigators are projected to shrink 15% by 2025.
  • “AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the top growth area for sales teams, forecasted to grow 139%,” from SalesForce.

The Future of Hotel Sales

  • If you aren’t sharpening your skills, (eCornell, HSMAI, AHLA, LinkedIn, “7 Habits”, “Sales -Genius-Tactics-FromSomebody-Important”; literally thousands of process/system/ways from sales gurus across the globe), start.
  • “Cold calls” aren’t dead, informed, brilliantly researched, industry savvy, buyer persona driven, timely. “Cold calls” are alive and well.
  • Align yourself (perfectly) with the folks who do your marketing, website management and social media.  If you don’t, you’re spinning your wheels.
  • If you are on property, engage everyone in really understanding what you are trying to do. Many times, they, (the people who make your guest/customers happy): Have. No. Idea.   You.  Do.  If there ever was a time for, “everybody is in sales”: this is it. Help them help you.
  • Go to lunch with your Revenue Manager. Talk to your Revenue Manager (in other industries, your “Business Analyst”), so you can communicate when things get dicey.
  • Read industry magazines.
  • Tour every property in your Competitive Set. Every single one. When is the last time you did that? Take notes.
  • Own your “backyard” for local business. For at least 5 square miles. Know what business, social, leisure, group—demand you can open up to, or limit.
  • Call all those customers/clients that know you well. Ask how they are? That’s it.
  • As soon as those customers are comfortable, go see them in person. (Allowing for all Covid-19 restrictions and protocols). When salespeople make genuine, well defined calls in challenging times (Say, after 9/11), clients who value you, never forget.
  • Listen to Understand.
  • Don’t feature puke.
  • Thank your client for their time, because more than ever, they increasingly don’t need you. So, provide insight, value and dreams, enchantment and solutions.
  • Also, remember, hotels priced at “fire sale” prices to drive demand, end up in ashes.

Most of all

Be jaunty. Be engaging. Be prepared.

Everyone has had enough of isolation, dismay, and (at times) incompetence.

The latest research also shows, “With the dawn of AI, it is becoming increasingly evident that the “human connection” is even more essential when (clients/customers/guests) have details—no chatbot can answer”. And it will always be so.

Finally, I urge you again to watch the first 10 minutes of “Glengarry Glenross”. Think of Erol Flynn on the high seas, the spray of salt on your cheek, and engage the adventure that is coming. It is the only way to navigate safe passage — and sustain your career.

You Swashbuckler.