Hotel Sales Super Star

12/15/2009

3 Comments

 

Shut up and Listen!

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Are you a talker?  Chances are if you are in hotel sales and catering then you probably are.  Let’s face it most of us in hotel sales are pretty outgoing gregarious individuals that love being the center of attention.  Is that a fair call?  Those of you that know me know that I certainly fit this description and I think it’s fair to say that most of you do too.

But is this trait a good one when it comes to sales?  Certainly, being outgoing is a trait that we look for in sales people, but we all probably have to learn to balance this trait with the art of listening a little better.

That’s right – listening.  Did you hear me?  I said listening!

I know, I know we have all heard this, at the most basic of sales manager training classes out there.  But how many of us truly listen ALL as much as we should?

There are the obvious examples of sales managers launching in to their standard sales pitch about their hotel without stopping to ask their clients what is important to them first.  So many of us are so quick to start selling that we forget to hold back until the prospective client has finished telling us what they actually want. 

I overheard another sales manager talking on the phone the other day to a prospective client.  She was talking at length about the fabulous new bar that her hotel had just built out by the pool.  She was doing a wonderful job of conjuring up images of these wonderful cocktails out by the pool in the Southern California sunshine.  Just listening to her I had visions of Tom Cruise in ‘Kokomo’ making a Pina Colada with a big umbrella!

Problem was that the meeting planner was representing a group of Southern Baptist Ministers from Florida.  Had she stopped to listen she would have realized that being Southern Baptists, this group has absolutely no interest in drinking, and being from Florida the sunshine really is no great novelty to them!  All she needed to do was listen a little to this client before launching into her sales pitch and she would have known not to bother with the pitch about the pool bar.

Ok, that’s a pretty blatant example, but it makes my point.  You probably have never made the mistake of trying to sell cocktails in the California sunshine to a bunch of Florida Southern Baptists, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that there have been times where you have not listened as well as you could.

It’s tougher than it sounds though.  It’s easy for us to say just stop and listen.  But we are sales people – we want to sell.  So many times we are like racing cars at the Formula 1 and as soon as we have a telephone inquiry we think we are seeing the green light to start speeding around the raceway with our sales pitch.  But the reality is that we need to put our foot on the brakes a little more.  Don’t worry about the brake pads, they can be replaced!  Sit there at the starting block a little longer and listen to what your client has to tell you.  When the client has finished telling you everything and you have collected all the information you could possibly need, then it’s time to start your engine!

Problem is that even when the client is talking, we aren’t listening, I mean REALLY listening.  Be honest here – what is the first thing you do as soon as your prospective client has told you the dates that they are looking at?  Admit it – most of you are already looking at availability before they have even finished that sentence!  WHY?  Because you are already moving in for the sale!  You have taken your foot off the brake way too early!  How can you possibly be listening to all of your clients needs when you are scrolling through your guestroom availability and your function diary?!

So here is a tip:  Next time you have a client inquiry over the telephone, turn OFF your computer monitor.  Free yourself from that distraction and pull out your notepad and start taking notes about what your client is telling you about their group.  Then (no, don’t turn your monitor back on yet!) ask them a bunch of questions.  If you need to, prepare a list of standard questions to ask them.  Then, when you feel like you know as much information as you need about this client you may turn your monitor back on and start your sales pitch while checking your availability.

I guarantee your sales pitch will be far more effective, and your client will feel rest assured that they have a sales manager who gets them.  This part is key!

So be content to let your competitors start speeding off without you – remain in your starting blocks a little longer while you listen.  I guarantee your chances of seeing the checkered flag are greatly enhanced when you shut up and listen!