One of the ugliest realities of today’s sales environment is the fact that for many of us the phone has simply stopped ringing. Remember what it was like twelve months ago? Many sales people barely had time to scratch themselves through all the incoming leads! Those were very long days of answering the phone, responding to internet leads and sending proposals. My what a difference twelve months makes!
So, now that the business is not just coming right to us, we are having to actively prospect for new business. It’s easy for us to say this – but does everyone on your team actually know how to prospect? Sure, the seasoned sales managers on your team have been through this before – due to the cyclical nature of the business, but there is a good chance that if you have joined this business in the last five years then you have never really had to learn how to prospect.
My message here is really directed at Directors of Sales – just simply giving your Sales Managers a goal of how many prospecting calls they need make a month is useless if they don’t know how! Problem with this is that they will log lots of prospecting calls to satisfy those reports that you are running – but were they effective prospecting calls?
How do you find out if your Sales Managers know how to prospect? In today’s job market you can be pretty sure that they are not going to come running to you to tell you that they don’t know how to prospect – they know how important this has become! You could listen in on their calls – but that could be pretty counter-productive.
My preferred approach is to make this the key focus for morning stand-ups or weekly sales meetings. Give each member of your team a training topic and have them do short 5 minute training sessions for the whole team. Keep the topics basic like:
· Opening the prospecting phone call
· Calling from readerboards
· Following up after the call
· Prospecting with google
· Prospecting using social media
The best thing about running regular training sessions like this is that no-one on your team will feel like they are being targeted and everyone’s skills can be further enhanced.
Now, if you run in to the situation where no-one on your team knows how to prospect, now might really be the time to bite the bullet and pay for some sales training. I know everyone will complain that they don’t have the budget for this – but do you have the budget for not doing this?!
Surely by now I have espoused the value of logging all turn-down business enough. So now let’s do a bit of a reality check here – it’s time to stop pretending that all the turn-downs are being logged. We all know that Sales Managers HATE logging automatic turn-downs. It gets them no closer to making their numbers for the quarter. Sales Managers tell everyone they are logging all their turn-downs – but we all know that a certain proportion make their way into the trash can when no-one is looking!
So I propose the following – let’s have a Turn-Downs amnesty! I am not talking about giving all turn-downs a path to citizenship or any of the other political images that the word amnesty seems to conjure up these days (!) – I am simply suggesting that every sales office have an “Amnesty Turn-Downs” tray.
Still suggest to your whole sales team that they should be entering their turn-downs, but make it very clear that if they are too busy to enter them then they are free to drop them off in the Amnesty Turn-Downs tray for entry at a later date. There should be no penalties or judgment for those who drop their turn-downs in the tray – it should be guilt-free!
The questions regarding who ends up entering the turn downs and when are trivial – we all know there is down-time at some point – at which time the whole team can pitch in to get through the tray of turn-downs.
At least this way we KNOW that all the turn-downs are being logged – rather than PRETENDING that they are!
Best practices for database management are great – but only when people follow them. We have all been guilty at times in the past of declaring that we were too busy to log everything in the database. We always knew it was best practice to enter everything – but while the leads just continued to rain down on us it was easy to turn a blind eye to these best practices.
Do you log EVERY lead?
Do you log EVERY turn-down?
Do you log EVERY phone call/email/appointment?
We always know that we should be logging all of the above, but it’s so easy when we are busy to fall into the trap of not doing so. Logging all your turn-downs, leads and activities really gets you no closer to making your revenue goals for this month – which is precisely why so many of us tend to use the excuse that we are too busy to do so. Hotel sales teams that did log this in the past are certainly reaping the rewards of that diligence now – they have a lovely database just full of potential prospects to call on.
So if you weren’t logging everything before – now is certainly the time to start! Surely we can’t use the excuse that we are too busy now! The tough times like now really are the best time to go back to basics and redeploy the rule that “If its not in <insert name of your sales system here>, it didn’t happen”.
Entertaining – I love this part of our job. I mean who doesn’t like to eat? And eating on someone else’s dime is even better right?
Lunch is probably the most common meal that Sales Managers spend with clients. I still find it a struggle to persuade clients to get out of the office for an hour at lunch time. The days of long business lunches seem to be long behind us!
My struggle has always been to convince clients to actually try our signature dishes. My hotel has a fabulous Key Lime Pie (served with raspberry coulis and toasted coconut shavings) on the dessert menu, but no amount of persuading will get my clients to have dessert. It seems every meeting planner is on a diet these days!
So now I play dirty! I go to the restaurant beforehand and pre-order the dessert. I usually order a few different desserts for the middle of the table because shockingly, not everyone loves Key Lime Pie! So now when we finish up our lunch the waiter just automatically brings the desserts to the table. Despite the diets, everyone tries the dessert – and I know the wonders of our chef helps win me business so I don’t mind playing dirty!
If I have a client that is on a real time crunch I arrange for the waiter to bring out the desserts in to-go bags for them to enjoy once they get back to the office.
I know of a Sales Manager that actually delivered desserts to her client’s office one afternoon. She had bought a special pen that allowed her to (safely) permanently write a message on the plate. Once her client had finished their dessert they were able to read the message underneath the dessert: “If you are able to read this then you must have enjoyed the dessert! Call me to book your next group so that your attendees can enjoy the dessert too!”
My point here is simple – we all know that a way to win over clients is with food – just make sure you find a way to get them to try your signature dish. Oh and no preparation needed if I am coming as I WILL order dessert!
Ok, so at first glance it might seem pretty comical to pose this question – but when you start to think about it we really are heading down a path where answers to this question will be needed.
Cast your memory back 10-15 years ago. All communication with clients was via phone, fax or letter. Defining what counted towards a Sales Manager’s activity goals as a “call” was pretty straight-forward – it was a call made to a client over the telephone.
Then along came email. At first, hotel sales departments refused to count emails as calls. But over time more and more client communication moved from phone to email. Sure, from a sales perspective we would always prefer to speak to a live person – nothing beats that. But it is just a reality of the times we live in that so many of our clients point-blank refuse to use the telephone - stating that email is their preferred method of communication. So, hotel Directors of Sales begrudgingly began allowing Sales Managers to log emails as calls.
So what’s next in the evolution of communication? Easy answer – Social Media. I have talked a lot on this blog about Social Media and the need for hotel sales people to take full advantage of it to further develop existing client relationships and to forge new ones. Social Media is not going away.
So let’s say as a Sales Manager you have your top clients on your friends list on facebook. One day you message one of your clients via facebook to touch base and ask them if they have any upcoming groups that you can bid on. Does this count as a ‘Call’ activity? If you were having the same discussion on the phone (or via email) you would count it.
Ok, so that one was pretty cut and dry. Then what happens when you have a chat with a client via facebook (or any other instant messenger for that matter)? Personally I think that’s as good as a phone call – so surely that counts?
What about posting a message on your client’s wall – does that count? What about posting a comment on their status, or one of their pictures, or even tagging them – does that all count? Communication with clients is to be encouraged – this is how stronger relationships are forged, but are there limits to what we consider a ‘call’? Welcome to the murky world of communication via social media!!!
Worth thinking about and discussing with your team – sure to inspire some debate!!!