Hotel Sales Super Star

Do you have a Sales Team full of
Hunters or Gatherers or both?

Much talk is made of training your sales managers to be good at both Proactive and Reactive sales.  The conventional thinking is that hotel sales people need to be able to actively prospect for new business, but be equally good at responding to incoming leads and repeat business.  But is this  realistic?

Sure there are some sales people out there that are superstars at finding the right balance between answering the phone and making outgoing calls, but I firmly believe that they are in the minority.  The whole concept of multitasking is a myth – no matter how much you think you can do two things at the same time, it is a simple fact that you are not able to complete both tasks as well or as efficiently as if you had done them both individually.  

The same myth applies to sales.  It simply is not possible to make an outgoing sales call at exactly the same time as responding to incoming leads.  So that means that you need to allocate your time between these two different types of sales.  So the big question is how much time do you allocate to proactive versus reactive sales?  Is there a magic number?  If there was a formula that could tell us how much time to spend on proactive/reactive sales it would be easy – but there isn’t so pretty much everyone relies on guesswork.  Guesswork doesn’t sound like a good strategy to me.

Pretty much every hotel sales department I come into contact with splits their team into two or three groups of sales people – those that sell Group/MICE business, those that sell Catering/Banquet business and those that sell Transient/FIT business.  Why we do this baffles me.  Each group of individuals is being asked to dedicate a portion of their time to proactive and reactive sales – and they are often replicating their efforts.  

There are a few hotel sales teams out there doing things differently – and its working for them.  They are splitting their sales teams up not by type of business, but by type of sales activities – ie a Proactive (Hunter) and a Reactive (Gatherer) Sales team.

A good proactive sales team spends ALL of their time on hunting for business.  Hunters are the ones going out and finding new accounts, reactivating inactive accounts and stealing accounts from competitors.  Typically these proactive sales people have specific market segment/industry focuses.

Gatherers are just as important as Hunters, but instead focus on converting incoming leads that come from all channels (including those found by the Hunters). 
This approach worked for centuries for native people of many countries, as they knew that not all members of their tribes came equipped with the same skills.  Your sales team is much the same way.

If you truly want to optimize the quality and quantity of your incoming leads you will break with the tradition and free up your Hunters to do only proactive sales.  In return, you will be able to increase your lead response time (and win rate) but freeing up your Gatherers to just respond to leads. 

Many of your competitors realized this ages ago, and their Hunters are busy stealing your business while your Hunters are too bogged down responding to all those web leads ;-)

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It may be Friday afternoon – but before you head home…

I know everyone is just itching for the weekend and Sales people are just about headed for the door, but consider this before you shut down your computer and head to happy hour.

How many of your top clients have you spoken with this week?

The week may be almost over, but surely there is time left to make 2 or 3 more calls.  Go ahead, just pick up the phone and call 3 of your top clients that you didn’t get a chance to speak with this week.  If you didn’t speak to them, there is a good chance that one of your competitors did, so don’t let them start poaching that top producer from you.

Pick up the phone – end the week on a high note (and then head to happy hour)!!!


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Get Creative with your Prospecting!

Are you tired of just getting voicemails whenever you prospect?  It can really take a lot of willpower to keep pushing on through all the prospecting calls when all you seem to get is voicemail.  There comes a point where you really start to question whether leaving another voicemail for that client for the third month in a row is really making a difference…

At that point it really is time to try another approach.

My personal favorite is to just show up at their office unannounced!  Of course not all clients respond well to this – but at least you are able to get some face time with them.

But in this day and age of locked down office buildings where it’s almost impossible to make it even to the elevator the off-property cold call is becoming tougher and tougher to do – unless you already have an established relationship with the client – in which case the phone call probably would have worked anyway.

So how do you get a prospective client to call you back?  Well basically you have to make your message stand out from the crowd.  That meeting planner is probably getting dozens of voicemails similar to yours each day.  Why should they call you back?  They probably aren’t even listening to most of the message…

I once knew a Sales Manager who would rehearse and sing his voicemail messages over the phone to his prospects.  Sure he had a shocking singing voice but the vast majority of them returned his calls as they thought it was hilarious!  I remember him telling me that many of them actually played the voicemail back to their entire office – which sometimes even resulted in other meeting planners from the same office calling him as well!

At a previous hotel where I was working as Business Development Manager, I was having a tough time trying to get any traction with a particular coffee and tea company which I knew was bringing a lot of business to a competitor.  I had left a million messages and no return call.  So one morning I went out and bought some to-go coffees from one of their stores and bought it back for the sales team.  I then took photographs of everyone on the team drinking their coffee.  I then packaged up the empty coffee cups with the photos and mailed them to the meeting planner with the message “We’ve tried your product – now will you try ours?!”  Needless to say, I received a call from the prospect a few days later!

Another time I tried the same approach for a particular cosmetics company – this was hilarious as we made all the guys on the team try on the cosmetics for the photo-shoot – with the same message about trying the product.  We actually scored business from that company.

There is no one single approach that will work for you every time – but the point here is if you aren’t getting through by leaving voicemails then try another approach.  At your daily sales meetings ask your team for suggestions on how to get through to a specific prospect.  Be funny.  Be creative.  Be different.  Imagine what it’s like being that person receiving all those messages and then try to put a smile on their face by being different.  That’s how you break through with your message.

Oh yeah and this is so much more fun than leaving lots of voicemails!


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How can you sell if you have no sales people?

I want to try to avoid making this sound like a rant, but it just seems so odd to me that hotels are still laying off sales staff due to the bad economy.  I know I am most likely preaching to the choir here, but does it make sense to anyone else?

I have heard of so many hotels that have halved their sales force in the past year.  The justification has been that the hotel was seeing half as many leads come in so therefore they needed half as many in sales.  This just seems so short-sighted, and is based on assumption that all that sales people do is respond to leads.  In an economy like this the need for sales managers to be out on the road (or the phone) prospecting is greater than ever.

By the way, when times were good it used to drive me crazy when I would hear hotel management boast that their sales team were too busy responding to the truckload of incoming leads to even think about prospecting.  Why would you want to boast about that?  Sure that’s all well and good if you are content with just the business that comes to you – but I know there is always better business out there if you prospect.  These are the same hotels that have since downsized their team to ‘match’ the flow of incoming leads.

So if your sales team is too busy in any economy to prospect then they are clearly understaffed as a sales force.  So, not only is your hotel competing for a smaller number of leads, you are also missing out on the golden opportunity to rebuild relationships that will position you for growth when the tide does eventually turn.  Meanwhile the sales team at your comp set are circling your hotel like vultures!

Yes there are plenty of hotels out there that have NOT let go members of their sales team.  Sure, they will be the first to admit that very few of their Sales Managers are making bonus at the moment.  However those Sales Managers are pounding the pavement and working the phones to build and rebuild stronger relationships than ever before.  These are the hotels that will be stealing away tones of business from other hotels once the economy improves.

So, which category does your hotel fall into?  If you are one of those hotels that has retained your sales team tell us about it – go on, BRAG!   Was it a struggle convincing ownership that you needed to keep the entire sales team?  What are your Sales Managers doing all day – are they prospecting all day?  What has been your approach to handling goals?  Are you one of the hotels that let go of a number of Sales Managers?  If so, how are you handling this?




Does your sales team REALLY know how to prospect?

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?!


Readerboard or Reader-bored?

Are you lucky enough to work at a hotel that forks out money for your competitor's readerboard information?  Or do you have to actually go and stake at competitor hotels to know whats going on there?  Or do you do neither?

I am lucky - like many of you I work at a hotel that purchases the readerboard report on a weekly basis.  Now I know many of my colleagues moan and complain when that report comes in as they know our DOS is expecting us to call on those groups - but that is exactly why I love it!

This is the easiset way for you to steal another hotel's potential repeat business.  But the key is you have to call NOW!  That's right as soon as you get the report.   You want to be able to seize upon the chance that they had a bad experience or their bill is a mess.  There is a good chance that they are also getting all sorts of feedback from their group at this time too...

Calling a competitor's group right after they have departed is really the best time to start stealing them away.  There is a very good chance that they have not signed a contract for next year at this time.

After I have introduced myself I usually tell the meeting planner that I was over at the XYZ hotel last week when they were there and that I noticed their group was meeting there.  I then ask them how it was and start probing.  From there its just standard sales stuff, but the key is using the fact that you know that they were at the XYZ hotel as your basis for starting a conversation.

Obviously make sure you are well aware of that hotel's strengths and weaknesses - but you already know these - right????  ;-)

I also go and create a Turn Down booking in my sales system for the dates that they had met so that I have a record of business we missed out on.

Can you honestly say that you are calling on every booking showing up on your readerboard report?   You can bet your competitors are going through their readerboard report and calling on your groups!!!


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Going Postal

with Sales Calls

(alternative title: Zip through your Appointments)

who doesn't love a road trip?!
So you are going out on the road for any number of reasons.  Maybe you are off to drop off a contract (because you always hand deliver a contract when it is local, right?!).  Maybe you are stopping by to see one of your top accounts.  Maybe you are off to a NACE/HSMAI/MPI meeting.  Maybe you are off to a Doctor’s appointment….

Either way you are heading out of the office and you are in your car.  Why not knock out some sales calls in the process?  I know, I know Sales Calls are a pain – everyone prefers to be sitting back at their desk and just waiting for the leads to flow in over the fax/email/phone etc.  But as much denial as we like to live in, we know that the sales calls are a part of our job.

So how to knock out a whole bunch of sales calls without spending all day at it?

The easiest way to do this is next time you are planning on heading out of the office for any reason, do a search in your sales database for any accounts that already exist in the SAME ZIP CODE.  If you have the ability to search for accounts in the same building even better!

This way you can minimize the time and expense of driving all over town.  And let’s face it you were already headed to that part of town anyway – what does it take to do 5 extra sales calls while you are already there.

I am not suggesting that you call to set up these appointments.  In fact in my humble opinion they work even better if you show up unannounced.  The goal here is really to spend as little time as possible setting up and getting to the appointment. 

Really this is just a part of account management….




I just LOVE making solicitation calls - don't you?

I  know, I know we all hate making solicitation calls.  Many of us have relied on the steady inflow of leads over the last few years (when times were good!) to the point that we have been able to avoid making solicitation calls altogether.

Well for most of us, that steady river of leads has slowed down to barely a trickle - no surprise given the awful state of the economy.  So what do we do?


So what is the best way to prepare for a day of telephone solicitations?

Well first of all, no-one is prepared to talk to you on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon.  Does this mean you get to sleep late on Mondays and hit happy hour early on a Friday???  Go ahead!  While you are at it, I am going to be using this time to prep for my solicitation calls.

This means I am going to run reports from my sales database.  The easiest report to start with is a report that shows business that your hotel turned away last year and the year before - assuming of course that you were logging those leads in your sales database... (I bet you wish you logged them all now, don't you!)

Using these reports I am then going to go and create an activity/trace in my sales system.  Just create a generic trace and copy and paste the contents into all the accounts that you plan on calling to prospect. 

I spend all Monday morning and Friday afternoon creating these traces.  This way I am setting up all the calls that I am going to make during the week - during prime-selling-time.  Its a whole lot easier to churn out a whole bunch of solicitation calls if the boring part of logging all the traces/activities has already been done for you when you make the call.  That way all you have to do is add any additional notes, and mark the activity done ----- and then you are on the the next call.

Oh yeah, and absolutely make sure you have a head-set!