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Hotel Sales - It's Easy To Stand Out From The Competition
By Doug Kennedy
One really interesting thing about being a hotel trainer is that you get to peek behind the scenes at so many different types of hotel and lodging companies. Regardless of the location, property classification, or brand, right now it seems that most hotel salespeople are having similar challenges.
One such “challenge,” ironically, is that most salespeople are overwhelmed with inquiries. On the surface this would seem to be a good “problem” to have. Yet too many sales offices have not re-organized their processes to meet this challenge.
The “problem” of too many leads is caused by the increasing use of meetings management technology systems and other electronic channels by both professional meeting planners and those planning social and other SMERF-type meetings and events. Many professional meeting planners have migrated to using various networking services to send out their RFP’s, often keeping the name of the group anonymous. Those planning social and other SMERF meetings and functions also seem to prefer to send their initial inquiries via email.
As a result, in today’s world planners are inquiring at far more properties than they did not so long ago when inquiring meant placing a phone call to the hotel sales office. Whereas a few years back a planner might phone three to five properties, now at the click of the keyboard they can instantly inquire at a dozen or more hotels. Consequently, hotel sales staff finds themselves overwhelmed with inquiries.
Many hotel salespeople seem to be handling the challenge of too many leads coming in electronically by trying to respond to them all with equal attention. When leads bottle-neck during periods of peak demand, the end result is slower response times and generic proposals. This levels the “playing field” for all the hotels contacted and does not allow any particular hotel to stand out from its competitors.
Instead, hotel sales directors need to take a step back and re-evaluate the processes in place at their sales offices to make sure they have re-organized to keep up with these emerging trends.
For those just starting this process, the first step is to train your sales team to sort and prioritize electronic inquiries, especially on days when they are overwhelmed with the volume of inquiries. I call this “reading the lead,” just as an experience waiter “reads the table.”
What is the source of the lead? Is it a direct inquiry? If not, which third party did it come from? Was it through a listing service? A convention & visitors bureau or tourism office?
Are their requested dates during periods of moderate to low demand? Do they indicate flexibility?
What special requests or comments have they mentioned? Many of those who email their inquiries to the firstname.lastname@example.org address include in-depth details about their plans that can be used to personalize the response.
Of course it is also important to evaluate the overall revenue opportunity of the meeting or event.
Having sorted and prioritized the inquiries, hotel sales staff can then spend more time responding to those that are truly the best fit and hottest leads for their hotel. If necessary, others can get a more generic, template response or be delegated to a sales administrative assistant for basic follow-up.
Here are some additional training tips to help your hotel stand out from its competition.
About the Author
Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000 conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized, on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every segment of the lodging industry.
His articles have also appeared worldwide in more than 17 prominent international publications including the HSMAI Marketing Review, eHotelier, 4hoteliers, Hotel News Resource, Hotel Online, Human Assets - Dubai and Hong Kong, Hsyndicate worldwide, BAHA Times - U.K., Hospitality - Maldives, and the Hotel Expert Magazine Hong Kong. Since 1996 Doug has been a regular contributor to the lodging industry's number one rated publication, www.hotelmotel.com , where he has been a regular monthly columnist since 2001. Visit www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com for details or e-mail him at: email@example.com.
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