Outdated techniques like cold-calling have moved aside to make way for more effective and comprehensive prospecting strategies.
When receiving inquiries from hotel sales leaders looking for conference speaking or hotel sales training, it seems that one topic area on everyone’s mind these days is prospecting.
Leaders seem keenly aware that 10 years of increasing demand won’t last and know a downturn is inevitable. Leaders know that experienced sales managers have gotten out of practice and that many salespeople entering the profession in the last decade have never developed this skill set.
Yet when it comes to training sales managers to prospect, many sales leaders are looking backward and not recognizing how to integrate prospecting into the real world of hotel sales in 2020.
To borrow a concept from the medical field, prospecting in the current era should be a holistic approach. With holistic medicine, a physician treats the patient’s whole body rather than focusing exclusively on the symptoms of the disease. Similarly, sales leaders looking to build revenue need to focus on integrating principles of prospecting into their team’s daily sales activities.
Instead, some leaders seem to view prospecting as a separate task on a salesperson’s to-do list.
In the past, prospecting sometimes meant cold-calling. Some directors of sales require sales managers put in hours prospecting each year to achieve their annual bonus. Therefore, every year in December meeting planners are spammed with a flood of so-called prospecting emails that usually read something like: “Hello Rachel. My name is Douglas and I’m hotel sales manager covering the Northeast market for Brand X Hotel. We are a full service hotel that offers several benefits for your convenience… Please let me know if Brand Y Corporation ever holds meeting in our city.”
As an alternative and more holistic approach to sales prospecting, here are training tips from our KTN hotel sales workshops and presentations to share with your sales team:
Integrate prospecting into the routine handling of existing leads
- Successful prospecting starts with directly connecting with prospects upon their initial inquiry, opposed to replying to electronic RFPs with a huge document. Making a personal connection fosters more success later when you want to cross-sell and ask for referrals.
- Rather than just replying in Cvent or email, pick up the phone and say “I just have a few questions to clarify what you’re looking for so I can send a more customized proposal.” Use those details to personalize the response, then enter detailed notes into your sales CRM. If you lose the sale this time, or if you have no inventory, retrace the lead for the next cycle (if it is recurring) and refer to the details you have in the call notes.
- If your hotel wins the sale, try to connect with the planner while they are on-site and gently probe to discover what other opportunities there might be in their organization, or if they are a third-party planner, with other clients.
- After the original meeting or event is completed, genuinely thank them for their business and ask for referrals. Example: “Ashley, I truly appreciate the opportunity to have hosted this meeting and I would be grateful if you could let me know of anyone else in your network who we might reach out to.”
- Connect with existing clients on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. (More on that later.)
Block out a weekly time frame to prospect for new business
Rather than trying to find time to prospect, make prospecting for new business a weekly – or even better – a daily habit.
- Understand that prospecting today no longer requires cold calling. Instead, we can use a “warm calling” approach.
- Research companies or associations online. The exact tactics for finding the company or organization names vary greatly according to the type of hotel you are selling and the market you are going after, but Google is always a great place to start.
- Use an “exact match” search by putting a word or phrase inside quotation marks. This will narrow down the search results.
- Use Google advanced search options; google those three words to find out how!
- Search around like this “conference type, city, previous year’s date.” An example would be “sales conference Miami 2018.” Or add the name of competitive hotels in your city or region.
- Similarly, research prospective companies on LinkedIn. When you find a company or organization to go after, click on the “People” link to see the names and send connection requests.
- After a connection is made, IM them to humbly ask for “assistance in reaching the right contact regarding future meetings…”
- Under the “contact info” link, some professionals show their work email so you can contact them that way too. If you see a personal email I generally would not use it, unless it looks like a professional one. Otherwise, with a few tries you can probably guess their work email address by testing some common address conventions.
- The more active you are on LinkedIn the more your posts will show up in the feeds of your contacts. Write your own posts, and boost your presence by liking and commenting on posts.
When prospecting for repeat business from those who have used your hotel years ago, or prospective business that was turned away due to availability, or business lost to competitors, going “old school” is new again. Picking up the phone and making prospecting calls actually works well, especially right now when almost no one else is doing it. One more tip: Use “tech for touch” by sending camera phone pics and video email (Contact me for a sample of how to use a video email platform I recommend.).
Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Kennedy has been a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations for more than two decades. Since 1996, Kennedy’s monthly training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hospitality industry authorities. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of “So You REALLY Like Working With People? - Five Principles for Hospitality Excellence.”
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