During a recent HSMAI webinar, sales experts gave advice on what sales professionals should be doing now to help hotels bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic.
GLOBAL REPORT—Meetings business has come to a halt for hotels around the globe because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean sales professionals should stop reaching out to clients, sources said.
On a recent webinar hosted by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, two experts gave three strategies sales professionals can implement now to stay busy during the pandemic.
Mitigate the effects of the pandemic
Sales teams can “make the effort now to improve the situation,” said Ed Skapinok*, member of the HSMAI Sales Advisory Board.
There’s more to be done than responding to leads, which is why companies should not furlough their salespeople during this time, he said.
“You and your salespeople can make the effort now to improve the situation from where it is today,” he said. “The work being done by your sales team today will determine how quickly your hotel recovers.”
Consistent communication with clients is important during this time, Skapinok said. Sales professionals can script the answers to frequently asked questions around cancellations and terms of new bookings to make sure sales teams have these materials on hand.
Some people are afraid to sell in the current environment because they don’t want to come across as insensitive, but proactive sales are crucial and “should never be positioned as a pitch,” said Amy Infante, CEO of GitGo and member of the HSMAI Sales Advisory Board.
“You are not pitching anything,” she said. “You’re simply discovering if the companies are a right fit.”
Sellers need to shift the belief that they will “discover immediate business from proactive sales activity,” she added.
Sales teams should also focus on shifting market share, Skapinok said.
“This should always be the focus of the sales department, but when the size of the demand pie shrinks, you want to make sure your piece of the pie is growing relative to your competitors,” he said. “Regardless of what demand for rooms is like in your market, are you doing a better job or worse job of capturing available business than your competitive set?”
He said you must “get to know the business that you don’t know,” which means finding out who is staying in hotels right now.
“Right now, people are staying in hotels not because they want to, but because they have to,” he said. “You want to know how to find travelers like them again in the future should we experience a similar event.”
If hotels decide to stay open to serve as hospitals, Skapinok said they also might be worried about what future guests will think of the hotel. Those hotels can communicate the message that they stayed open in a time of need to help the community, he said.
Devote time to fundamentals
There are a few sales fundamentals to focus on right now, Skapinok said.
“It’s still OK to prospect; it’s still OK to make sales calls,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re insensitive; it doesn’t mean you’re greedy or self-centered, it means you’re a professional.”
How sales teams go about these conversations is important and “will determine if you’re perceived as a good sales professional,” he said.
Sales professionals should be a trusted advisor to clients, which is a key factor of consultative selling.
“As their advisor, you have your client’s best interest at heart,” he said. “Your success comes through their success, no matter how they define it. And if it doesn’t, you’re spending your valuable time with the wrong clientele.”
Sales experts should ask clients to schedule a phone call or video chat appointment in the current environment, he added.
Clients shouldn’t be called out of the blue to talk about sales and should be called or emailed to set up an appointment, Skapinok said.
Now is also a good time to review any sales tools such as brochures and online profiles because they may have needed an update before COVID-19 or changes as a result of the pandemic, he said.
“Add details about hand sanitizer stations being included with your meeting break setups because you can be certain those kinds of questions will be coming from meeting planners going forward,” he said.
The work being done now will determine how quickly business bounces back, which is why it’s important to keep salespeople on board, Skapinok said.
“I sincerely hope you haven’t furloughed or laid off your sales force,” he said. “I understand though that cost considerations are real and expenses have to be minimized when revenues are falling short. I just caution you that cutting revenue-generating activities will increase the length of the downturn for your property and prolong the time it takes to recover.”
Some hotels must cut revenue-generating staff, but Skapinok said there are a few ways “to make it less detrimental,” such as rotating staff by using mandatory PTO and sharing staff with sister properties.
*Correction, 14 May 2020: This article has been updated to reflect Ed Skapinok's position.