Hoteliers who develop relationships and networks within their local communities are more likely to see an influx of new guests.
Sitting at the front desk staring at the check-in screen won’t build your revenue. You have to get out the door and develop relationships to bring the guests in the door. People do business with people they like. Therefore, the people in your network need to get to know you as a trusted professional and as a likeable individual. In the hospitality industry, in particular, it’s not just business, it’s personal. In any role at your hotel, you are selling both your brand and yourself. And you need know how to blend the two into a powerful sales pitch with everyone you meet.
Who do you network with?
Your best network is right around the corner. Ignore what your mother taught you and talk to strangers. Anyone you meet can potentially become a guest, referral source, alliance partner or adviser. Build relationships with the owners and staff of local businesses, such as travel agencies, banks, restaurants and boutiques. Where there’s a wedding, there’s a wedding party and out-of-town guests. Meet with the bridal stores, florists and caterers at least every three to six months. Know your local real estate agents, contractors, architects and painters. People moving or in the middle of a renovation often need temporary accommodations.
Naresh Patel, owner of America’s Best Value Inn in Turlock, California, landed one of his favorite clients by chasing a portable toilet on a flatbed down the street. He followed it to a new construction site and approached the construction manager, who told Patel that he had no immediate need for a room and no time to talk. Patel offered him a one night free stay, wrote it on the back of his business card, handed it to the construction manager and walked away. Six months later, he called Patel to book multiple rooms for several months for all of his workers and has been sending his team to ABVI ever since.
Where do you network?
Go where you feel comfortable, where you have something in common professionally or personally. Try the local chamber of commerce, business referral groups, and cultural and religious organizations. Fundraisers, cocktail parties and luncheons provide many networking opportunities. Alternately, attend an event with an activity you enjoy: a cooking class, tennis match or book club will give you something specific to do and to talk about.
When do you network?
Timing is everything. Network when you're at your best, and can maintain your energy and a positive attitude. If you’re a morning person, schedule a breakfast meeting. If you’re a night owl, meet over drinks. Set a time limit. For example, at a networking event, give yourself 30 minutes to meet three interesting people. Once you reach your goal, you can leave or relax and talk to your friends.
What do you say?
Making conversation is both a science and an art. Practice your skills by attending different events and meeting new people. Think of yourself as a researcher or talk-show host. Ask guests for their opinion: How’s the new sushi restaurant in town? What do you think of the speaker? Ask for advice: What are your best marketing tools? What other networking events do you recommend? Ask professional questions: What are your biggest business challenges this quarter? Get personal and ask: What are your plans for the summer holidays? What is your favorite vacation spot?
On a train ride from New York, the woman sitting beside me asked me to wake her up before her stop. Noticing the luggage at her feet, I commented: “Looks like you had a busy trip. What do you do?” She replied, “I teach English to foreign executives to help them manage their business and social functions. What do you do?” I replied: “I teach professionals how to become better networkers and land new clients.” From that casual interaction, the woman has become both a client and a friend.
What is your pitch?
Remember, it’s not just business, it’s personal. Your elevator pitch tells others what makes your hotel special. Your personal pitch tells others what makes you special. Keep a sense of perspective and a sense of humor. It takes less time to make conversation than it does to make a bed. And no one will bounce a quarter off your head.
Deena Baikowitz is the Chief Networking Officer of Fireball Network. Fireball Network delivers networking, coaching, training and consulting services to clients across North America. The firm works with executives, entrepreneurs and associations in commercial real estate, hospitality, travel, and related industry sectors. Fireball Network teaches professionals how to work a room with confidence and success, convert contacts into clients, and make the most of every networking opportunity to build their careers and their businesses.
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