Overcoming hotel sales ‘lead fatigue’
23 JUNE 2014 6:44 AM
How does a hotel sales manager win more business than the competitive set? It’s all about striving for excellence at each step of the sales process.
In speaking recently with hotel sales managers, it seems the biggest challenge I hear about is that there are simply too many leads coming these days. How ironic.
Those of us who can recall the not so long-lost era when hotel sales managers spent much of their day prospecting have a difficult time empathizing with this problem. I remember well my first job in hotel sales when I was handed the “Encyclopedia of Associations” by my sales director, along with a brochure about our hotel and told: “Start dialing for dollars!” I made my way through the entire “A” listing and halfway into “B” before I got my first signed contract.
Back then most meeting planners used another old-fashioned tool to find a hotel to host their meetings and events. It was called the “Hotel & Travel Index,” which used to be about 5 inches thick, but I think now it’s not even published in print version. A reasonable planner would only call three or four properties, as it took a great deal of time. So each hotel started with reasonable odds of securing the booking. We sales managers would all take good care of the sales administrative assistant to make sure we got our share of those pink message notepads with phone numbers to call back.
Now most meeting planners inquire electronically by sending emails; others use electronic request-for-proposal tools such as Cvent, Zentila, Convention Planit and others. At the press of a few keys a planner can now send his or her inquiry to literally dozens of hotels simultaneously.
So now all of the hotels in the market area get leads at the same time. What do they all do? Apparently they all respond with essentially the same information delivered in the same “plain vanilla” wrapper. Worse yet, many do not respond at all.
Having conducted hotel sales mystery shopping reports for ownership groups that have us test some of the top-tier hotel brands, we find the non-response rate to be as high as 15% to 30% depending on the piece of business. Those who do respond for the most part send basically the same generic proposals. Few respond to electronic inquiries by placing a phone call, thus missing out on the chance to connect with the customer and to determine more about the customer’s needs so that they can present relevant benefits.
Most real-world meeting planners I speak with these days say their phone rarely rings. Instead, they receive standardized form letters beginning with “Thank you for your inquiry. We would be delighted to host your meeting, and we have space available. Below you will find our rates. … Please give us a call if you have any questions or if you would like to confirm.”
To these sales managers and directors I would say this: If you want to get just as much business as everyone else gets, just do the same things everyone else does.
Just as hotel asset managers, the best sales superstars are never happy with getting their fair market share. So how does one win more business than the competitive set? There’s no magic formula, no trick question and no specific gimmick. It is all about striving for excellence at each step of the sales process.
Here are some tips:
- Sort and prioritize electronic sales inquiries. What is the source of the inquiry? (Direct email inquiries take priority.) How well does our property match up with the group’s needs and wants?
- Respond promptly to all inquiries. If sold out, ask about alternative dates. Even if the physical property cannot accommodate this time, respond to express interest in hosting future, different-sized events. If you need more time for a full response, send an initial note back acknowledging the inquiry.
- Respond with a phone call. Even if you only reach voicemail this is your chance to put a “face” on the hotel and to stand out. Just explain that you “called to clarify a few details.”
- Personalize proposal templates. Start by paraphrasing and restating the details you have so far, showing empathy for the importance of the meeting.
- Use descriptions that allure and entice. Do this rather than just listing, notifying and informing the planner of the features.
- Express interest in hosting the event. Tell the meeting planner how much you want the group’s business.
- Leave the next step in the sales process with you. Rather than saying, “Give us a call to confirm,” indicate: “I will reach out soon to ensure we have met all of your needs and to see what else we can do on our end to secure the opportunity.”
Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training writers. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.