14 tips to close the sale at your hotel
15 SEPTEMBER 2015 5:57 AM
Hotel salespeople are inundated with booking inquiries from meeting planners and guests alike. Closing those sales starts with a good first impression.
One thing most hotel salespeople have in common these days is they handle a sometimes overwhelming flood of inquiries. For those working in the sales department, this is caused by the ability of planners to inquire at multiple properties with a single click at an electronic service such as CVENT, HotelPlanner, Starcite, and a host of sources such as CVB’s other destination marketing groups.
For transient reservations agents, the flood of leads is being caused primarily by two reasons. First, those who search on mobile devices chose to “click to call” instead of trying to purchase with their thumbs. Second, many guests search online first then call to double-check the rate and amenities.
Therefore, most salespeople are experiencing “lead creep” or “lead spam,” which is causing what I call “hotel sales lead fatigue.” As a result, it is a great time to retrain hospitality salespersons to stop all of this shopping around and to close the sale.
Close from the start
Traditionally, hotel sales trainers—and sales trainers in general—present closing the sale as if it were a separate technique pulled out of the magic hat at the end of a conversation. Yet now more than ever, closing the sale starts with a positive first impression. Why? Because in this era of “feature copy-catting,” relationship selling is more important than ever before.
When it comes to hotels within the same classification and market segment, whenever one hotel brand adds a nifty new feature it is not long thereafter until all the other brands follow suite. While purchasing managers all can buy from the same vendors, the power of sales relationships must be nurtured like a well-tended garden; you can select the right seeds, but you must plant those seeds in fertile soil, water them regularly and tend to them as they grow.
Traditional sales training has presented nifty techniques such as the “forced choice close” (e.g. “Which of those can I secure for you?”) and the “assumptive sale close” (e.g. “What email address shall I use for the confirmation?”). Yet today’s sales prospects are far too savvy to be tricked into buying.
Stand out from the competition
Hotel salespeople must differentiate themselves from the very first opportunity. Here are some training tips:
Hotel sales department:
- Ensure inquiry calls are answered live whenever possible.
- Respond promptly—within hours, not one day—to all email inquiries, even if your hotel is sold out or if the rate they are seeking is far below your range.
- Notify senders if more time is needed to respond in full detail.
- Respond by telephone instead of just emailing back or responding online at the planner website as most others are doing. If planners truly did not want to be called, they would not have put down their correct phone number, and they can dodge your calls if they do not want to pick-up. Even a polite and personalized voicemail makes an impression.
- Personalize email correspondence rather than sending out form letters. Greet the sender and paraphrase and restate key details from their original inquiry.
- Send selected relevant photos and customized floor plans showing their configuration.
- Include your picture and Skype address on your email auto-signature; encourage video calling.
- Offer to host online meetings to review the proposal and explore their needs. In doing so, use your webcam; offer live virtual tours.
Hotel reservations sales:
- Use a positive opening greeting delivered with enthusiasm.
- Let the caller speak first, then ask for and use their name conversationally, rather than asking for it in your opening sentence.
- Understanding that most callers have researched extensively online, start by asking the right questions before launching into feature list or so-called benefits. “As I’m checking those dates, what questions can I answer for you about our location or our amenities and services?”
- Use a “just for you” sales approach to grab the attention of today’s multi-tasking callers. Lead with “You can enjoy …” instead of always saying “We have …” or “We offer ...”
- Use “re-engagement questions” to check-in with the caller and to keep it interactive. “How does that sound so far?”
If they use these methods and approaches, your salespeople will differentiate themselves from the competition from the very onset of the sales correspondence and conversation.
Don’t be shy
That being said, it is still important for all salespeople to directly ask for the business. For one, this shows confidence. It also plays to the fact that people like to give their business to the salesperson who really wants it.
- Train your salespeople to ask for the sale in a way that expresses interest such as:
- “What else can we do to secure the opportunity to host your group/event?”
- “Is there something else you’re looking for that I’ve not mentioned yet?”
- “Can I secure this accommodation for you while it is still available so we can host your visit?”
- “May we lock-in those vacation plans for you?”
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.