In the months leading up to summer, most of us have our thoughts turn to warm weather, baseball games and casual, backyard barbeques. But then, most of us aren’t hotel sales associates. After listening in to a Webinar titled “Spring Into Action: Getting Ready for this Summer's Hotel Season,” it seems those folks have a bit more to worry about, not the least of which being the growing push to renegotiate existing corporate contracts.
The global economic recession is razing the once-familiar landscape of the travel industry before our eyes, and many sales and marketing associates are getting lost amid their new surroundings.
“When price, availability and value are all fluid, the day of issuing a single 12-month RFP are over,” said Tom Griffiths, VP Americas for WorldHotels, during the Webinar. “Companies and hotels are going to be looking at ways to maintain the greatest degree of flexibility. … It’s a very fluid process. The old days of seasons are gone. Every month will be a new season.”
As they head into the open season for renegotiation, sales associates and managers should come armed with the following tactics:
1. Be flexible. While you should never bow to every demand and request, it’s important to maintain a certain degree of flexibility during the negotiation process. Look at each request on a hotel-by-hotel and market-by-market basis, said Brad Frazier, corporate director of global business travel sales at Omni Hotels. But in the end, it should be a win-win for both parties, he added. If a hotel wants its rate reduced, for example, barter for increased market share by establishing preferred properties or rate increases when the market improves.
2. Avoid repeat negotiations. While clients might approach you now, urge them to avoid repeat negotiations in the future. Renegotiating a corporate contract every time the market turns will consume time, effort and energy from both parties.
3. Take a dynamic approach. A dynamic pricing model is one of the best ways to satisfy clients’ requests in the short-run while laying the foundation for favorable returns in the future, said Kelly Phillips, VP of leisure and business travel sales at Hilton Hotels Corp.
4. Satisfied guests = repeat guests. Extra rewards and benefits via your loyalty program are a great way to incentivize clients, but they’re never a substitute for great service, according to Griffiths. “To a degree, loyalty programs still play in the selection of where a corporate traveler may or may not stay,” he said. But if guests are not satisfied during their trip, it’s unlikely they’ll return, no matter how many reward points or perks you offer.
5. Maintain a strong sales front. You’d never want to go into battle without your full troops at your disposal. Similarly, sales managers should never cut staff when times get tough. It’s important to maintain, if not increase, a strong, united sales front. Hilton, for example, has increased global sales staff by 25 percent in recent months while boosting global sales funding by 32 percent.