Teaching staff members to sell
Teaching staff members to sell
06 FEBRUARY 2013 7:25 AM

Hoteliers need to capitalize on their staff members who have an impact on sales, regardless of their roles.

When I'm delivering customer service or sales training in hotels, I often ask the question: “Who here has a responsibility for selling?” Obviously, all the people with the word sales in their job title put their hands up, but they are usually the only ones. However, everyone in your hotel or hospitality business will have an impact on sales, regardless of their role.

First impressions
First impressions will influence a guest’s level of spending. This is not just down to how the phone is answered or the welcome from reception on arrival, but it's what your guests see and hear from behind the scenes. If your staff can be recognized as staff (because they are in uniform or had dealings with your guests), they are bound to make an impression.

Picture the scene: A guest approaches the hotel and sees two staff members in uniform fooling around with loutish behavior. The guest pulls in only to find that all the choice parking spaces close to the hotel entrance are filled with staff cars. Instead, the guest has to park at the far end of the parking lot and while struggling with a heavy suitcase, a member of your staff walks by and does nothing to acknowledge the guest. Tucked away in a corner is a huddle of chefs and servers puffing on cigarettes. On entering the hotel, a staff member is leaving but fails to hold the door or even greet the guest.

Check-in is swift but your guest booked a standard room on a room-only basis and was given no other information about any of the services or facilities the hotel offers. Within the span of five minutes, how many opportunities have been lost to create a great first impression?

Your staff’s ability to encourage sales will depend on a number of factors:

  • Their behaviors, conduct and appearance
  • A knowledge of your customers’ needs, expectations and of the hotel’s products and services
  • Their skills and confidence in the sales process
  • Being given the right incentives, support and recognition

Let's just reflect back on the scenario described earlier. Do you think any of this behavior was a deliberate ploy to undermine the sales process? It's far more likely these staff members are oblivious to the potential impact of their behaviors. Communicating your expectations about staff behavior, both on and off duty, should form part of their induction. Bring this to life by getting them to put themselves in the guest’s position and to identify what impression they give, and what guests might expect.

In order to sell, upsell or cross sell, your staff needs to understand all the offers, products and services the hotel provides. This includes some understanding of the features and the benefits from a guest’s perspective. What's included in a package? What are the different options? What are the recommendations or suggested combinations? A good understanding of your customer’s profile, needs and expectations will help this process.

When I'm working with some businesses, I’m somewhat alarmed by the lack of exposure staff members have to other departments. How can they ever hope to convey to guests all the benefits of these facilities if they've never had any first-hand experience? Experiencing the facilities for themselves will not only make them more memorable, there will be more willingness to promote the property. And it will certainly be easier to evoke an emotional appeal through vivid descriptions of taste, smell, feel, if they've been there themselves.

Hospitality is an ever-changing business and every day there will be specific and individual options, events, and situations. This is why it's so important to have regular staff briefings so everyone knows what's happening and when. This includes knowledge of what's available, what are today’s high-profit items to be promoted and what's not available.

Teach staff the mechanics of upselling. Ensure your staff knows how to ask open questions to identify what customers want, as well as listen to customer requests, respond and make suggestions. Staff members should also offer alternatives that best meet customer needs.  Give them examples of how they would describe each of your products and services. Rather than a script, allow them to develop their own dialogue, one that comes naturally to them.

Building confidence
In the United Kingdom, we’ve had a recent TV series called “Service” about front-of-house service hosted by Michel Roux. I recently watched an episode when the trainees were at Paul Heathcote's restaurant, and they failed to sell the dishes of the day. The reason? They lacked experience to spot the sales opportunities. Staff members need to be able to identify all the situations that lend themselves as an opportunity to upsell not just in their own department but across all areas. For example, options on accommodation include room upgrades, special packages, Champagne in rooms. Ask the staff to look at opportunities for other departments too because they often spot opportunities those closest fail to see.

Train your staff to be perceptive to buying signals as well as knowing when the customer is simply not interested.

Whether an objection is perceived or real, staff members need to know how to deal with these. One awkward question can shatter confidence, so train your staff to get to spot and handle different situations. Help them to distinguish between a definite “no,” and a simple request for more information before buying.

The ability to build rapport with guests will also help staff members sell. Do they know how to demonstrate empathy and understanding of the customer's perspective and how to gain trust by matching the response or offering to meet the customer's needs?

Give guidance, incentives and recognition
Don’t assume because you've told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently. Observe how your staff handles the sales or upselling conversation and give them feedback, support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

Link your upselling activity to goals. Whatever goals you set, ensure these are clearly measurable and achievable, so everyone is motivated to contribute.

Recognize and reward those that do it well and encourage them to continue to do so. And ensure everyone knows they all have a role to play in sales.

Caroline Cooper specializes in helping hospitality and leisure businesses retain their existing customers by focusing on the customer experience and long term engagement. She has over 25 years’ experience hospitality and is founder of Zeal Coaching, and author of the 'Hotel Success Handbook'.

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No Comments

  • K.V.Simon. February 6, 2013 6:24 PM

    Great service and great sales go hand in hand providing great experiences . The Guest Service Gold Certification program of AHLEI has captured this spirit of hospitality- creating a great emotional connect and positive impact.

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