Carol Verret Consulting 
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Using Tech Tools to "Sell" the Hotels



Carol Verret / July 2003
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The hospitality industry has used innovation and imagination to manipulate and maximize tech applications for everything from revenue management to customer relationship management. Why then have we not given more thought to the creative uses of technology in the hotel sales process?

One answer is that while we have provided upgraded tech access to our guests, the sales department and administrative offices usually get hand-me-down hardware and sometimes are not even included in the high-speed Internet equation. In my consulting practice, I often go into the sales departments of relatively sophisticated hotels that are still on a manual system or have an automated contact management system that no one has ever trained them on because the sales staff has turned over several times since it was installed.

YIKES!

We need to put the same amount of creativity into applying technology to the sales function as we have in other functions of the industry - and it needs to be done at all levels of selling, especially at the property level! The use of technology in sales is then only limited by the imagination of the sales staff.

In my seminars, I often ask the participants how they are using their web site and virtual tours in the sales process. Those that have them indicate that they always refer clients or email a link to their site or virtual tour if one is posted. They are using the site as their primary fulfillment collateral and I recommend that. Save the money on the threefold color brochures and invest it in web site development. However, pictures only tell, they don't sell. Pictures depict features not benefits. 

I have often thought that hotel web sites should have tabs that are geared to the different market segments of a hotel. In this way, the copy and photography can be geared to the specific benefits of each market segment.

Current web sites are often like the old cover letters that sales people used to use for every inquiry and follow-up. Those were the letters that "feature spewed" (pardon my language) by having a list of every conceivable feature in bullet points regardless of the type of client that it was addressed to. 

The following are a few of the ways that hotel sales can use these tech tools to sell customers on the benefits of the hotel not just tell them about its features: 

Voice Guided Virtual Tours.

Virtual tours are great tools. However, those that spin in a 360-degree view of a guest room make me a bit dizzy. As busy as most people are today, it is often difficult to get potential customers even from the same city to a hotel for a site inspection. However, rather than have the customer log onto the web site or take the virtual tour alone, why not establish a telephone appointment so that the client and the sales person can walk through the site while on the phone together? This allows the sales person to point out the features of the hotel that are true benefits to this customer and to sell the hotel's services. The sales person should prepare for this site presentation in the same way that they would for a "live" site inspection. The good news is that with a virtual tour, you don't have to pre-inspect the rooms and it usually doesn't cost you lunch. 

In developing virtual tours on the web site, keep in mind that the average attention span of most people is relatively short. Pick the most representative digital photography for inclusion but limit your selections to those that will have the broadest appeal. I visited one hotel's site and they had eighty pictures posted -- way too overwhelming for most site visitors. Granted it was a large hotel but when you have seen one boardroom, you've pretty much seen them all. 

Bank of Digital Photography.

I learned this from one of my seminar participants from a resort area reservation service. The participant was the manager of the res office and she kept digital photography of all the properties and the destination on the hard drive of the computer, or a "bank" of digital photography. While on the phone with a potential guest, she would discover what "benefits" they were looking for in their destination and property selection. She would then ask them if they were online or if they could go online and she would email them photos of the features that fulfilled their expressed desires. She would then describe the picture in terms of the benefits to the potential guest. Need I tell you what her "capture" rate was for reservations?! 

The "bank" of photography was the same as those used to build the web site. However, there were also some that were not used on the site. Most of the phone calls were from potential customers who had visited the site but had questions or concerns or simply wanted to speak to a live human versus making their reservations on-line. (Yes, there still are some of those around!) 

Photography more often "sells" when it includes people using a feature of the hotel. For example, rather than simply having a photograph of the children's camp or playground, photos of children playing and having fun using these facilities sell the concept rather than just telling that the facility is there. Recall those stock photos of a hotel restaurant where people are sitting at the table staring at each other but not actually eating or drinking or appearing to have fun.  The people in those photos were like the furniture.

The sales staff can use this photography in much the same way. Even if a planner has come for a "live" site, they often forget certain features. Many of them are coming to look at many hotels on the same trip. Depending upon the number of hotels that they tour, their memory will often place the bathroom of one hotel in another hotel's guest room. An emailed photo will refresh their memory or speak to question or concern. It can be a powerful tool to reinforce their initial impression and overcome a potential objection. For other groups, it can also provide an image of a benefit that a client requires in one situation that they didn't require in a previous meeting. 

Photography of your destination and area attractions can assist you in making the sale and promoting off-site activities. This is more powerful than simply referring them to the local tourist organization's web site where they will also be exposed to other properties and perhaps rates. 

Email Postcards.

Sales people are always looking for creative ways to stay in touch with accounts. Email postcards can fill this requirement if kept fresh and not overused.   I believe that everyone understands by now that unsolicited mailings in the form of letters never get opened. Postcards, on the other hand, receive a glance prior to being thrown away.  You at least have a shot at gaining the recipients attention. Unsolicited attachments to emails are like mailings in envelopes. Busy people trying to manage their Inboxes most often delete them prior to opening. In addition, people are loath to open attachments that they are not expecting due to viruses. 

An email postcard opens automatically. The visual appears in the recipients Inbox and is at least glanced at prior to deleting. This is an opportunity to gain the recipient's attention. Be very careful about not using this medium in a manner that could be considered "spam" -- it should not be blasted to anyone who hasn't given "permission" to receive information about your hotel. 

Let's differentiate between email "blasts" and approaching a potential new client. Email blasts to large number of recipients are extremely useful in informing past and potential customers about new developments or promotions at a property to those who have indicated a desire to receive them.

An email postcard can be a way to approach a prospect when telephone contact has failed as it does frequently. This is a tailored communication to one person versus a mass communication to many.

Email postcard templates are available on newer versions of Microsoft Publisher 2002/deluxe Edition. They can be modified to contain your message or approach (remember to sell benefits to the prospect) and can contain a stock image or use an image from the bank of photography.

Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express have a Stationary feature that allows you to customize designs and colors for emails. One of my seminar participants uses this to send attention-getting emails to clients and potential clients. 

These are not to be used for email "blasts" but for customized communication to prospects and clients, especially when phone calls and regular emails get lost in the "chatter" of hotel solicitations. These postcards can set you apart from your competitors. 

It's a tough market out there.  Sales people need creative tools to push the process forward. Those who are able to relate to their clients in a technologically sophisticated way exemplify that the property and the sales staff are prepared to offer their clients the services required in a high-speed environment. 

Sales is the engine that drives revenue.  Investing in tech tools and training sales people to use them enables them to sell in such an environment.  By ensuring that they have access to these tools, the property's exposure is enhanced. 

I believe there ought to be a teaming of the sales department and the IT function to ensure that tech tools that are available sell -- not just tell.  Imagine the power of those two creative forces -- the possibilities are endless! 
 


Carol Verret, Owner of Carol Verret Consulting & Training, is a twenty-year veteran of the hotel industry. She arrived in Denver in 1984 in the midst of an economic downturn and quickly established herself as an expert in sales and marketing in hotel turn-around situations, applying her formula for REVPAR improvement. To learn more about Carol Verret, Consulting and Training, visit her web site at http://www.carolverret.com  Comments and feedback are appreciated and can be communicated via phone at (303) 618-4065 or email at carol@carolverret.biz. Be sure to subscribe to Carol's free monthly newsletter: ResultsWoW Customer Service by sending an email to:Subscribe-on@carolverret.biz. Put Subscribe in the subject line. 

copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003


 
Contact:
Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site: http://www.carolverret.biz
Email: carol@carolverret.biz
Also See: Back to the Basics? The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed! / May 2003
Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000



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