Hotel Online Special Report


Hotel Common Sense
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“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel
Sales & Marketing Professionals

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by  Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

A Bakers Dozen equals 13. It means 12 loaves plus one extra for luck.

While business is brisk today in many parts of the industry, 
planning makes “luck” much more achievable.

1. Learn everything about the services and product you will be promoting. This first step is perhaps the most obvious requirement for any successful sales professional, yet one that is often overlooked especially by those individuals who may have additional responsibilities at their hotel.   Many smaller properties hold their general manager responsible for the sales and marketing efforts and while this can work, knowledge of the entire hotel is essential. 

Particulars include:

  • Personally inspecting every type of accommodation in your hotel.  Learn the differences and potential benefits of each type and how they can be of value to different customers.  This tour should not be a one time event – quarterly tours will keep you aware of changes in the hotel and can also help management to be better aware of potential problems.
  • Maintain your awareness of the property of the whole,   This includes parking areas, access points to the hotel and the all important curb appeal. 
  • If you have work with an adjacent restaurant or other external service that is part of your offerings, regularly assess their quality and how it affects your guests’ satisfaction. 
  • Regularly visit the front of the house AND the “heart of the hotel” EVERY DAY. This should be routine for managers, but for the staff to see that the sales professionals are aware of their contributions can mean a great deal in staff morale.
2. Learn everything about the services and product of those hotels that you will be competing with.  Effective sales professionals know who is in their competitive set, and everything about them.   They learn the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors and plan accordingly as they try to increase market share at the expense of their competitors,

3. Listen Better.  Do not prepare your response before the other person has actually delivered their message.  While it is critical to be able to handle objections,  respond to what your client actually is interested in or says. 

4. Regularly communicate with the entire hotel staff on sales and marketing programs, challenges and needs – remember, the results of sales and marketing efforts affect everyone on staff regardless of title or position.   If you are the general manager, you already have regular communications on operations, but not necessarily on sales and marketing activities.  If you are primarily in sales and marketing, look for ways to positively inform hotel staff about what is important and going on both today and long term.   The most successful hotels are those that have open dialogue and build pride by inclusion of all staff

5. Constantly assess time management.  The 80-20 rule of priorities and value remains true much of the time.  80% of our profits often come from 20% of the client base.  The same hold true for problem areas.  The question needs to be not are we doing things “right” , but are we doing the “right” things correctly?  Are we trying to provide services for the “right customers” for our hotel?  If our hotel was designed for youth groups, then targeting business executives is not likely to be successful.

6. Set realistic occupancy targets that become the foundation of the hotel’s operating budgets.  Budgets are often finally approved by the ownership or management company in a remote location, but the first step of any budget  is to understand probable demand.   This means accurate records must be maintained and trends identified.   Be able to justify why RevPAR, occupancy or revenue targets should be at a certain level based on facts, market conditions and the positioning of your property. 

Budgets are often controversial and at times seem unachievable.  The best time to project accurately for the next year is right after that  period has finished for this year.   For example, if one waits until September to project occupancy for the following January to December, there can significant changes in market conditions, staffing or simply a memory lapse that can seriously undermine accuracy.   If one makes a draft of the budget for following April in May after the income statement and market analysis have been reviewed, the chances are that the projections will be able to be justified and more accurate than  trying to prepare 12 months in one action.   As a general manager or sales professional, you know the cost of turnover from people realizing they cannot achieve unattainable budgets. 

7. Plan, coordinate and implement a hotel specific marketing  budgets annually.  As the marketing and operations team must work together, we must recognize the need to “plan the work and work the plan.”  There needs to be an annual plan that is worked and measured at least monthly.   While no plan is perfect, researching trends, evaluating the hotels positioning through a  SWOT analysis and identifying the likely customer base is the basis of every plan.    Even if your hotel is primarily walk-in business or one night stays, understanding their referral points, price breaks and booking trends is essential to lasting success.

8. EVERYBODY SELLS. Effective sales and marketing professionals adopted this mantra years ago.   Every member of your staff belongs to a family or a church or a social organization or some other group that occasionally has the need for your hotel’s services.   Sometimes incentives are the key to get staff to think about recommending your hotel and other times it is simply asking them to help themselves by offering the information about your hotel. 

9. Training must be maintained and increased for sales and marketing professionals. In good times of a sellers’ market, many hotels unfortunately tend to act as order takers because the belief is that there will always be another customer.   In hard times or a buyer’s market, the skills of effective sales professionals become obvious.  What we as an industry need to realize is that there are always business cycles and those trends are not always self evident. Most hotel brands also have excellent training programs available, as well as services provided by state and provincial hospitality associations.

Additional training is available in a variety of formats from a range of excellent sources such as:

10. Pay attention to the “human” resource role with increasing intensity in those who will be acting as sales and marketing professionals.  Recruit and select people wisely.   Pay competitively or better and lead in incentives. Recognize your team regularly with “thank you’s “and expressions of appreciation. Retain the champions by whatever it takes to keep them.  Choose people who are self driven team players and who are not afraid to hear “no”.

11. Review your market analysis monthly and evaluate its effectiveness on the hotel income statement.   As in #5 of time management and #6 of realistic forecasts, successful hotels know which kind of customer base is profitable for their hotel.   Effective sales professionals and general managers help themselves and their hotel’s owner by understanding how to assess which customers best fit their hotel’s offerings.  Markets can shift and what used to be a tour market might shift to a youth or other SMERF demand generator.   Watching your trends if essential.

12. Know your customers – “Up close and personal”. The legendary sales and marketing professionals are those who know the base of their clients and interact with them regularly.  Industry icons ranging from Conrad Hilton to Horst Schulze to Ian Schrager to Mike Leven would tell you a major part of their companies’ success is attributable to knowing major customers, regardless of title. 

  • Do you as a general manager  know the top five customers of your hotel? 
  • Do you as sales and marketing professional personally  know the top ten customers of your hotel? 
  • Do you visit or contact the top 20 accounts at least once a month?
  • Do you know each month if these top 20 accounts’ volume has changed and why?
  • Do you visit or contact the top 50 accounts at least twice a year?
13. Maintain rate parity through ongoing revenue management. Use whatever systems you need to track demand, denials, booking pace, rate break points and other revenue management strategies.  Be certain to use the information on your hotel’s particular competitive set via the Smith Travel reports or other completive data available to you regularly.  Technology today coupled with someone who will take the time to evaluate data makes a tremendous difference.


Think Tank 
Questions of the day
These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.  Consider using these or similar questions at staff meetings encourage your team to THINK!
 

Topic 

“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel  Sales and Marketing Professionals
  1. When was the last time you actually inspected each type of accommodation in your hotel?
  2. When did you last update your competitive set, based on personal visits to the competition?
  3. How are your forecasts and operating budgets prepared?
  4. How often do you actually review and update your marketing plan? 
  5. When was the last sales and marketing training you participated in?
Feel free to share an idea and contact me at John.Hogan@bestwestern.com anytime and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or of Best Western International
 
All rights reserved by John Hogan. This column will be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John Hogan, Ph.D. CHE CHA MHS is the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International, the world’s largest hotel chain.  Best Western International has more than 4,200 hotels in 80 countries and is one of the worlds most established and recognized hotel brands, founded in 1946 in California.

He serves on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity including the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the AAHOA Education and eCommerce Committee and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and his Ph.D. in International Business and an MBA via Distance Learning from UNW.  His professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), a Master Hotel Supplier (MHS), and a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor for 20 years, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independents hotels.  Prior to joining Best Western International in spring of 2000, he was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He has conducted an estimated 3,000 workshops and seminars in his career to date.

He has published more than 300 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from HSMAI www.hsmai.org , www.SmartBizzOnline.com www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is working on his 2nd book –The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Contact:

Dr. John J. Hogan, CHA MHS CHE 
Director, Education & Cultural Diversity 
Best Western International -THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN ® 
6201 N. 24th Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85016-2023 
Phone 602-957-5810; fax 602-957-5815 
john.hogan@bestwestern.com


"...we all need a regular dose of common sense "
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Also See: "A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel General Managers / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / May 2006
“A Bakers Dozen” of Ideas for Hotel Management Company Executives / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / April 2006

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