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 Hotel Sales “Steps” and “Processes” Are Out
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Today’s Inquiry Caller’s Want a
Personalized Sales Experience
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by Doug Kennedy, June 2006

Traditionally, lodging industry training programs have taught hotel sales as being a linear process we need to use to lead an inquiry caller down a pathway towards closing the sale.  Whether to referred to as “steps,” “tools,” or “pathways,” these programs have generally showed how to start out by building rapport, listening and probing, turning features into benefits, handling objections, and of course closing the sale.  So we have reinforced the concept that a caller must be lead through some sort of process or series of techniques used sequentially. 

While it is true that these sales fundamentals are still the key ingredients of sales success, what has changed drastically is the order in which they need to be utilized for sales success with today’s prospects. 

Unfortunately, most organizations are still using outdated content to train agents, and then using outdated standards to measure their success.  These programs have not been updated to reflect just how much the inquiry calls our sales agents are fielding have changed.  They are still requiring a process designed for the era when callers usually had little more than a phone number given to them be their friend, or at best a hotel brochure or sales kit.  In that era, the linear models made sense more often than not, allowing sales agents to determine needs and wants, then present just the right benefits to paint the picture the caller wanted to “see.”

Nowadays, and increasingly often, the caller is looking at numerous web photos and even virtual tours while visiting our home page simultaneously as they are on the phone.  So rather than being taken from “sales step one,” callers have much more specific questions and concerns.  Gone are the days when callers said “Could you tell me a little more about the hotel?”  Instead, salespeople today are hearing: 

  • “I was looking online at the deluxe room.  Can you tell me if these are on the East side of the building?” 
  • “I see that the package rate is only available on Friday and Saturday nights; but if we stay over Sunday are there any special promotions?” 
  • “Is the $25 extra for the concierge floor worth it?” 
When fielding today’s sales calls, one just never knows where the starting point is.  Depending on the hotel’s market mix, location, and primary distribution channels, sales people might still be fielding their share of traditional callers with little or no information, so it is still essential that everyone understands these linear sales models.  Yet in moving forward, most sales training programs need some updating to help agents adjust and adapt their sales process according to the nature of the inquiry scenario they are fielding. 

Simultaneously, the standards being used for internal monitoring, mystery shopping, and other sales assessments needs to be updated so that agents don’t get marked down when caller’s remarks pre-empt their use of a specific sales technique or standard.  So for example, if a caller starts out with some version of “Hello, I’m ready to book...,” the salesperson would no longer be required to ask probing questions or present benefits; they could proceed right to securing the sale. 

Here are some suggestions for updating and revising your sales training and assessment standards: 

  • Listen-in to some live (or recordings of live) calls from actual callers to gain insight into what callers really need. 
  • Create an index of the types of questions and call-scenarios your sales team is fielding.
  • Encourage agents to adapt their sales “process” or “pathway” according to the situational needs of the individual caller.
  • Focus on building your staff’s skills at listening actively and ad-hoc probing to pinpoint what parts of the “big picture” the caller still needs to be made comfortable with. 
  • Make sure all assessment/monitoring criteria include an option for “not applicable,” so salespeople can change their approach when caller’s statements pre-empt the use of any particular sales strategy or technique. 
  • Encourage your agents to utilize recommendations and suggestions to help build the caller’s confidence, and then “endorsements” (such as “the superior room is an excellent choice”) to reinforce their buying decision. 
If you invest time in listening to your sales prospects interacting with your sales staff, you’ll no doubt find that today’s callers really just want our salespeople to fill-in a few blanks, give recommendations and suggestions, and to reinforce their decision.  Despite all the web-technology and pretty online pictures, they mainly just want to hear something specific from their fellow human being.  Using scripted sales processes that that callers down a linear path doesn’t work much off the time anymore.  By updating your sales training and assessment process to reflect these real-world changes, you’ll be giving your sales team the tools they really need to close more sales now and into the future. 


 
Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000 conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized, on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every segment of the lodging industry. Ee-mail Doug at: doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com
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Contact:

Doug Kennedy, President
Kennedy Training Network
www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com
doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com
Direct:  (954) 981-7689
 

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