|By: Neil Salerno, October 2006
Wise sales directors welcome the leadership and involvement of the general
manager in their sales effort. They realize that a general manager, who
is involved in the sales process, can be a strong ally when it comes to
budgeting and the allocation of marketing funds as well as an often needed
stimulus to achieve sales excellence.
Yet, many general managers have difficulty becoming involved in a positive
way. How deeply should a manager be involved; how much is enough; how much
is too much? Many GM’s either become sales micro-managers, or avoid getting
involved in sales at all; neither case is desirable or beneficial.
I will never forget attending my very first P&L review meeting many
years ago as a sales fledgling. When the bottom-line was criticized, the
GM uttered those ominous words, “Gee boss, we would have made money if
we had better sales last month, but I can’t help that”. Instead, it would
have been nice to hear that this GM felt a little responsibility for the
The sad part is that this GM’s reaction is pretty typical. CYA seems
to be alive and well in our industry. This reaction is typical of a GM
who is not involved in the sales function with anything more than lip-service.
This is usually the same GM who is notably absent when I conduct property
sales training sessions; a pretty tell-tale sign.
The fact is that the GM should be the real sales director on the property.
No offense to the person holding the title of director of sales, but the
GM is the individual with a view for the entire operation and has the ultimate
responsibility for profit or loss. Just as the GM needs to be involved
in the hotel’s operation, the GM needs to accept involvement in sales.
But, how much involvement is enough? Here are some suggestions.
|Sales Team Leader
In his book on leadership, Stephan Covey describes managers
and leaders: a manager is the one who puts the ladder against the wall;
the leader is the one who tells the manager which wall to lean it against.
Without this leadership, many sales people work towards the wrong goals,
accomplishing little of value and adding to their own frustration.
Being a leader, a GM provides direction to the sales effort. It really
doesn’t matter if the hotel has an entire sales team, just one person,
or one person who has sales duties only part of the time. The GM co-ordinates
all the many sales activities necessary to stay competitive in today’s
business environment and insures that a balanced sales program is maintained.
Along with the person responsible for sales, the GM defines the hierarchy
for time to be devoted to the Internet, electronic sales, corporate transient
sales, tourist sales, and group sales. Each area has its own level of importance.
Today, the sales role is more complicated and complex than
ever before. The Internet and electronic sales are increasing in their
importance to overall sales success; yet many hotels spend too little time
and resources working on them.
Although most hotels, today, have their own web site, the sales job
only begins on the day the site is published. Many people feel that the
GM is best equipped to be the leader in the online sales task. A well-designed
hotel web site should produce as much as 40% or 50% of all the reservations
produced in the hotel; this amounts to a huge responsibility.
Web site marketing is not a function of the web master who designed
and maintains your web site. Since your web site represents the entire
property, the general manager is perfectly equipped to lead the online
sales effort. GM’s should lead the effort to develop a web site link strategy
to increase popularity of the site, develop viral marketing opportunities,
participate in blogs/newsletters, and develop online package promotions.
Site marketing includes reviewing and evaluating the site’s data; especially
reservation production generated by the site. This data provides information
on the “health” of the site and points-out changes which need to be made.
Most hoteliers tend to rely solely on data provided by the web master or,
in the case of flagged properties, data provided by the franchise.
The general manager should monitor the site’s data on search engine
ranking, searches generated by various engines, unique user visits, the
popularity of each page of the site, the number of users visiting their
reservations page, and, of course, the number of reservations made from
the site. Today’s data generating engines can provide a whole host of useful
information about the productivity of your site; learn to use them.
In the case of franchised hotels which direct reservations to their
franchise booking engine, several franchises now have the capability to
track the number of reservations which originate from the hotel’s site
versus those generated from the franchise site. Check with your franchise
to see if they can do so. If they cannot, why not?
The general manager should also be involved in the electronic
marketing elements of the hotel sales effort. By virtue of the GDS, hotels
participate in several third-party aggregator booking portals. Your rates
and inventory, as submitted to the GDS, are those which the GDS submits
to the third-parties.
Corporate Transient Sales
I know that many GM’s have a tainted view of third-party aggregators
as a result of the Franchise/Third-party wars of a few years ago, but,
if you play the game right, third-party booking portals can deliver needed
reservations to your hotel. If necessary, get an expert to show you how
to manage all the elements of your electronic marketing effort. A web site
is a living breathing sales tool and needs to be an active part of your
Pay-per-click advertising is an excellent way to increase the popularity
of your site, but it’s not a place for the timid or uninformed. Managing
pay-per-click advertising requires some expertise, but the results can
be very rewarding. Most hotels receive a return-on-investment of many times
the money invested.
The Internet has changed the way we solicit corporate transient
business. Many companies are now instructing their travelers how to “find”
best available rates; thereby making corporate negotiated rate programs
less reliable; but, lowest rates are not the only criteria needed to book
this business. Combining special amenities and services with negotiated
rates can “lock-in” business from many companies.
The general manager should be involved with the sales team to develop
“rate programs”, versus rates alone, for volume corporate business. Another
reason for this involvement is the fact that it can produce additional
confidence in the hotel, which only the “person-in-charge” can do; this
can often tip the scale to win that juicy corporate account. Sales calls
made by the general manager can make a huge difference.
For those hotels large enough to book group business, the general
manager can play an important role in building group business. Most group
planners don’t simply book hotel rooms; they judge the ability of the hotel
to properly service the needs of their group. This includes the accessibility,
facilities, staffing, and services available at the hotel.
Don’t underestimate the importance of competent hotel staffing to a
group planner. What better representative to demonstrate the competence
of the hotel staff than the general manager. No group representative should
visit your hotel without being introduced to as many hotel team members
as possible; especially the GM.
Wise sales people use the GM and staff to help book groups. The general
manager represents the attitude, functionality, and competence, which group
planners are seeking. Let’s bust the myth that selling group business is
just a matter of rates and amenities; your rates and amenities could be
perfect, but you could still lose the group if the planner doesn’t have
confidence in your operation.
Whether your hotel is large enough to have a dedicated reservations
staff or not, someone has to answer the phone to “sell” voice reservations.
GM, does your staff represent the way you would answer the phone and sell
reservations? Proper training aside, have they ever heard how you handle
a reservations call?
Most successful general managers are an integral part of the hotel’s
sales effort; they are “examples” to the entire staff. Everything starts
with a sale being made. Keep the horse in front of the cart; maintaining
a profitable level of expenses is important, but improving sales can cure