Change v. Experience: Dilemma Facing
Presidential Candidates and Hoteliers
By David M. Brudney, ISHC, January 2008
With the mortgage meltdown, a troubled economy and the presidential candidate primaries dominating the news this month, it was a profound comment made by good-natured and well-liked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson that caught my attention.
Remember Richardson? Who could forget? He was the mostly ignored candidate during one of the early contentious Democratic Primary televised debates who quipped, “I’ve witnessed more civility in hostage negotiations”.
Appearing on an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer shortly after dropping out of the race, Richardson lamented that the country seems to be crying out for change, and that previous experience was not as important now as new, fresh faces heralding change.
The Governor’s remark resonates well within the hotel industry today
The former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Secretary of Dept. of Energy, and 14-year representative of New Mexico in the House said that he alone was the most experienced of all the candidates in either party, but that it became clear to him that Americans seemed to value “change” more than “experience” this time around.
Richardson could have been talking about our hotel industry as well where experience has been upstaged by change - - from new lifestyle, hip and environmentally-friendly hotels to state-of-the-art technology. New sophisticated CRM software programs enable us to identify, track and interact with our guests, before, during and after their visits.
Plenty of changes can be found in our hotel sales and marketing operations. My consulting practice enables me to interact with sales departments across the country where I find an ever-increasing reliance on technology based selling. Sadly, I find also a near total disregard and disrespect for most of the relationship based selling skills and experience acquired from pre-Internet days.
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lessons afterward
– Vernon Sanders Law
Here’s a glimpse of what can be found in a typical sales and marketing operation:
Leadership. Directors of sales and marketing reaching that position well before their time. Learning a craft and “paying one’s dues” are no longer important or required.
Response time. Phone calls and other inquiries (RFPs, RFQs) are not being responded to quickly enough. New technology notwithstanding, response time has not improved since 9/11. In fact, the problem has simply become more acute.
Technology rules. There’s almost
a false sense that all good leads and prospect inquiries will come direct
through the unit level’s website. Technology based selling has become
mainstream. Sales associates are now joined at the hip with
their computers, much more comfortable e-mailing and text messaging instead
of telephone and outside personal sales calls. Experience acquired
from pre-Internet days no longer of any discernable value. A mindset
prevails where in if the information needed is not immediately available
on the Internet, it is not relevant.
Professional selling skills from pre-Internet times
Here are just a few samples of time-honored relationship based selling skills:
How and when will that experience become critical? If the industry is headed into some tough times as some pundits are predicting, hotel operators will need all the sales and marketing experience guidance and counsel there is. Before the end of 2008 we could be experiencing serious declines in both occupancy and average rate.
My concern is that our unit level sales teams may not be able to respond to the challenge. Will this new generation of sales professionals have the wherewithal to compete in a market share stealing business climate where no definite business is safe? Will these new sales professionals be able to tap into those critical relationship based selling tools to gain advantage during renewed guerrilla warfare?
Will the new breed, motivated by “change”, be able to benefit from the experience of those who came before? Will they have the necessary experience and training? Will the guidance and mentoring be there?
With all this change, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in college was that the only thing constant in life is change. Change is good. But with this change, do we need to abandon the lessons we have learned through experience? Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
I’m reminded of the great line delivered by Jack Nicholson in the film “Two Jakes”. As Nicholson’s character is getting a physical beating one of the two bad guys says, “You know what your trouble is, Jake? You want to live in the past.” Jake replied, “I don’t want to live in the past. I just don’t want to forget it.”
I have experienced seven downward business cycles in my forty-plus year career. Each time I have personally witnessed the value of “having been there, done that.” Paul Harvey said it best, “In times like these, it’s helpful to remember that there have been times like these.”
We have a rich history of reacting well to sales and marketing challenges
We have a rich history of reacting well to sales and marketing challenges that needs to be honored and passed down to today’s and future generations. No country in the world can match the skills U.S. hotel sales professionals have developed over the past 75 years of filling empty rooms and optimizing revenues.
In order to preserve some of these classic examples, here are a few snapshots from my hotel sales and marketing scrapbook of 40 plus years:
Gas Rationing. Hoteliers back in the ‘70s recall the long lines at the gas pumps and the eventual rationing and how resorts within short driving distances ran very successful promotions offering complimentary full tanks of gas upon departure.
Nixon’s Price Freeze. President Nixon’s price freeze of the ‘70s triggered Hyatt’s launch of the club floor concept where guests would pay up to $20 more a night to experience a concierge hosted private floor with a morning paper, continental breakfast, p.m. appetizers and an honor bar.
Sig Front’s Las Vegas travel agent week. Hoteliers of the ‘60s will never forget sales and marketing hall of famer Sig Front’s revolutionary idea for promoting Las Vegas during their historically slow business dates. He invited bona fide travel agents all over the world to come to Las Vegas as guests of the then Del Webb’s Sahara Hotel during “International Travel Agent” week in early to mid-December - - comp rooms, huge response and it became an annual event.
Chris White’s Open Forum. Another hotel sales and marketing superstar, Fairmont Hotels’ top sales guy Chris White, was looking for a way to put Fairmont’s new hotel in Dallas on the map. His brainchild was to host the first-of-its-kind “Open Forum” in Dallas that would draw national meeting and event planners and decision makers together with hotel and travel suppliers to exchange ideas and improve communication. This event took place long before the creation of MPI, at a time in our industry’s history when ASAE and PCMA and LIMRA put on the only major events where hoteliers could attend - - but only as exhibitors and very limited participants. When “Open Forum” ended there were few meeting & event decision makers who didn’t know about the Dallas Fairmont.
Bud Grice’s lunch delivery to the astronauts’ wives. Marriott’s sales and marketing legend Bud Grice dispatched two Marriott vans loaded with lunch and goodies to the home where the astronauts’ wives were gathered watching - - along with the millions around the world - - TV coverage of one of the early space craft reentry and landing. TV remote crews, hoping to capture the wives’ reaction had set up on the front lawn and sidewalk, caught the Marriott vans arrival. One of the reporters, hungry for anything human interest newsworthy, stuck a mike in Grice’s face as he stepped out of the van and asked why Marriott was there. Bud replied, “We thought the families might be getting hungry and so we are bringing them some food.” The global TV exposure was priceless.
Today’s hotel sales professionals need to be accomplished in both technology based and relationship based selling skills. There’s a time when a situation calls for e-mail or text messaging. There’s a time, too, when teleconferencing or webinars are appropriate. But there is also a time when a telephone call or a personal outside sales call are required. Good sales professionals are comfortable with both technology based and relationship based selling skills.
The key is to know when, where and how. Think in terms of a good golfer. He/she has a bag full of various clubs. The better golfers know which club to use, where and when. Good sales professionals need to know when, where and how to use their selling tools in their own “golf bag” or tool box.
© Copyright 2007
|Also See||Hotelier's Confession: Second Voyage Confirms There is a Difference in Cruise Experiences / David Brudney / December 2007|
|Hotel Owners and Operators Expecting Higher Yield from Increases in More Personalized, Direct Selling Expenses / David Brudney / November 2007|
|Pause for Reaction: New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #9 / David Brudney / October 2007|
|Today’s Meeting Planner: New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #8 / David M. Brudney / September 2007|
|Hospitality Leaders Take Note: The Bill Walsh Legacy / David Brudney / August 2007|
|Hotel Brands Weren’t Always Thinking Outside the Box / David Brudney / July 2007|
|Did the Cruise Experience but Thanks, I’ll Take My Luxury Resort Any Day / David Brudney / June 2007|
|Referrals; New Generation of Hotel Sales Professionals: Lesson #7 / David Brudney / May 2007|
|Relationship Building - New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #6 / David Brudney / April 2007|
|Site Inspections New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #5 / David Brudney / March 2007|
|Mood of Hotel Investors and Operators is Euphoric / David Brudney / February 2007|
|“Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer” Know Your Hotel Competition: Lesson #4 / David Brudney / January 2007|
|Hotel Owners Nightmare: Money Left on the Table / David Brudney / December 2006|
|New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #3: Selling Time Balance / David Brudney / November 2006|
|New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #2: Want to be Successful? Start by Packing your own 'Chute / David Brudney ISHC / October 2006|
|Managing the Consultant: Careful Not to Doom the Project / David M. Brudney / September 2006|
|You Cannot Microwave Experience: New Generation of Hotel Sales Professionals - Lesson 1 / David Brudney / August 2006|
|New Breed of Hotel Sales Associates Lacking Curiosity? Maybe it’s Not a Generational Thing / David Brudney ISHC / July 2006|
|Generation X Hotel Sales Associates: All Important Curiosity Factor Missing? / David Brudney / June 2006|
|Physical Therapy Sessions: A Good Reminder for Professional Selling Fundamentals / David M. Brudney / April 2006|
|Hotel Marketing Starts Locally; Never Forget Your Neighbors / David M. Brudney / March 2006|
|Notes from the ALIS Conference / David Brudney / February 2006|
|General Managers Workshop: Managing Today's Hotel Sales Teams / July 2005|
|Owners & Asset Managers: Need Expert Advice, Referral? Ask A Trusted Consultant / David M. Brudney, ISHC / May 2005|
|Larry May: The Passing Of Another Hotel Soldier / David Brudney ISHC / April 2005|
|Hotel Owners: Better, Worse or About the Same? / David Brudney ISHC / December 2004|
|Let’s Put Bush and Kerry Through the RFP Process / October 2004|
|Bev Kordsmeier, Hyatt Sales’ First Lady / April 2004|
|Message to Hotel Sales Associates: “It’s Not You!”/ January 2004|
|What Innkeepers Want Every Christmas? Fill Those Empty Rooms / December 2003|
|Uncertain Times Call for Return to Backyard Basics / April 2003|
|Time to “Group Up”? Maybe, Maybe Not / May 2002|
|America’s Front Desk Fights Back! / January 2002|
|Front Desk Fails To Catch America’s Hospitality Spirit / David Brudney ISHC / November 2001|
|A Very Good Time For That Sales Audit / David Brudney ISHC / Sept 2001|
|More Theater, Less Zombies / David Brudney ISHC / Dec 2000|
|It’s The Experience, Stupid! / David Brudney ISHC / Nov 2000|
Return to David Brudney & Associates Special
Reports and Articles
Return to Hotel.Online Ideas and Trends
Search Hotel Online