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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, June 13, 2008

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office


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The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in
the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.
 Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

American Poet Laureate Robert Frost did not work in the current environment, but his observation about human nature may or may not have changed much in the last 50 years.

It is challenging to find accurate records of how much time people spend typically at work today, but the 2006 statistics below reflect that working is the single most intense activity of any day and when one considers the commute time, the activity is even more intense. Add in the realistic hours spent by dedicated hotel professionals, and the numbers become even more skewered.
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The intent of this column is not to encourage hotel owners and managers to provide more elegant office space for sales professionals, but to recognize the critical mind set that office space can have in the minds of visiting guests and potential clients.  It also has a critical mind set in setting the tone of respect and value for those sales professionals for those times when they are working in the office rather than out on other sales related activities.

Observations about the location & appearance of a sales office

The sales office makes a valuable first impression on a potential client of your hotel. The location and appearance of this office make a statement about the property's selling philosophy. A sales office that is easy to find, tastefully appointed, free of clutter and comfortable tells the prospects that you and your hotel cares and wants their business.

"Do's" and "Don'ts" relating to the sales office space:

Positive things to do:

  • Have the office accessible to meeting and banquet facilities and easy to find from hotel lobby. 
  • A location adjacent to conference room for group meetings is usually a service plus.  
  • Make the space private for guest comfort level and staff effectiveness. 
  • Display on the wall photographs of events, celebrities or other important local happenings hosted at  the hotel, highlighting guest rooms, meeting rooms, service staff, and appropriate awards.  
  • Nature contains the equivalent of millions of colors in many shades. With that in mind,  there is no reason to limit yourself to a few colors when painting sales offices in your hotel.
  • Use harmonic interior colors and everything in your space will work together without having to change furniture, flooring or fabric colors. Color selections can go from muted shades to energizing jewel tones.
  • It is recommended that you use a designer recommendation that can make it comfortable, calming and more harmonic to create healthy and productive spaces.
  • Have tasteful furniture in excellent repair. We all have to live within our budgets, but old, dated lobby furniture or any “worn” look in furnishings gives the potential customer a probable warning signal of the quality and "image" of the hotel. There are tasteful ways to affordably handle this.
  • There should comfortable chairs for a reasonable number of visitors, ideally for 2-6 people.  
  • Good ventilation, heat and air conditioning should be properly controlled from the office. 
  • In larger hotels, a receptionist or secretary should be properly trained to offer and promptly serve refreshments. 
  • This person should also be trained to provide photographs and other information highlighting hotel banquets, creative breaks, menus, set-ups, and general hotel information, etc.
  • In smaller hotels, the front desk agent or whoever directs guests to sales should be courteous, offer seating or refreshments as possible and remain attentive to waiting guests. 
  • The reception and seating area should have current trade publications, regional items (travel, cook books, etc.), popular magazines and hotel information.  
  • Fresh flowers or plants are always a positive.  
  • Clean windows and proper control of sunlight should not be overlooked.  
  • A well-lighted room is conducive to both staff and visitors.  
  • A centerpiece (wine, floral, etc.) featured in a larger sales area can be a sales tool.  
  • Lobby area can be used as a possible waiting or reception area, but it must be fresh and have as much of the above items as possible.  
  • All front desk personnel must have training as to how to greet people looking to discuss possible bookings, and rehearsed script can fill that need.  
  • All required information ready, such as brochures, menus, contracts, price lists, etc.) must be immediately accessible in the sales office.  
These things are negative and should be avoided:
  • Locating sales offices in out-of-way place such as basement or back guest room gives a poor impression of the hotel's regard for the sales effort. 
  • There must be some level of privacy for quoting rates and handling negotiations.
  • The "Fishbowl", a glassed-in area within lobby, means the sales person is likely to be called for many non-sales activities.
  • A freestanding desk in lobby has the same problem and means this will become information central.
  • Files stacked on floor, distasteful pictures, calendars displayed near desk areas and general clutter give a poor impression of the hotel overall.
  • Cardboard boxes, bags, stacking of magazines, etc. likewise do not give the potential customer a sense of order in what they may be buying. 
  • Not all hotels have a secretary or receptionist to deal with customers upon arrival, but an unprepared front desk agent can effectively "kill" a potential booking with an uncaring or disinterested attitude or with flippant remarks.
Office space is only part of the effective sales environment, but is an every day reminder of the value of sales professionals – especially when done right.

Feel free to share an idea or to contact me regarding consulting and speaking engagements at johnjhogan@yahoo.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

All rights reserved by John Hogan.   This column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John Hogan’s 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 holds a number of industry certifications and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  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 joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,100 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He has published more than 350 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 a range of industry sources and AMAZON.com.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –     The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

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Contact:

Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
johnjhogan@yahoo.com

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Also See: Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
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