|“You can either take action, or can hang back and hope for a miracle.”
It certainly seems the cost of travel is going up these days.
The cost of gas for our vehicles, of fuel for the airlines and even of
food for a variety of global reasons are affecting the asking prices facing
travelers. With a US Presidential election just around the corner
as well, the advertising rates in certain mediums are likely to be rising
Rather than feeling a sense of helplessness, we should look at where
we can find business leads – they have always been there, but when the
economy is strong, they are often overlooked as too fundamental or unnecessary.
Success in sales is often a result of developing good business leads'.
Some sales people believe they must travel far and wide to track them down
and in certain market segments that holds true. The reality is, tonight,
that there are business leads right on almost every hotel’s premises and
perhaps more than you'd find by going out of town.
Here are four excellent way to develop business leads without even
leaving your office:
1. Current Guests
2. Associates/Employees of Your Hotel
People who stay at your property are prime prospects for other types of
business, such as meetings, conferences or social activities.
A quick check of reservations, registration cards or your property management's
guest history feature will reveal which guests are regular repeats or that
may be logical prospects for more business.
Many hotels use a simple front desk promotional activity to gather business
cards in a briefcase or glass bowl. The incentive for the guest is
to win the monthly drawing for whatever you choose to give away.
The incentive for the hotel is create a database of guests or locals meeting
guests in your hotel.
Look for corporate officers, association representatives, sales managers,
personnel managers, etc. They may be in a position to decide where
to hold their next meeting or where to send their overnight guests.
3. Existing Files
Everybody belongs to some kind of organization, such as a church, garden
club, bowling team, softball league, self help group, PTA, educational
group - the list goes on and on.
Sales people and managers should take advantage of this by meeting with
housekeepers, desk agents, accounting staff, bell staff/van drivers, restaurant
and bar employees — anyone who works at the property. Ask them for their
help in providing leads for meetings and social events.
Incentive programs provide the answer to the "what's in it for me" question
asked by some employees. There have been tremendous employment opportunities
for many hourly staff and they sometimes require reminders of the need
for teamwork. When strong occupancy centers such as Florida or Las
Vegas show downturns or uncertain forecasted demand, these hourly staff
might be a potential source of business.
Offer your staff dinner for two at the restaurant of their choice, a weekend
at the hotel, or a cash award based on the revenue generated as a result
of the lead. There's a hidden benefit to having employees provide
leads, which is improved staff moral.
Almost immediately, you'll see associates become more involved in working
together. Just having salespeople speaking to other staff members will
do the trick. The message here is, "Everybody sells."
4. Newspapers.................... with a twist
The most likely and best source of leads is already at everyone's fingertips
— right in the file drawer or the computer's memory. Unfortunately, files
get buried so deep after guests depart or after a conference or meeting
that no one takes the trouble to book the group again – until it is too
late and the competition has made personal contact and "sold" them.
While smaller or rooms only properties do not serve as many groups, there
are frequently still a solid number of potential leads at almost all kinds
of locations from existing and previous guest information.
This approach requires some thought, effort and a plan. Going through just
a few files each day is a good way to generate business from groups or
regular guests that have booked your property in the past. If they had
a positive experience at your hotel once, there's a strong possibility
that they'd be glad to return. All you have to do is ask them!
Without a doubt, USA TODAY has accomplished one of its’ primary goals
– to become the “daily” paper of the traveling public in the US.
Most hotels that provide complimentary newspapers to their guests use USA
TODAY because it is felt the product meets the general informational need.
Who does the reading for the leads?
While TV, radio and the internet provide a wide range of news daily to
large numbers of people, many of us still glance or read at least a portion
of a newspaper at some point during the day. But does anyone read them
with the purpose of developing business leads? There's a difference between
simply reading a newspaper and reading it with a specific purpose in mind.
Here is the twist as you try an experiment. The difference is in
which papers you use for finding local business leads.
Ask three or four people on your staff to review a (hometown or regional)
local newspaper for anything that might lead to room business, meetings,
parties, and dining room and bar business, etc.
See who can find the most leads. You'll be astounded by the results. The
"readers' will come up with more sales leads than you can contact in a
day. The idea, of course, is to train people to read the newspaper
with the thought of looking for business. Once they do this exercise, they'll
look for leads every time they read a newspaper, and new business will
be popping up automatically.
All four of these ideas have been working for years at many different types
of properties in every kind of economic cycle. The bottom line
remains that it is the general manager's job is to make sure the system
works and follow up takes place after the leads are identified.
Almost everyone can do it. It can be assigned to different people
on different days.
Leads can be cut out and passed on to various department heads for follow-up.
The sales manager (if you have one) should get the leads for group- meetings
business; the front-office manager should get the leads for local contacts
on room business; the catering manager gets the leads for social functions;
the food and beverage manager gets the leads for restaurant and lounge
Feel free to share an idea or to contact me regarding consulting and
speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
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.