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Keeping Positive: New Generation of Hospitality
Sales Professionals Lesson #12
(Twelfth in a series)

By David M. Brudney, ISHC, July 2008

It’s got to be depressing for anyone having to go to work these days what with all of the bad news out there - - soaring fuel costs causing airlines to cut domestic capacity up to 14 percent, higher fares, crowded flights, a 5 percent hike in food cost, the price of gas at the pumps, bank failures, home foreclosures, high unemployment and more corporate layoffs. 

Showing up for work is one thing.  Bringing a positive attitude with you and maintaining that attitude is something else.  With some jobs I guess you can fake enthusiasm and a positive attitude, but selling hotel rooms is not one of them. 

Hotel sales professionals have to be positive and enthusiastic about what they are doing almost 24/7.  There can be no “down” time or like in football, no taking a “down” off now and then.

“Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm” 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

One thing you can take to the bank, nobody - - prospect or client - - wants to talk with any sales pro with a bad attitude or little to no enthusiasm.  Demonstrating and maintaining a positive attitude and enthusiasm is something even the most experienced and successful sales professionals need to work on every day.

So now with all this uncertainty and negativity it’s a very good time to remind today’s new generation of hotel sales pros just how important it is in keeping positive and motivated - - and how those characteristics can help book new business.  Enthusiasm is contagious - - spread it!

A different kind of selling is the order of the day.  Our industry is coming out of an exceptional three years of limited new supply and heavier demand, higher rates and bigger profits.  During that period of time hotel sales pros became “comfortable” working in very much of a seller’s market where the focus was on driving rate and optimizing all revenue streams.

We’re already seeing signs of change in response to the economic crisis.  Rate integrity is taking a beating as even upscale resorts are rolling over with renegotiated discounted room rates and significant benefits thrown in.  Planners, now working with revised budgets, are curtailing expensive in-house and off-site F&B functions and the use of state-of-the-art audio visual equipment.  For every group that has already cancelled or will be cancelling, there will be a dozen groups with high attrition on room nights blocked.

Timeless tips for this new generation of sales pros

Young sales pros can be rattled easily when groups begin to cancel or “defer” previously booked or budgeted meetings or events - - or when those all important leads start to dry up or when qualified prospects become difficult to reach and calls are not returned.  Some helpful tips:

Revisit past successes.  Sell prospects on all the success stories in your portfolio.  What can you learn from those bookings shortly after 9/11 when hotels experienced hard times for the next two to three  years?  What worked the last time the U.S. economy went into the dumps?  What markets, what industries were you able to penetrate and why?  Focus on why they booked with you, why they booked at that time, what was the purpose of that particular booking, and why was it successful?  Which of those bookings were “solutions” to the client’s challenges or problems at that time?  See what you can learn from this exercise.  See what is of value and might be applicable as you go forward with your search for new business.

Revisit established clients.  Reach out to all those clients - - those still in business! - - who’ve favored you with bookings in the past.  Ask about how their industry is dealing with the economy, new competition, barriers to overcome, etc. - - as opposed to simply asking for the business.  Here are a few sample questions to engage your clients and prospects:

  • “So, how is your company/industry dealing with this economy?”
  • “What are you doing to stave off competition?”
  • “What is your strategy to compete globally?”
And then later on, if appropriate, ask “how can we play a part in your planning, communication, training and retraining process now?”  Another approach might be, “I have some ideas on how my hotel can support and play a role in your planning, communication, training and retraining initiatives.”  Don’t be surprised if your line of questioning might trigger a previously unrecognized need by the client to book a new meeting or event with you right then and there.

Use of business models.  Hotel sales pros need to keep “at the ready” examples of successful business models to share with clients and prospects.  If using selected business model success stories are introduced correctly, they can help to create a sense among the prospects that they might be “missing out on something” - - by not holding or deferring that important meeting. 
Meeting and event planners respond well typically when learning about comparable or relevant events held off-site that had really good R.O.I. (or return on content, return on goals, return on experience and return on relationships).  That type of knowledge sharing can be very helpful in motivating a planner to book with a sense of urgency.

More collaborative selling.  Knowledge sharing is at the cornerstone of Collaborative Selling.  We live in an age of incomparable knowledge sharing - - not to be confused with “information sharing” via Blogs and other social media networking.  The really good hotel sales pros know when and how to become a valued resource for clients and prospects; when knowledge gained from past experience can become invaluable when shared freely and openly.  I’m talking here about using that knowledge, e.g., successful meeting best practices, product delivery capabilities, competition knowledge or recommending effective outside speakers, as prospect advice.

  • “let’s see if by working together we can find solutions”
  • “I’ve had good experience with this before, how does that play for you?”
  • “How about if we tried this?”  “Try that?”
  • “Here’s what I think you can expect if you go there”
No finer compliment can be paid to any hotel sales pro 

Becoming good at collaborative selling can set you apart from your competitors.  No longer perceived as just another hotel sales guy/gal, you become accepted as a highly-valued resource.  You become someone of influence.  No finer compliment can be paid to any hotel sales pro.

One of the great lessons learned from my 29 year consulting practice is the power of influence.  I can’t count the number of times I have been able to “nudge” a client or prospect into making a decision - - a decision the client was predisposed to make, but needed some “outside” validation.

Use of testimonials. Nothing works better for new sales pros than dropping into a prospect conversation the name of a satisfied client who booked a relevant piece of business with great results and R.O.I.  Keep those testimonials top of mind, ready to introduce on a moment’s notice.  Solid, qualified and relevant testimonials can be an extremely effective tool in influencing a prospect’s decision to extend the dialogue, consider your hotel more seriously or to give you a definite commitment.  And don’t hesitate to suggest facilitating a phone call or meeting between the prospect and the testimonial giver. 

Be creative.  Give some thought to who needs to meet during troubled economic times.  What industries need to train and retrain their human capital?  What new, emerging companies need to bring prospects and the media together to introduce new products and services?  And don’t overlook local government now faced with dwindling revenues from local taxes. 

Identify and make contact with hot topic authors, consultants and workshop presenters looking for audiences and venues for interested managers and self-employed professionals.    Talk with your sales teammates.   Share ideas.  Find out what hotels in your comp set are outperforming you and why?  Ask yourself, “Who is profiting during this current economic downturn, what’s working, who’s buying and why?” 

Strategies.  Corporations are faced with searching for answers and solutions to today’s new business challenges.  The future is less predictable than ever before.  In order to cope with ever more fluid business conditions, standard “strategic planning” is being replaced now by “strategic conversation,” according to a recent study by Destination Marketing Association International. Strategic conversation must be “virtually continuous” v. annual, hence the highly structured annual marketing plan process has become less and less workable, soon to become obsolete. 

A rapidly changing business environment is changing long range planning - - no longer 10 years, being replaced by planning horizons of two years or less.  Strategic options opening up - - by the hour or by the minute - - continue to proliferate.  Hotels, resorts and conference centers should be playing more of a role with this new business dynamics.  More off-site meetings held in surroundings with services American corporations deserve.  Offer your product and services.

Off-site meetings: investments in human capital 

And never forget - - nor fail to remind prospects - - some of the intrinsic values of off-site meetings.  Off-site meetings can help participants feel recognized and more valued.  The atmosphere provided by our various lodging products can help foster employee bonding and many HR experts are convinced it can help employee retention.  Keep in mind how good it is to get away from the office, the phones and the computers.  Off-site meetings that are planned and executed effectively can produce solutions, introduce new strategies and initiatives, educate, train, motivate and produce powerful results.  They should also be looked upon as investments - - in the organization and especially in its most important product: its people. 

Research.  Read!  Study!  Okay, you might have to work at it!  I know you can do it.  Instead of e-mailing friends & family or looking for friends or love on MySpace, etc., spend one hour a night at home doing any of the following:

  • Search the Internet - - Google topical subjects, search for companies, speakers, consultants, articles on emerging or “lead story” industries (products and services), e.g., alternative energy, LEED (the green movement), technology and transportation
  • Search Google, Yahoo, MSN and Blogs where discussions on topical issues take place
  • Hoovering - - find contact info on companies free on www.hoovers.com
  • Read the articles in the Business Sections of your local newspapers - - a wonderful source for knowledge, ideas, leads and finding new prospects
Whenever I hear talk about the demise of the off-site meetings business - - still more than one million a year with 75 percent for 35 people or less - - I think back on what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote while conducting research here in the U.S.  The 19th Century French politician and historian commented on the American passion for forming associations.  Americans will always have the need to come together, to meet and to form unique “networks.” 

No matter what technology comes down the pike, Business America will always need that face-to-face meeting. As business communications become more and more technology-based, off-site meetings will become even more valuable because of the need for relationship-based communications - - and selling skills.
So if you think you have it tough today in hotel sales, just be glad you’re not selling big, gas-guzzling automobiles.  Ask your neighborhood SUV or Hummer dealer, “How’s that working out for you?”  Just think about real estate brokers and sales associates working extra hard and being more creative than ever just to move properties in today’s market.

“In times like these it’s good to remember there’ve been times like these”
- Paul Harvey 

Today’s sales pros need to remind their clients and prospects of why hotels are in business - - to partner with, to collaborate on the scheduling and hosting of those important meetings where strategies are created, campaigns are conceived, and critical decisions are made.

Closing reminders: 

  • Always be positive - - negativity by the seller is the biggest turnoff in selling
  • Enthusiasm is contagious
  • Knowledge sharing is timeless and invaluable - - and can help you book more business!
  • You have opportunities to “suggest” a booking - - don’t miss out!
  • Collaborative sales pros are able to “nudge” prospects into making decisions

To access all previous articles visit www.DavidBrudney.com

© Copyright 2008 
 
David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran sales and marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry.  Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators on sales and marketing “best practices” and conducts reviews of sales and marketing operations throughout the U.S. and overseas.  The principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979, Brudney is a frequent lecturer, instructor and speaker.  He is a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  Previously, Brudney held sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.
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Contact:

David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal 
David Brudney & Associates 
Carlsbad, CA 
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860 
(c) 760-994-9266
David@DavidBrudney.com
www.DavidBrudney.com
www.ishc.com


 
Also See Mike “Shiny” Dimond: One of the Great Hotel Sales Impresarios / David M. Brudney / June 2008
Avoided Trips: Memorable Tourism Experiences Lost / David M. Brudney / May 2008
Hey, General Managers, There is Hope for This New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals! / April 2008
Never Go to Bat Without a Plan: New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #11 / David Brudney / March 2008
Established Client Relationships Can Last a Lifetime: New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #10 (Tenth in a series) / David Brudney / February 2008
Change v. Experience: Dilemma Facing Presidential Candidates and Hoteliers / David M. Brudney / January 2008
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 



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