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 Marriottís New Sales Force Strategy
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By Nina Vetter, HVS Chicago, November 2008

Creating a customer-centric sales strategy, Marriott has launched a new centralized sales initiative. This article presents an in-depth description of the initiative - Sales Force One - including its foundation, goals and implementation strategies.

Marriott International has launched a new sales structure - Sales Force One - a companywide customer-centric initiative, aimed at simplifying the sales process for customers and penetrating untapped markets. The structure of Sales Force One allows the customer to work with one primary point of contact, who represents all brands and properties, enabling Marriott, theoretically, to accommodate all of the customersí needs in a one-stop fashion.

Recognizing the increasing complexity and variety of channels through which customers book rooms and meetings, Marriott International conducted extensive research to ensure that current sales strategies resulted in efficiencies and elevated levels of sales performances. 

Conducting both internal and external research, Marriott International interviewed sales associates, hotel regional and national sales leaders, in addition to surveying travel managers and meeting planners. Further, through case studies, a compensation review, and a profitability analysis of top accounts, Marriott International obtained data from a variety of perspectives to analyze the strengths and weakness of its current sales force from which it could base the structure of Sales Force One.

Through the course of its research, Marriott International recognized a discouraging trend ónamely, customersí frustration and confusion with the number of Marriott personnel they need to work with to book rooms and events, and the multitude of Marriott properties addressing their sales needs. Additionally, internal responses from sales associates and sales leaders demonstrated a need for more clearly defined roles and responsibilities and goals for each individual in the sales teams. In creating Sales Force One, Marriott International desires to build a more customer-focused sales organization, defining individual accounts and providing individual sales associates with specific goals.
Although Sales Force One is a national initiative, Marriott International is in the process of creating regional sales offices to better service customers through organizing individual accounts. In early 2008, the regional office for the Washington D.C. area, including Maryland and the Carolinas, opened in Gaithersburg, Maryland, providing Marriott International with initial feedback regarding the implementation of the program and the early response from booking clients. A Chicago regional office will be the next to open in late 2008.

The strategy also encompasses the relocation of sales representatives from individual properties, in which they were primarily focused on booking business for one specific property, to these regional sales offices, referred to as home offices, focusing on a select group of accounts headquartered in a specific area in the market. As opposed to serving only one property, these representatives have the ability to sell business for their accounts in any property within their region and, if need be, nationwide. Additionally, to tie compensation to results, representatives have a clearly-defined set of booking performance goals for their accounts - and for specific properties within the region. Many of the smaller properties, with little or no meeting space, will no longer have on-site sales associates, while some of larger properties will continue to have on-site sales associates to handle larger and more complex group business.

The focus of Sales Force One also revolves around proactively creating new leads and opportunities through organizing and penetrating untapped markets. Research indicated individual properties reported that they lacked the man-power and capital to successfully reach all of their potential markets and clients. Sales Force One is Marriott Internationalís solution to this challenge. By organizing untapped accounts into a nationwide database and structuring the proactive development of relationships with potential customers, Marriott International strongly believes it can more effectively penetrate the overall market.

All company-managed properties are required to participate in Sales Force One. Franchise properties, however, have discretion over their participation in the program. While shared service fees to Marriott International may be adjusted for participating properties, those same properties may be able to reduce operational costs by down-sizing their on-site sales and marketing teams. Sales Force One is designed to yield an overall gain for the brand through increased market share. While broader participation across all properties would create economies of scale, Marriott is confident that the number of franchise properties who opt to participate will grow annually as successes of the Sales Force One initiative become evident.

By sharing sales resources, clearly defining roles and responsibilities, tying compensation to results, and aggressively pursuing under-penetrated high-value accounts, Sales Force One is Marriott Internationalís initiative to gain a competitive advantage in relationships with customers - along with owners and franchisees - allowing for a better alignment between all of Marriott Internationalís stakeholders. As Marriott International acknowledges, this market-driven, new sales strategy and structure may undergo adjustments and modifications as it is rolled out throughout the country to ensure its success and maximum impact in the market. The implementation of such a wide-ranging program underscores the importance for the hotel industry to address the ongoing changes in travel managersí and meeting plannersí booking strategies.
 

Nina Vetter is a Senior Analyst with HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Consulting in Chicago. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a concentration in Business Economics and Public Policy, from the George Washington University. She has most recently provided analysis for a convention center in suburban Pittsburgh, expansion of the Visalia Convention Center in California and is currently providing assistance for an expansion of the Arlington Convention Center in Texas. Email: nvetter@hvs.com

 
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