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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, March 2009

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Remember to Embrace the Essentials in Sales

Revenue and net profits can often depend on how one of the most fundamental
practices in sales- how incoming phone calls are handled





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By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 
March 24, 2009 

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)  German dramatist, novelist, poet, & scientist 



First impressions often start with the hotel operator at larger hotels or with front desk agents at smaller properties who must respond to a basic phone call or inquiry.  Many smaller to medium size hotels do not have separate telephone departments, but basic courtesy and professional handling of calls can make the difference of whether your hotel will even have a chance to be considered, especially for group business or the meetings market.

In challenging economic conditions such as are in place today,  hotels of many different price points and facilities are being considered.  It is arguably more of a buyer’s market in many locations, with lower demand than the past two years, and the need for the basics to be understood by all guest contact staff is essential.

Howard Feiertag, my co-author of  LESSONS FROM THE FIELD - a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, has written and stated numerous times over the years that meeting planners are constantly astonished by the lack of professionalism displayed by too many hotel salespeople in the performance of their jobs. From the handling of an inquiry to the solicitation effort to the booking stage and follow-up, he feels that salespeople at every type of hotel should constantly assess their competencies and habits in order to continue to improve their performance. 

From the beginning, we too often tend to put people in a bad frame of mind when incoming calls are answered tersely, unpleasantly or if the answer is so long that it comes out jumbled.

We have all heard this “greeting” slurred together in one non-stop sentence: 

"GoodMorning,ThankyouforcallingtheGreenTreeInnandConferenceCenter,Where thegrassisalwaysgreener, thisisTodd, mayIhelpyou? Oneminute, whileIputtheothercalleronhold please….”
Moreover, all in 4 seconds or less!

Conversely, of course, a pleasant, understandable voice is a welcome sound to a caller, and can make the caller feel welcome and at ease. Well-operated hotels frequently are reflected in the promptness by which the phone is being answered, as well as the attitude of the hotel being displayed through the manner in which the call is taken. 

As a starter, people calling in may be “turned on" or "turned off” by how the phone is answered. When the caller is connected to the sales or manager’s office, the same opportunity exists to either impress or annoy the caller. 

How many times does the general manager’s or sales department phone ring before it is answered? Once, ideally, and not more than twice, hopefully. What then is the attitude displayed by the secretary or sales person answering the phone? A positive, friendly, eager-to-help voice is often the key to a successful sale.

Abrupt Questions Can Be A Turn-Off

If the caller has to answer too many questions before s/he speaks to the person wanted, the call (and possibly a lead or a piece of business) may be lost forever. Too often, a caller has to answer questions such as, "Who may I say is calling?" "ah, what is the name of your company?" or "What is the nature of your call?"

These can all be real annoying or offensive. If the call is for a particular person in the sales office, it should be taken immediately and without questions. Salespeople should take every call without screening.  It is at times much easier getting through to the president of a large corporation than to the sales manager.   When was the last time you arranged to have someone call your office as an external party?  When was the last time you called your own hotel and office in the early evening or on a weekend day?  Was the response as you expected?

Sales staff also should examine the number of calls they do not get right away, and how others handle those calls.

  • If salespeople are out making sales calls or traveling on business, this is something the caller is able to easily accept.
  • If the salesperson being called is busy with a prospective client such as showing the hotel or helping plan a conference that, too, is understandable. 
  • However, when a prospect or client calls and the salesperson is "in a staff meeting”, the meeting should be interrupted so the salesperson can take the call.
  • In fact, a good policy for salespeople to follow would be to have all in- house staff meetings before 9 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. All other time in between needs to be available for selling.
Another area regarding the telephone is the length of time it takes to return phone calls. Some calls naturally have priority over others. This can usually be recognized by the name of the caller, the company name or the messages left.  Many calls are made and messages left by what may appear to be "bothersome" callers; however, one never knows. The one call never responded to, which may have appeared to be a magazine sales representative trying to sell magazine advertising, could very well have been that person trying to setup a sales meeting for the people from the magazine,

It is helpful to prioritize telephone messages, but at the same time, good salespeople always manage to respond to phone messages within 24 hours. The sales personnel at a property need to look at themselves and the manner in which they answer the phone. Enthusiasm shows up very easily, as does the lack of it. Finally, they need to look at the sales support staff and other people in the department and how the hotel main phone line is answered.

Let's all be enthusiastic and sell!

After all, it is OUR livelihood – all of us !


Feel free to share an idea for a column at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact customized workshops, speaking engagements or me regarding consulting. 

Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor. He conducts mystery-shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services (hotel online.com, eHotelier, 4 Hotels, Hotel Resource, etc) and has published more than 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry.  He co-authored (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from info@smartbizzonline.com, ROOMS CHRONICLE www.roomschronicle.com  and other industry sources.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and expects to publish in 2009 his 2nd book based on his dissertation – The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

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, including service as Senior Vice President of Operations in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) 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 long-term involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and classes in his career. 

Expertise and Research Interest
• Sales Management and training
• Turn-around and revenue management
• Professional Development & Customer Service 
• Hospitality Leadership and Executive Education
• Making Cultural Diversity Real
• Accreditation & Developing Academic Hospitality programs

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education includes working with the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA, the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs, the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees, the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), the International Hotel Show and the Certified Hotel Owner program for the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association.

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Contact:

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

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Also See: Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Working With Your Hotel Franchisor for Everyone’s Success / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment; Evaluating the franchise business model as a potential franchisee / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Getting the Most Out of Your Hotel Franchise Investment / Dr. John Hogan / Dr. John Hogan / March 2009
Four Steps: How to Make More Sales Calls than Any Other Way Or Trade Shows Can Be Invaluable If. . . / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
A Baker’s Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Chief Engineers / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
"A Baker's Dozen" of Strategies for Hotel  Banquet Managers / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
Making New Year's Sales and Marketing Resolutions Real and Practical / Dr. John Hogan / January 2009
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Probing Hotel Expenses / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Fundamentals of Hotel Sales Planning / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
A Message for Hoteliers: Giving Thanks - and Not Just One Day Each Year! / Dr John Hogan / November 2008
Hoteliers Must Remember the Lessons of Reasonable Care! / John Hogan / November 2008
Enthusiastic and Sincere Attitudes Will Pay Off For Hotel Salespeople / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / November 2008
Unleash the Potential! Recognize the True Value of Your Front Line Sales People / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / November 2008
Defining Hospitality - Readers Respond with their Insights / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
Understanding the Value and Power of Breakfast / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Restaurant Managers / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors / Hotel Common Sense / John Hoganv/ September 2008
My Definition of Hospitality. What’s Yours? / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager: 6 Observations on Finding and Employing Problem Solvers / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Action Steps to Succeed in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Mistakes to Avoid in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / August 2008
Ways to Identify and Build Repeat Guests / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part four: Communicating with Clarity and Candor / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
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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