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To Keep Ahead of Competition Benchmark Develops 
"Selling Edge" Training
 
THE WOODLANDS, Texas --- Gearing up to help its hospitality facilities across the country stay ahead of the competition in the ever-changing marketplace of the coming decade, Benchmark Hospitality has developed a unique, interactive training program for sales directors and managers.  Thus far, the company’s 90 sales professionals have participated in the three-and-a-half day sessions and a CD-ROM and videos have been prepared to initiate the training process for new team members as they are hired.

“The underlying premise of the new Benchmark Hospitality Selling Edge training program is the recognition that selling the conference center concept as applied in all Benchmark properties requires unique skills,” according to Dennis Layer, who was Benchmark’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing when he initiated the proprietary sales training program for the company.

To create a training program that would communicate the skills most needed to effectively maximize each sales manager’s potential, the company first performed a computerized needs assessment based on input from each member of the sales teams on the property level.  “Who better to tells us what they needed than the sales people themselves,” Layer said.  Each sales manager was asked to analyze his or her own needs for achieving top performance, sales directors were asked to assess their sales managers based on their perception of skill level and needs, and general managers were asked to assess the needs and skill level of their directors.  The needs were then analyzed and the course content was developed and designed to train according to the skills identified as “most needed” and “most important” to achieving sales success.

Instrumental in creating the Benchmark Hospitality Selling Edge program was The Miles/LeHane Group, Inc., a Leesburg-based consulting firm, which also implemented the program.  Doug Price, president of the company and author of “License to Sell,” co-facilitated the program.  He said what makes the training concept unique are the built-in commitments on the individual and property levels to apply the training on an on-going basis.  “We went into the program knowing exactly what the participants needed, but the true measure of its success comes when they return to their properties.  Through the use of written commitments to accomplish specific goals, the program in essence holds each Benchmark property responsible for keeping the training alive,” Price said.

Participants in the course were required to bring a four-to seven-minute videotape of themselves making a presentation, writing samples and profiles of their three top customers to the first session.  Then, using a highly interactive approach rather than lectures, the sales managers and directors explored the eight steps of the Benchmark Selling Edge concept.  These include market research, prospecting, establishing relationships, qualifying the customer, benefit selling against the competition, handling objections, closing and follow up.  In the process, writing (proposals, thank you letters, cover letters, solicitations) and presentation skills were honed through hands-on participation.   

“We tapped into individual experience to facilitate learning by doing rather than by instructor,” Price said.

The essence of selling the Benchmark way as communicated in the training program, according to Price, is “Question, listen, and sell.  That’s a little foreign to most sales people who have been taught that they have to do all the talking.  When the customer is talking, you’re actually winning.  You’re selling when you’re listening because you’re learning what the customer’s real needs are.  Knowing those give you the best opportunity to sell.”

Now that all of Benchmark’s sales teams at each property have gone through the Selling Edge session, incoming sales staff will be provided with a CD-ROM and video consisting of modules that encapsulate the full training program.  These materials were made from actual video footage of an entire three-day training session, thus providing new staff with not just the subject matter but the substance of the training experience itself.  As sufficient numbers of new sales managers are hired, they too will receive the full training program as a group.

Headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas, Benchmark Hospitality is a recognized leader in resort, conference center and conference hotel management.

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Contact:
Alice Diaz / Eva Michalek
 M. SILVER ASSOCIATES
747 THIRD AVENUE
NEW YORK, NY 10017
212-754-6500/212-754-6711 (F)
 E-mail: alicedz@msilver-pr.com 
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Also See: Salespeople: Attracting and Keeping the Good Ones - David M. Brudney 
Benchmark Hospitality Preparing for Three New Developments in California, North Carolina, and Tennessee / April 1999 

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