Carol Verret Consulting 
and Training
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Surf's Up - Ride the Wave 
or Miss the Boat - 
The Effective Use of Technology 
in Hotel Sales

 Carol Verret / July 2000
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In my practice I often walk into hotels that have only one computer in the sales office connected to a modem or only the GM’s computer is connected.  The most common reason cited for this is that it is unnecessary for everyone to be connected because -- 
  • “They will only send email to their friends or surf the net for personal reasons on company time” 
  • "It allows the GM to screen email they are sending” 
  • “It is too expensive to upgrade the hardware to make it worthwhile for everyone to be connected”.
In response to one and two, I would respond that these are trust issues and may need to be resolved internally.  Prior to the days of the Internet, we had the same issues with the telephone in terms of personal calls but we still allowed sales to have a phone line.  We also gave them postage and envelopes with which they certainly could send personal correspondence without pre-screening. 

With regard to number three, I would like to make a case that the benefits of providing everyone in the sales office with competent hardware and a modem are many times the cost of providing the equipment.  The proper use of internet based technology not only saves time and makes the salesperson more efficient but the revenue potential of this tool is enormous if only the sales staff and the General Manager truly understand the opportunities it affords and how to manage it to maximize revenue.

Let’s begin with the basics.

Email   

Email is the most efficient tool for communication and correspondence yet developed.  Most business people use it instead of mail for correspondence and only use ‘snail mail’ for original documents.  It is significant that President Clinton just signed a bill which will make email signatures as legally binding as hard copy originals.  FedEx and US Mail look out!

However, there is a definite etiquette to email.  All emails should be acknowledged within seven to ten days and if the recipient is out of email communication for longer than that, an automatic response should be sent indicating that. 
 
Sentence structure, grammar and spelling are as important in email as they are in traditional correspondence.  Spelling and grammar check are not enough and it requires proofing for words and usages that fall through those cracks.

Because email is so immediate, it is tempting to become too casual or informal in tone and address.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming too much familiarity.

Fax 

Most computer based contact management systems (you do have an automated contact management program, don’t you?) have word processing and an internal fax function.  What can demonstrate a sense of urgency and timely follow-up more effectively than faxing a contract or proposal within minutes of hanging up the phone with a client!  All documents are neatly stored and transmission records are available to anyone who needs to see them.

Web Site Design and Management

At a time when even six-year-olds have web sites and ten-year-olds can design and build them, what differentiates yours from the masses?  How does yours get noticed in the plethora of sites that appear when the key words ‘hotel’, your franchise and your location are entered? Does your site look like a brochure that was scanned in or has it been given sufficient thought so that the design conveys the impression of your property that will appeal to your customer demographic?  How are the pages arranged – do you give enough information to differentiate you from the competition or do you simply repeat the obvious? Upon what server does your site reside?  Have you built in enough hyperlinks, to which sites and what response mechanisms have you built in?  Who monitors responses?  Does your host server ensure that your site is refreshed monthly with the major search engines so that it continues to appear within the top fifty to one hundred responses for the key words you have selected? 

Now that I have overwhelmed you with questions, you can see that an effective web site requires more than hiring someone to design it and send it out into cyberspace.  This is a subject for an entire article.

Maximizing the Internet connection for sales
 

1. Research.  It used to be that in order to research a corporate account, one had to request the annual report or ask twenty questions to the primary contact and hope that they were forthcoming with accurate information. Most associations can be accessed by .org and companies by .com.  If ten-year-olds have web sites, you can be assured that many if not most SMERF groups even have them.  If they have adopted a difficult acronym ask what their site is called or it usually appears on the business card. Now one can access the web site and discover who the major players are, the corporate or organizational values (read between the lines) and what they actually do or make.  This is invaluable information for making an effective sales call.   It may even contain information on when and where their last meetings were held. Their web site may also contain information about trade associations, industry publications and their last newsletter may be archived. 
2. Prospecting.  It is a huge concern that in some markets, the sales people are so overwhelmed with responding to inquiries, they tell me that they don’t have the time to prospect.  The net effect of this is that the client chooses the hotel not the hotel choosing the client based on its prerequisites.  The web allows sales people to search for prospects based on the hotel’s ‘ideal client’ profile (please tell me that you have given some thought to what your ‘ideal client’ looks like).  You can access data and slice it through key word searches to identify prospects that you can further research.  You can even communicate with these prospects via email and express interest in hosting their next meeting or becoming their hotel of choice – how is that for creative prospecting!  I bet you at least get a response to your email.
3. Meeting Marketplaces.   Many hospitality web platforms now have a meeting marketplace service where companies and organizations enter their requirements and for a fee, hotels can access the database, decide which ones they can best serve and bid on the business.  Newmarket International’s MeetingBroker.com is one of these. 
4. RFP Processing.  There are programs and even web sites that specialize in sorting and tracking a hotel’s response to an RFP.  You can access potential bids, decide whether or not to bid, track the date of the submission and responses.
5. Travel Related Web Sites.  More and more leisure and corporate travelers are using the web to locate hotels in selected destinations.  These include discount sites such as Priceline and Travelocity and there are a host of others, some that cater to a specific demographic.  If you haven’t sorted through these by price and client base, you are missing the boat and the boat is growing larger every day.  However, all of these sites require management and timely response mechanisms from your property.  It is imperative that you have designated a person or department to monitor inventory, rate and responsiveness in order to maximize your revenue from these sites.  You also need to be selective and make decisions based on price and the site’s ability to deliver to your property based on your requirements.

Do you need more reasons to justify connecting sales to the net?  I can think of many others, not the least of which is access to cost effective training (watch this space for more on that) which is still in its infancy in this industry.  You have provided high-speed access so that your guests can do business more effectively, go look in the mirror and ask yourself if the sales department isn’t worth the same consideration. 

Carol Verret and Associates, Consulting and Training specializes in results training for sales, front desk and customer service and consulting for the hospitality industry. 

© 2000 all rights reserved 


 
Contact:
Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
Web Site: http://www.carolverret.com/
Email: carol.verret@worldnet.att.net
Also See: Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000



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