Carol Verret Consulting 
and Training
Training Seminars

Revenue Recovery
Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales

Carol Verret / January 2003
Many General Managers and Directors of Sales tell me that they establish sales goals for their sales teams that are not being met. They indicate that they cannot seem to get their sales people to develop new business and close it, despite the resources that management is making available to them. The sales people are telling me that they are not sure how to accomplish the things that they are being asked to do. 

There is no doubt that it is tough out there but the strong sales people will not only succeed but regard this as an opportunity to prove something to themselves and their management. Sales people with the ‘right stuff’ want to know how to develop their skills. The others spend their time figuring out why these things won’t and can’t work. 

The skill set that made sales people successful during the boom years is not necessarily the skill set that will help them succeed during the tough times. When all that was required was to answer the phone, follow-up and book the business, the expectations were different. As a respected business associate put it so well, “What we had were farmers who harvested the field, what we need now are hunters to locate and close in on new business.” 

Not everyone is capable of making the transition from ‘farmer’ to ‘hunter’. Some will pick up the tools of the new skill set and embrace the transition; others will simply not be capable of doing that. The onus is on management to ascertain who in their department will make the cut and how to hire those who have it in them to become hunters. It all goes back to having the right people in the right positions if you want to succeed. 

In other words, it all boils down to the point of hire. General Managers who assumed their positions during the mid-nineties often don’t know what to look for in a potential candidate. Experience in the past is not necessarily a predictor of success in this economy. 

The interview process can be very subjective. I have worked with sales people who were great people but clearly not suited to conducting an aggressive sales effort and uncomfortable with the process. It is unfortunate but those people are being set up to fail and it is not their fault – it was bad ‘hire’ for which management needs to take responsibility. 

Here are a few steps that managers can take and tools that you can use to make the best possible hiring decisions. They are not infallible but can be predictors of success for hiring good sales people: 

Personality Inventories:  Decide the specific traits that you are looking for in a successful sales person who can work well in your organization. There are many of these inventories on the market, one that I have used in the past is PDP, which is very simple and assesses four traits.  These tools put a bit of objectivity into the hiring process and cut through some of the 'glow' of the interview process. As Bob Alter, President and CEO of Sunstone Hotels once said, " A candidate looks the best they are ever going to look during the interview process."

Questions to ask.  Give careful thought to the questions that you are going to ask a candidate. These should include specific questions regarding successes and challenges. "What was the most difficult selling situation you have encountered and how did you handle it?" Solicit the input of your staff and other successful sales people into the development of your list of questions. Make sure that you ask the same questions to all potential candidates so you have a basis for comparison and write down the answers. The best sales interview question ever asked to me and one that I use is "What one thing in your life have you overcome or are you overcoming?" Good sales people overcome obstacles in their personal and professional lives in order to be successful.

Involve others in the process.  Have other department heads interview the potential candidate as well as someone in your sales department with whom this candidate will have to work. Record their input in the interview file. This also puts the interview process into perspective and allows some objectivity. I can recall sitting in front of a panel of interviewers and fielding questions from all of them. It allowed me to see the dynamics of the management team and gave them a chance to compare their impressions of me in the same situation. If they can handle this and respond in a thoughtful but honest manner, they can deal with presenting your hotel to a Board of Directors.

Can they sell you?  Put yourself in the place of the decision maker at one of your accounts. Who are they and how will they react to this person? Does this person project the skills to connect, establish rapport and build a relationship with the contacts at the accounts and in the market that you are considering them for? It was once suggested to me that I was intimidating to potential candidates by virtue of my presence and position. My response was that if I intimidated them, how would they deal with a contract negotiation with a senior executive at one of our accounts. Do they try to qualify you, i.e., ask questions about your expectations for the position, and do they try to close you? Do they try to 'sell' you on their qualifications and how they can benefit the hotel?

Never make a decision based on one interview.  No matter how desperate you are to fill a position, take your time. Call them back for at least a second if not a third interview. This gives you an idea of whether or not they have more than one suit. It also allows you time to think and view them over a period of time. The 'aura' that they may have projected on the first interview may not be as glowing the third time that you see them. Let them know your time frame for making this decision.

Make the expectations for the position perfectly clear.  Do not underestimate the difficulty of the position or the market. Let them know what you expect in terms of booking activity, call goals and follow-up. Give them an incentive to run for and how you will schedule regular reviews to evaluate their skills and progress. Also, outline the potential consequences of not achieving their objectives.

While the above are not the only things to consider, it is a good guideline to use in the interview process.  Once you have hired a candidate, treat them well and give them the tools to do their job. Provide training and an orientation program to acquaint them with the property's operation. Have them spend time in each department (yes, include housekeeping and maintenance). The responsibility of hiring well is yours.

Once you have assembled an 'A' sales team, you will be positioned to increase market share and revenue.

Without a dynamic sales force, you are at the mercy of market trends, not leading the market. 

Carol Verret is a twenty-year veteran of the hospitality business, having begun her career with Four Seasons and Westin Hotels in Montreal, Canada.  She most recently was Vice President Sales and Marketing for Sunstone Hotels before she left in 1996 to start her own business.  Carol Verret Consulting and Training provides consulting and training services to the hospitality industry in the areas of customer service and sales.  For a complete description of her services, access her web site at   Comments and feedback are appreciated and can be communicated via phone at (303) 618-4065 or email at [email protected]. Be sure to subscribe to Carol's free monthly newsletter: ResultsWoW Customer Service by sending an email to:[email protected] Put Subscribe in the subject line. 

© 2002 all rights reserved 

Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site:
Email: [email protected]
Also See: Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
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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