The More Some Things Stay The Same;
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work
|By Neil L. Salerno, CHME April 2003
Through the years, many events have forced us to change the way we do business. From economic downturns, the events of 9/11 and, now the war in Iraq, the hospitality industry has shown the strength and resiliency to overcome setbacks. Somehow, we manage to make the necessary changes to emerge from distressed periods even stronger and more resilient than we were previously.
New technology has advanced so fast that we all seem to have difficulty keeping up with the changes. Electronic technology has fast created some necessary tools to help in our struggle to outsell the competition and keep our product number one in the market place. Most of us would be lost without our computer, fax machine, efax software, mobile phone, Palm handheld, or the Internet. These wonderful tools have made us more efficient, more productive, and probably a little smarter than we were before we had them.
Our clients have received the benefit of these changes too. Now they can visit hotels online, complete Web Site RFP’s, view rates, and research an entire market place in less time than it used to take to call just one hotel to get brochures. Change has made planners smarter, better informed, and more detail oriented than ever before.
With all this change, some things have stayed the same; first is the importance of good sales planning. Years ago, the sales mission was simple; book group business. So we went out, briefcase and brochures in hand, and made cold sales calls until we dropped. Did we book business? Sure, dumb luck sometimes provided us with someone ready to book. Eventually we learned to plan our contacts, determine if they have business, and then, create a plan to get it.
We continued to improve our planning and today; successful sales teams develop a strategy, set goals by market segment, assign responsibilities and sales tasks, create timelines, evaluate the competition, and then, work the plan. Never before has planning been more important.
Get a fresh view of your market position. “Fresh eyes” can sometimes find opportunities you stopped seeing months or years ago. To do this, many hotels hire experienced sales people on an outsourced consulting basis to provide a quick boost of reality to their sales team’s direction. If expenses are too tight, find someone in your own company, or even a friend, to visit for a few days to review what you are doing to get business.
Develop a list of anticipated results you expect to gain from everything you do. Then determine why your plan did or didn’t produce those results. How else will you be able to recognize success?
Hone each individual’s sales knowledge through additional training. Technical skills training in solicitation, presentation, follow-up, and closing or asking for the business is as essential, today, as it was thirty years ago. Update these techniques to include new technology, such as the use of the Internet to find new business, efax contracts, etc.
Develop a plan to deliver this training in short, consistent sessions with active participation from the people involved. Conduct a fifteen-minute daily business meeting designed to share individual daily sales plans and techniques. Recognize short-term wins and learn from short-term failures.
Above all, avoid sales turnover, especially in the top positions. Remember the old saying ‘Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know”. Sales and marketing directors come in many different skill and experience levels. Many sales and marketing directors are just not prepared for the challenges we have faced since 9/11. If your top-line sales are not what you would like, don’t think of change, think of training. Many times an additional investment in training will produce better results, without the risk associated with hiring new people. There are many excellent outsourced training and mentoring programs available today.
If you’ve recognized that many of these suggestions are pretty basic, then congratulations; one of the things that have never changed is that the basics still work.
Neil L. Salerno, CHME, CHA
|Also See:||If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... You’ll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelier’s Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003|