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Back to the Basics?
The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed!

Carol Verret / May 2003
The desperate effort by hotels to develop new business has resulted in a "back to basics" movement.  However, the basics of hotel sales have changed forever. The sheer size of most markets and technology dictate that sales becomes more efficient and effective. While the skill sets of selling techniques haven't changed, the way we locate and develop new business has to change.

Gone are the days when a sales person could walk the street and cold call everyone within a three or five-mile radius. Gone are the days when a cold phone call was returned and all it required was persistence. Gone are the days when the sheer volume of sales calls guaranteed success! 

Even "backyard marketing" requires new approaches. The sheer size of the "backyards" of most urban and suburban sub-markets is too large for almost any hotel to physically or cold call on the telephone every potential business. I was working with one property and the sales person took me out to drive the market. A three-mile radius netted thousands of businesses due to the large number of industrial parks and very tall buildings. She said she was overwhelmed, where should she begin?

Another dilemma is the "list." Many sales people are given lists of prospects in their market, trade show attendees from very large venues, etc. One sales person with whom I worked was given a two-inch thick state business directory by her GM. When she asked him where to start, his reply was to begin with "A." The total frustration that resulted from twenty cold calls per day only to be connected to voice mail and, in the event that she connected to a living human, to hear 'no' over and over again had resulted in "burn out." 

The "dead files" are another prospect source resorted to out of desperation. If these were such good leads, why aren't they in the active trace system to begin with? Sales departments are pulling out boxes or going through old filing cabinets of files that haven't been worked or followed up upon in years. Unfortunately, in many sales departments the task of calling the dead files often falls to the newest member of the team or worse, the sales assistant. These people are usually inadequately trained and, in the best-case scenario, given a list of questions to ask and told to follow up with a packet of sales information. (Sales packets are another sacred cow that, in many cases, should become hamburger!) 

If any of these lead sources sounds familiar, read on - there is a better way of dealing with each of these.

But it is not the old "basics," it is a new way slicing the lists and looking at the prospecting process. 

Narrow down the "backyard"-- Know which industry sectors in your local market are out-performing the stock market. Sales is not a job where you can just show up in the morning. Sales people need to listen to the news, read the business sections of the newspaper -- pay attention to what's going on in the business world surrounding them. The good ones do -- the ones that don't won't be around long! Pay attention to the stock market. Those industry sectors whose stocks are rising have the money to conduct meetings and pay your rates. Look on the back page of the Money section in Monday's USA Today for a quick analysis of industry sectors. One industry sector doing EXTREMELY well right now is government subcontractors. Once you know which industries are performing well, do a search for those in your market. These are the ones you need to be calling on now!

Re-evaluate the lists -- "slice" it to include only those who have the potential to give you business. Instead of starting with "A" obtain lists by market segments. Those of you who have access to Business Journal Top 100 lists, begin calling those that are in industries performing well -- the sectors that you have gleaned from your research above. Log onto for an industry sector in your city -- see what comes up! Call those that are in relative proximity to your hotel or have potential meetings. The Top 100 of industries that aren't doing well represent the best of a bad team! Remember, in the effort to save on travel budgets, those properties in "drive" distance of the head office often have a good shot at landing the business.

Apply the same metrics to the "dead." If a "dead" file hasn't given you business in two years or more, treat it as a new prospect for qualifying purposes. Before you call, check to see which industry sector it is in. You can do this by logging onto or logging onto the company's web site. Don't just call and leave a message -- deal with the file once and for all then retain it or dump it. In prioritizing the trace files, give first consideration to those that are doing well. This applies to associations serving the profitable industries sectors. 

In this economy there are losers that are losing big but there are winners who are quietly making money out there. This applies to most market segments, corporate, the associations that support them and the SMERF markets. Government, that segment you loved to hate, is now a big winner in the room night generation category. 

Smart prospecting takes more time, but is more profitable in the amount of time expended. Call activity becomes more productive and "sales burn out" is less likely. Next month we will deal with effective ways to approach new business prospects, calling and leaving messages just doesn't cut it any more! 

In this economy, and make no mistake, the recovery is likely to be delayed until 2004 at the earliest and even then will not return to the robust times of the mid-nineties. We in sales are going to have to refine our skills and the way we prospect and approach new business for the long term. 

The sales "basics" have changed! 

It is my mission to provide the industry with training that is not only useful but also cost effective. This is why the live real-time web cast series "Training Bytes: A WebCast Series for the Hospitality Industry" is available. Module 2, "Stalking The SMERF Market" is now being scheduled for June. Each Training Bytes Module includes a live presentation and an opportunity for information exchange among participants. Each module is brief, an hour long, and can be done from any PC. 

Carol Verret, Owner of Carol Verret Consulting & Training, is a twenty-year veteran of the hotel industry. She arrived in Denver in 1984 in the midst of an economic downturn and quickly established herself as an expert in sales and marketing in hotel turn-around situations, applying her formula for REVPAR improvement. To learn more about Carol Verret, Consulting and Training, visit 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. 

copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003

Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site:
Email: [email protected]
Also See: Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
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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