Message to Hotel Sales Associates:
“It’s Not You!”

By David M. Brudney, ISHC
January 2004

I’m a big movie buff and a huge fan of Robin Williams. One of my favorite scenes in the film “Good Will Hunting” is when Williams’ psychiatrist character is treating Matt Damon’s gifted MIT janitor character. You remember the line, don’t you?  Williams saying over and over to the denial-laden Damon, “it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.” 

Well, lately it seems that in my practice of reviewing hotel Sales departments, I find myself identifying with Williams’ character and feeling an urge to tell hotel sales associates everywhere, “it’s not you, it’s not you, it’s not you!”

Sales associates are becoming false victims . . . when phone calls and e-mail messages are not returned or answered

Too many hotel sales associates are becoming false victims in today’s competitive selling arena.  When phone calls and e-mail messages are not returned or answered, when gatekeepers appear to be blocking access to qualified prospects or when appointments are suddenly cancelled without cause, sales associates all-too frequently - - and incorrectly - - are taking it personally.

I find sales associates everywhere asking themselves, “what am I doing wrong?”  “Why are my calls not returned?”  “Why don’t they want to speak with me?” Worst of all, doubt and then a lack of self-confidence can set in.  Before long the sales associate becomes hesitant even to make that call, postpones or puts it off indefinitely (“will they think I’m bugging them, am I coming across as too aggressive”?).  Just think of all those closing opportunities lost - - for all the wrong reasons or even for no reason at all. 

Learn to deal with it

Ladies and gentlemen, you just can’t take it personally. Learn to deal with it.  Get over it and move on.  It’s your job to make those calls.  It’s what we do.  It’s not about you doing something wrong or even being rejected (there, I said the “R” word!).  It’s just part of doing business in today’s new business realities. 

Times have passed when common courtesy prevailed and most phone calls were returned.  Those on the other end of our calls and e-mails today operate in an environment of deadlines and interruptions, cell phones, palm pilots, e-mails, voice messages, conference calls, meetings, reports and the wave of insidious calls from telemarketers - - all of which has taken its toll on these potential clients of ours. Making matters worse perhaps is a prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty, job security, safe travel, at risk pension funds, the threat of violence in the work place and not enough personal/family time.  Is there any wonder why prospects put up barriers for those of us who solicit business for a living? 

Cut these clients and prospects some slack, okay?

All of that stuff I just described is real so cut these clients and prospects some slack, okay?  They may have had a bad day when you first called.  Who, knows, they may have had every intention of calling back right away.  It’s not you! 

David R. Evans was my first sales mentor.  A lesson of his rings true today more than ever:  “if your call (e-mail) is not returned in 24 hours, make the call again!” 

Apologize only for not having done your homework

Remember the 1970s movie “Love Story” when Ryan O’Neal’s character tells his father, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?  Well, to paraphrase here, “Sales means never having to apologize for making the call.”  Or, more appropriately, “making the call again.”  That’s our job.  We make calls.

The only time you ever need to apologize (for making calls) is if you haven’t done your homework.  If you know absolutely nothing about the prospect, the prospect’s name, group name, size, history or preferences then you have no business making that sales call in the first place.  Shame on you!

There are far too many resources available to hotel sales associates today through Internet searches, brand databases, 3rd party database drilling suppliers and account qualifying and lead-generating firms.

Write this reminder on the back of one of your business cards or somewhere very visible at your desk:  “It’s not you.”  Okay, lesson over.  Now pick up the phone and make the call and as you dial, think about what the late Jack Lemmon whispered to his cast just before the cameras started rolling:  “it’s magic time!”

© Copyright 2004

David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran sales and marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry.  He is the principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979 and a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  Previously, Brudney held sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.


David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal
David Brudney & Associates
Carlsbad, CA 92009
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860
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Also See What Innkeepers Want Every Christmas? Fill Those Empty Rooms / December 2003
Uncertain Times Call for Return to Backyard Basics / April 2003
Time to “Group Up”?  Maybe, Maybe Not / May 2002
America’s Front Desk  Fights Back! / January 2002
Front Desk Fails To Catch America’s Hospitality Spirit / David Brudney ISHC / November 2001
A Very Good Time For That Sales Audit / David Brudney ISHC / Sept 2001 
More Theater, Less Zombies / David Brudney ISHC / Dec 2000 
It’s The Experience, Stupid! / David Brudney ISHC / Nov 2000 

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