Hotel Online  Special Report


Jerk Alert: Gung-ho Sales People Trying to Sell
their Gadgets or Services to a Hotel

by Terence Ronson, July 2004

"I’ve stayed in a hotel, so I know how it works.” This is a phrase all too often muttered by gung-ho sales people with big smiles and know-it-all attitudes when trying to sell their gadgets or services to a hotel.

With the explosive growth of the hospitality industry, particularly in Asia Pacific, and positive projections for the next five years, it’s no wonder that hospitality is starting to appear on the radar screens of many companies as an important vertical market. [It used to be well hidden – most likely somewhere under retail.]

Major culprits of this are the big tech companies which have traditionally steered away from hospitality, believing it to be too conservative, having a lack of funding and purchasing power and too messy to handle [some truths there!]. 

But, with the boom in travel and tourism and many new projects either on the drawing board or underway, things are rapidly changing.

Insurance, banking, finance, automotive, health care and manufacturing have been the main points of focus for many high-tech companies but, as these now afford declining opportunities, they need to be superseded – and hospitality seems to be the new industry darling.

Over my many years of involvement in the industry, I have seen many companies and individuals come and go with the belief that they can grasp the nuances of the business by remaining on the periphery – but not getting their hands dirty by spending any time actually in the business. 

Well, try sitting in front of a 20-year veteran GM and selling him a widget without so much of an understanding as what ADR is, or what covers are – and that there is a difference between front and back of house. 

True colours

Many show their true colours in the first 30 seconds, frustrate the GM and – even if they have the most wanted product in the world – blow the opportunity to close the deal.

It’s a quirky business. We like to deal with our own kind – PLU’s (People Like Us). After all, we have our own language and, as open and universal as it might appear to us to be, it is so closed and insular that it is almost a cult of its own.

So why do these companies shoot themselves in the foot? Why do they send out inexperienced foot soldiers into the battlefield, armed with nothing more than a notebook pc to show a fancy, gobbledygook-filled PowerPoint presentation and a glossy brochure? Hotels don’t make it easy, either and I wonder if that’s intentional. Should the sales person contact the GM, housekeeper, purchasing, F&B, accounts or IT department. 

Of course, it varies depending on the type of widget, but the inexperienced sales person usually gets this wrong and ends up frustrated – after probably annoying many people in the hotel with incessant calls and emails.

To some extent trade fairs, forums and B2B events help, but vendors should remember that hotels are places where they need to practice the art of consultative selling. They need to understand the business long before they walk into a meeting, and realise the benefits that their widgets will bring to the hotel.

Simply, it’s all about return on investment – in terms of both $ and service.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth recommendations, which apply not only to the widgets but also to the sales people trying to sell them. People will often say: “Why don’t you call so-and-so at a particular company – he understands the business and will be able to help you”. 

Conversely, a negative recommendation could go along the lines of: “Don’t deal with that jerk – he thinks that, just because he stayed in a hotel one night on honeymoon, he understands our business”.

©    2004
First appeared in HOTEL Asia Pacific

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