Generation X Hotel Sales Associates:
All Important Curiosity Factor Missing?

By David M. Brudney, ISHC, June 2006

“What are the most important qualities or characteristics to look for, that distinguish the best of the best of today’s hospitality industry Sales professionals?”

That question is posed to me often by hotel owners, operators, lenders and asset managers - - also meeting planners and even fellow passengers on longer commercial flights.

I think the question is asked because a perception exists amongst owners and operators, in particular, that today’s  Sales professionals have yet to fulfill their potential and that most continue to struggle to make their numbers. 

I’m asked this question because over the course of my 40-plus year career I have been a successful Sales professional, I’ve trained and mentored other Sales pros, and since 1979 I’ve reviewed and evaluated Sales teams throughout the U.S.

Qualities to Look For

What are some of the basic qualities to look for in successful Sales pros today?  Here are ten (10) of mine: 

People skills.  Likeability.  If you don’t or can’t connect with prospects and clients quickly, probably you should get  into another line of work.

Listening skills.  Prospects and clients must know that you hear their concerns and understand their needs. 

Asking good questions.  The mark of a true professional.

Homework.  Never leave home without (having done) it.  (There’s) so much market intelligence out there today.

Perseverance.  Most Sales pros stop soliciting the business if they have no bookings after the 2nd or 3rd call.  Shame on you! 

Clearly defined goals.  Always keep “top of mind” your monthly and quarterly room nights and revenue goals; break them down to daily goals to help you keep focus every day.

Plan your work, work your plan.  Avoid becoming the “Christopher Columbus” Sales pro: take off on a long, expensive journey, unsure of where you’re headed, get there and don’t know where you are, arrive home not knowing where you’ve been and expect to be paid handsomely upon your return.

Always be closing.  Still, the defining attribute of successful Sales pros: booking the business, lots and lots of it, a.s.a.p. 

Commitment to continuing education.  Never stop learning: Selling F&B, understanding operational, financial reports, technology, meeting trends, planner preferences.

Commitment to constant improvement.  Adopt Japanese philosophy of Kaizan, “continuous incremental improvement”.


The one quality I always look for - - or encourage to develop in others - - is curiosity.  I believe that curiosity is the lynchpin in putting together a long and successful hospitality Sales career.

Oddly enough, I find very little curiosity in the new generation of hospitality Sales associates today. 

If you manage, direct or have corporate oversight over a hospitality Sales force - - or if you are building a new Sales team, or need to replace a departing top producer - - in today’s competitive marketplace, here are some examples of the kind of curiosity you should be looking for in candidates:

  • What can I learn from the successful, more experienced Sales associates on my staff?  In my company? What can I learn from my competition?
  • What is it that they do with clients and prospects that help them make their numbers consistently? 
  • How long should I continue to contact a qualified prospect and qualified lead before I “fish or cut bait?”
  • What is it that makes clients book consistently with one brand or another?  One hotel over another?
  • What are the one or two primary reasons for my competitors getting good business that I have pursued?  What can I learn from that?  What can I take from that experience that will be useful and will help me with future solicitations?
  • How does my competition sell against my property? 
  • Do I know the real reasons for my “Lost Business”?
  • Do I incorporate those reasons or lessons into my solicitation of new business? 
  • Do I have what it takes to keep pressing until I learn what I could have done differently, what did I miss?
  • Do I know all of what constitutes a successful meeting for a prospect or client?  Do I make it a rule to ask? 
  • How can I become more effective in my use of testimonials and 3rd party referrals?
  • Are there sure-fire, never fail techniques that get phone calls returned? Get you through gatekeepers?
Again, the lack of curiosity amongst this new generation of hospitality Sales associates puzzles me.  I realize today’s Gen X relies heavily upon the Internet as their primary source of information, but they may not be receptive to really good professional Sales training, mentoring or simply observing the best Sales professionals with years of empirical knowledge and successful track records.

I don’t know if you can teach curiosity, but I do know this: if I were building a successful Sales team today, I would be looking for candidates that are curious.  Curious about our business, curious about our customers and curious about learning more on how to become successful Sales professionals. 

© copyright 2006 

David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran sales and marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry.  Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators on sales and marketing “best practices” and conducts reviews of sales and marketing operations throughout the U.S. and overseas.  The principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979, Brudney is a frequent lecturer, instructor and speaker.  He is 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 
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860

Also See Physical Therapy Sessions: A Good Reminder for Professional Selling Fundamentals / David M. Brudney / April 2006
Hotel Marketing Starts Locally; Never Forget Your Neighbors / David M. Brudney / March 2006
Notes from the ALIS Conference / David Brudney / February 2006
General Managers Workshop: Managing Today's Hotel Sales Teams / July 2005
Owners & Asset Managers: Need Expert Advice, Referral? Ask A Trusted Consultant / David M. Brudney, ISHC / May 2005
Larry May: The Passing Of Another Hotel Soldier / David Brudney ISHC / April 2005
Hotel Owners: Better, Worse or About the Same? / David Brudney ISHC / December 2004
Let’s Put Bush and Kerry Through the RFP Process / October 2004
Bev Kordsmeier, Hyatt Sales’ First Lady / April 2004
Message to Hotel Sales Associates: “It’s Not You!”/ January 2004
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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