|by Doug Kennedy, June 2006
Traditionally, lodging industry training programs have taught hotel
sales as being a linear process we need to use to lead an inquiry caller
down a pathway towards closing the sale. Whether to referred to as
“steps,” “tools,” or “pathways,” these programs have generally showed how
to start out by building rapport, listening and probing, turning features
into benefits, handling objections, and of course closing the sale.
So we have reinforced the concept that a caller must be lead through some
sort of process or series of techniques used sequentially.
While it is true that these sales fundamentals are still the key ingredients
of sales success, what has changed drastically is the order in which they
need to be utilized for sales success with today’s prospects.
Unfortunately, most organizations are still using outdated content to
train agents, and then using outdated standards to measure their success.
These programs have not been updated to reflect just how much the inquiry
calls our sales agents are fielding have changed. They are still
requiring a process designed for the era when callers usually had little
more than a phone number given to them be their friend, or at best a hotel
brochure or sales kit. In that era, the linear models made sense
more often than not, allowing sales agents to determine needs and wants,
then present just the right benefits to paint the picture the caller wanted
Nowadays, and increasingly often, the caller is looking at numerous
web photos and even virtual tours while visiting our home page simultaneously
as they are on the phone. So rather than being taken from “sales
step one,” callers have much more specific questions and concerns.
Gone are the days when callers said “Could you tell me a little more about
the hotel?” Instead, salespeople today are hearing:
“I was looking online at the deluxe room. Can you tell me if these
are on the East side of the building?”
“I see that the package rate is only available on Friday and Saturday nights;
but if we stay over Sunday are there any special promotions?”
When fielding today’s sales calls, one just never knows where the starting
point is. Depending on the hotel’s market mix, location, and primary
distribution channels, sales people might still be fielding their share
of traditional callers with little or no information, so it is still essential
that everyone understands these linear sales models. Yet in moving
forward, most sales training programs need some updating to help agents
adjust and adapt their sales process according to the nature of the inquiry
scenario they are fielding.
“Is the $25 extra for the concierge floor worth it?”
Simultaneously, the standards being used for internal monitoring, mystery
shopping, and other sales assessments needs to be updated so that agents
don’t get marked down when caller’s remarks pre-empt their use of a specific
sales technique or standard. So for example, if a caller starts out
with some version of “Hello, I’m ready to book...,” the salesperson would
no longer be required to ask probing questions or present benefits; they
could proceed right to securing the sale.
Here are some suggestions for updating and revising your sales training
and assessment standards:
If you invest time in listening to your sales prospects interacting with
your sales staff, you’ll no doubt find that today’s callers really just
want our salespeople to fill-in a few blanks, give recommendations and
suggestions, and to reinforce their decision. Despite all the web-technology
and pretty online pictures, they mainly just want to hear something specific
from their fellow human being. Using scripted sales processes that
that callers down a linear path doesn’t work much off the time anymore.
By updating your sales training and assessment process to reflect these
real-world changes, you’ll be giving your sales team the tools they really
need to close more sales now and into the future.
Listen-in to some live (or recordings of live) calls from actual callers
to gain insight into what callers really need.
Create an index of the types of questions and call-scenarios your sales
team is fielding.
Encourage agents to adapt their sales “process” or “pathway” according
to the situational needs of the individual caller.
Focus on building your staff’s skills at listening actively and ad-hoc
probing to pinpoint what parts of the “big picture” the caller still needs
to be made comfortable with.
Make sure all assessment/monitoring criteria include an option for “not
applicable,” so salespeople can change their approach when caller’s statements
pre-empt the use of any particular sales strategy or technique.
Encourage your agents to utilize recommendations and suggestions to help
build the caller’s confidence, and then “endorsements” (such as “the superior
room is an excellent choice”) to reinforce their buying decision.
||Doug Kennedy, President of
the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and
tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000
conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized,
on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every
segment of the lodging industry. Ee-mail Doug at: email@example.com