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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, December 2008

Making New Year's Sales and Marketing
Resolutions Real and Practical


By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
January 13, 2009
“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Zig Ziglar, "Secrets of Closing the Sale", 1984

January is the time many people set (usually lofty) resolutions, based on what we hope to improve on in the coming year. While the budget was completed in the latter part of last year, January is that time of year many people stretch for renewed enthusiasm and commitment.

The hotel segment of the hospitality industry in many segments and locations set revenue and profitability records in 2007 and began 2008 with optimism and hopes of a repeat performance.  The reality of the global financial crisis changed those expectations by mid year in most markets and we are all facing significant challenges in 2009 and 2010.

Most hotels created a sales and marketing plan for 2008, but what happened to the execution?  While one can blame the economy or the government or some other 3rd party, we must each assess how much of our success is tied to our efforts.

The calendar now says January, and looking back at lost opportunities for last year is a wasted effort.  It is now time to think how you will be conducting your sales efforts this year, in measurable components. 

If you have a flexible, effective sales and marketing plan developed for THIS year - congratulations!   Now it is clearly time to hunker down and focus on execution.

If you don’t have one prepared, you are behind much of the competition but it is not too late to plan the work and begin to work the plan.

Part of this means looking at last year’s action plans and results - did your team follow the sales action steps you felt were appropriate when you made the plan? 

The answer for most of us is that we do not always follow either personal or business resolutions unless we build in a reminder system. Those systems might include using Key Result Areas (KRAs) or Personal Business Objectives (PBOs) that are tracked and formally reviewed with others monthly or quarterly.  Those systems may include submitting monthly reports on actual compared to plan in leads, conversions, revenue, bookings, calls, trips, etc.

Regardless of where you are in planning , think about TODAY to committing yourself to a fresh start.  Once again, resolve a new effort. 

In our book LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, Howard Feiertag and I offered practical approaches to selling in the last big market downturn.

1. Sell Price Last:  Even in challenging economic times, price remains only one of selling points of all. People want value, but if you know where you are competition-wise, price should not be the breaking point if you are competitive. 

2. Include more items in packages.  Comp rooms, free parking, free A/V and various other "freebies" are sometimes necessary ingredients in closing a deal, especially in a soft market. "Listen" to what the potential client feels is important to them and then deliver what they want at a fair to all price and package.

3. Close As Soon As Possible: The prospect you leave behind may be closed by the competition.  Time is important to everyone, so use yours effectively.

4. Increase the Number of Your Sales Calls:   If you make more calls, you meet more prospects; if you meet more prospects, you can do more selling, and if you do more selling, you close more sales. (The law of averages works.) 

5. Have Sincere Pride in Your Product and Service:  Be proud of where you work; then, where you work will be proud of you.

6. Be Persistent:  Most sales are closed after the fourth or fifth call.

7. Be Loyal:  One of the greatest virtues of selling is loyalty to your hotel, your manager and your owner.

8. Ask For the Business: Too many salespeople are on Public Relations calls; they forget to ask for the order.

9. Communicate More:  Let the staff (especially the switchboard and front office) know where you are and where you're going to be.

10. Have Confidence in Yourself and Your Team:  The seller’s confidence in the product results in the potential buyer's confidence, more often than not, results in a sale.

11.  Be Nice: Training people to be nice is tough, so only hire nice people.

12.  Find Your Balance Between Aggressive and Assertive Selling: Sales isn't an athletic competition where someone wins and the other loses.  Find a happy medium between high and low pressure sales techniques. In fact, a confident professional does not need pressure to close a sale, but rather assists the potential client in solving their needs.  This goes back to #2 – LISTENING MORE.

13. Keep In Touch Regularly:  Don't lose contact with a prospect. Phone calls, notes, newsletters, even birthday cards, are good ways to remind people that you're still interested in them.

14.  Don’t Criticize: Sell your features against the competition's, but don't stoop to criticism. Take the high road.

15.  Be a Self-Starter:  Don't wait for your manager or your home office to” wind you up'' every day.

16.  Be Honest:  Don't sell what you don't have, and be honest about your hotel's facilities.

17.  Keep Your Word:  Whatever you promise, you must deliver.  In fact, over-deliver on personal attention and service. This is what sets apart the ordinary from the special.

18.  Talk and Deliver Quality:  Quality is what people need and want, and it is especially important in these trying days. Whether it's the quality of your hotel's services, its food or its staff- quality sells!

19.  Write it Down:  Reconfirm, in writing, everything upon which you and your prospect have agreed

20.  Be Enthusiastic! :  Nothing's as contagious as enthusiasm, whether it's with your staff or a client.

21.  Educate Yourself Continuously:  Keep learning as much as you can about our business. There are too many salespeople out there who don't know enough about hotel operations.

22.  Don’t Gripe About Work:  If you're unhappy with your job or your boss, straighten it out. Or quit.

23.  Do Not Use Canned Pitches: Yes, you need to practice your presentation but canned pitches appear to be rehearsed and frequently less than straightforward, so don't use them to sell your hotel. Know your product. Be convincing in a normal, conversational manner.

24.  Forget the Word "can't".  You "can't" a person to death or your negativity may cause them to book elsewhere. Say, "Yes, we can" instead, assuming of course that you can deliver. You're part of a team, so keep "can't" out of your conversation and all communication.

25.  Use Action Calendars:  They're needed to plan the work ahead, and they allow you to adjust your schedule as necessary.

26.  Dress the Part:  Don't go overboard on clothes styles. The classic look is still the best for sales.

27.  Be a Joiner:   Be active in your community; join professional groups like MPI, HSMAl or your local hospitality associations.

28.  Talk to Your Manager or Owner Regularly:  Keep him or her advised of what's going on daily; it'll improve communications and productivity.

There is nothing magical about the 28 points mentioned, except that they do work.  Why 28? The best answer we can say is we didn't want to have too many or too few.  Add your own success factors, but follow those that work for you.

The economy will always be up in some parts of the world and down in others.  In 2008, oil and energy were hot mid year but had fallen off by year end to record lows. The future may be alternate energy sources, construction, government stimulated reinforcement of infrastructure or some other physical product or a return of the dot.coms in a different fashion.

Regularly assess your market potentials and determine you are pursuing the right ones.

If you are part of a brand, capitalize on the collective strengths of the cohesive programs and support them.

For those of us who have been in the industry for more than 15 years, this downturn is a cycle that will be only temporary.  The length of that cycle in your hotel can be shortened by enthusiastic and focused efforts. 

Feel free to share an idea at anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan is  frequently invited to speak at Franchise Meetings, Management Company and hospitality association industry events.   He writes for a number of global online services and is actively involved in sharing industry 'best practices' .  He conducts mystery shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

John’s background includes teaching university level courses as an adjunct professor at three different institutions over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He served as the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, sales & marketing, training, food & beverage, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He holds a number of industry certifications (CHA, CHE, MHS, ACI) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He has published almost 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from a range of industry sources and  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –     The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: Planning in a Challenging Economy - Probing Hotel Expenses / Dr. John Hogan / Decmeber 2008
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Fundamentals of Hotel Sales Planning / Dr. John Hogan / December 2008
A Message for Hoteliers: Giving Thanks - and Not Just One Day Each Year! / Dr John Hogan / November 2008
Hoteliers Must Remember the Lessons of Reasonable Care! / John Hogan / November 2008
Enthusiastic and Sincere Attitudes Will Pay Off For Hotel Salespeople / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / November 2008
Unleash the Potential! Recognize the True Value of Your Front Line Sales People / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / November 2008
Defining Hospitality - Readers Respond with their Insights / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
Understanding the Value and Power of Breakfast / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Restaurant Managers / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / October 2008
A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors / Hotel Common Sense / John Hoganv/ September 2008
My Definition of Hospitality. What’s Yours? / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager: 6 Observations on Finding and Employing Problem Solvers / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Action Steps to Succeed in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Mistakes to Avoid in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / August 2008
Ways to Identify and Build Repeat Guests / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part four: Communicating with Clarity and Candor / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization/ Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008

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