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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, February 2009

Four Steps: How to Make More Sales Calls than Any Other Way
Or Trade Shows Can Be Invaluable If. . .


By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 
February 20, 2009 

�Everyone lives by selling something.�
Robert Louis Stevenson   (1850 � 1894), Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer

A growing number of people have contacted me by email recently expressing frustration with declining occupancies and revenues.  The need is very real for hoteliers in every market segment  across the globe to grasp how to apply a moving set of best practices in addressing these very real concerns.  Those practices continue to include executing the fundamentals of sales and accurate communication.

From the standpoint of productivity, more sales calls can be made at a meeting, conference or trade show in two days than in the same amount of time on the street knocking on doors. Selecting the show or conference to attend is easy to do once you have targeted the markets you wish to reach and have completed a marketing plan.

Success at trade shows and conferences depends on the marketing strategy you develop to sell your property and the tactics you use to turn those leads into sales calls and, eventually, bookings.
The astute salesperson will not only increase the number of sales calls at shows and conferences but also expand his prospects and personal growth over the long term.

Which groups do you want to reach?  

There are gatherings for association executives, meeting planners, corporate travel managers, government individual & group travel, travel agents, wholesalers, incentive travel buyers and planners, training directors, religious conference managers, insurance conference planners and group travel producers. 

If you belong to a membership, referral or franchise group, the chances are that your national and/or global sales teams are very familiar with the large shows.  They may already be attending with a booth you can either buy into as a co-sponsor or join with others of your brand to make that brand stand out more than the competition.  There are usually smaller chapters of all of the above groups that have trade shows regionally that can yield outstanding results because they are not as well attended by the national hotel chains.

Besides being able to attend a trade show (where contact may be made by several hundred potential buyers), there is also the chance to develop yourself, to experience new ways to conduct business and to start long-term client relationships.


Your performance at a trade show or conference is measured by how much business you are able to identify and/or book at the event. You can count the number of qualified prospects and actual bookings.

It turns into a numbers game: the more contacts that are made, the more leads that can be qualified. Establish goals for yourself, such as :

  • Plan to make 30 new prospect contacts the first day.
  • Plan to leave the show with a specified number of qualified leads upon which to follow up.
  • Plan to give out at least X of your incentive promotions or other give-aways
Making productive use of your time may mean that you will have to stay out of the "comfort zone." You may not be able to mix only with people you know because the strategy will likely not be productive. The object is to make new contacts that can provide business for your property. Too often, salespeople spend far too much time mixing with  other  salespeople from  other properties, which is not the reason for attending the trade show.

When you select a table for group meals, look for tables occupied by potential customers. During coffee breaks, keep moving to maximize the time for new contacts.


Don�t Waste Time

Spend time with prospects that can buy or are in a position to recommend or influence the buying decision. Too much time is wasted on sales presentations to persons who are not in a position to buy or have no need for a particular hotel or motel. All it takes is five to ten minutes and a few key questions to determine if you are talking to the right individual, such as:

  • Ask a contact to explain how meeting sites are selected
  • Find out how the prospective client  recommends  hotels  to  corporate accounts.
  • Ask openly (and politely), "How do you propose I go about getting business for my hotel from your association?"
By working diligently, using probably less than 10 minutes per contact, a good salesperson could generate six to eight "cold calls" per  hour or 40 new contacts in a day. Even if only 25 qualify as good leads, you are still doing well and probably far ahead of traditional cold calls to unknown clients 

Using attendance listings, target those people who really need to be contacted, and, if they are not seen readily during the day, find out where they are staying and contact them there. In order to follow up on a prospect,  be sure to obtain the individuals name, title, company or association, address (postal and email) and phone number. For best results, get a business card or use the computerized lead systems offered by many trade shows today.   Either of these approaches  saves time and provides correct spellings. 

Besides these vital statistics, you should also find out:

  • Who else is involved in decision-making?
  • What does the contact need? 
  • What feature of the property particularly appealed to the prospect that is what the best benefit to them was? 
  • What dates are being considered?  Is there any date flexibility, which might allow you to offer a better value to the client?  
  • Is this going to be a competitive bid situation, or will it be a �best for the business� decision approach?
  • Is it an RFP process and how quickly is the turn around response time?
  • Are there any factors that would assist or hinder your hotel�s chances, such as requirements of location proximity to a convention center, interior corridors, GREEN initiatives or other guidelines?

The more information you get, the easier it will be to follow up. Then, most importantly, do not forget to follow up quickly while the contacts are fresh in everyone�s mind.  

Many sales representatives do not follow up quickly, but defer to �later�, which may or may not ever occur. Even if you do not get immediate business, your prompt follow up will impress many qualified buyers and establish you as a quality resource for the future. 


Feel free to share an idea for a column at [email protected] anytime or contact customized workshops, speaking engagements or me regarding consulting. 

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, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association industry events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor. He conducts mystery-shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

He writes weekly columns for a number of global online services (hotel, eHotelier, 4 Hotels, Hotel Resource, etc) and has published more than 400 articles & columns on the hotel industry.  He co-authored (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) LESSONS FROM THE FIELD � a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from [email protected], ROOMS CHRONICLE  and other industry sources.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and expects to publish in 2009 his 2nd book based on his dissertation � The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Hogan�s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis, including service as Senior Vice President of Operations in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

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.

John�s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20-year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was 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. 

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 long-term involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,200 workshops and classes in his career. 

Expertise and Research Interest
� Sales Management and training
� Turn-around and revenue management
� Professional Development & Customer Service 
� Hospitality Leadership and Executive Education
� Making Cultural Diversity Real
� Accreditation & Developing Academic Hospitality programs

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education includes working with the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA, the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs, the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees, the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), the International Hotel Show and the Certified Hotel Owner program for the Asian American Hotel Owners� Association.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
[email protected]

Also See: A Baker�s Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Chief Engineers / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
"A Baker's Dozen" of Strategies for Hotel  Banquet Managers / Dr. John Hogan / February 2009
Making New Year's Sales and Marketing Resolutions Real and Practical / Dr. John Hogan / January 2009
Planning in a Challenging Economy - Probing Hotel Expenses / Dr. John Hogan / December 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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