Hotel Sales Director Firings Impact
Meeting Planners, Too
By David M. Brudney, ISHC, October 2009
A very competent and client-revered hotel sales director was fired recently. No surprise there. As hotel operators continue to make cuts in order to satisfy owner and lender fiduciary responsibility demands, talented sales directors have been laid off and terminated in alarming numbers since the fall of 2008.
It makes little difference in the terminology used - - whether it’s labeled laid off, furloughed, downsized or (my personal favorite) “reduction in force” - - the bottom line is that the sales director is out of job and in all probability will not be returning to that particular hotel as an employee ever.
An argument can be made that some of these sales directors were let go with cause no doubt. In addition to poor performance by the sales department overall, contributing factors may have included personal sales goal declines, sales team leadership, direction, coaching, communication, and morale.
In far too many cases, however, these skilled sales directors have been singled out as “scapegoats” for any number of reasons:
1. Something, someone has to be blamed - - other than the economic downturn - - for the huge drops in both occupancy and rateAll too often I have experienced in my consulting practice examples of general managers, corporate senior management oversights, and especially hotel owners, refusal or denial in accepting any responsibility for the alleged “failure” of the hotel sales director.
There may be several factors that led directly or contributed heavily to the demise of the sales director:
1. Subject hotel could be positioned and priced incorrectlyThere is residual damage, however, irreversible in most cases unfortunately, with meeting planners who find themselves holding the bag. Ownership, asset managers, senior corporate management oversights and even general managers fail far too often to understand the importance of the symbiotic relationship with many meeting planners and hotel sales directors.
When meeting planners (and their superiors) execute a contract with a hotel one to three years hence, in many cases the booking was made due to a strong, professional and often personal relationship between the planner and sales director. That relationship has been developed over years of good service by the sales director. Credibility and trust are already firmly in place. One of the finest compliments a hotel sales director can receive from a meeting decision maker is, “We’re not booking your hotel. We’re booking you.” I can’t begin to share with you how many times I have heard meeting planning professionals tell me, “As long as he/she (the sales director) is still there, our meeting will be there.”
When the sales director is dismissed - - for whatever reason - - many meeting planners feel a sense of betrayal, and right or wrong, their anger is directed at the subject hotel and that hotel’s brand. More times than not, the planner’s first reaction is to cancel the meeting (if that option is available, based upon the contract) and to book it elsewhere.
There are those who will argue that hotel sales director turnover cuts both ways - - sales directors leaving by their own volition will cause just as much planner anxiety as if the sales directors had been fired. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that most quality sales directors leave their positions because of feeling undervalued, underpaid and limited in career advancement. In most cases, the sales directors accept their new positions with better compensation packages, expanded responsibilities and with a sense of being greater valued.
Once again, far too many times the subject hotel’s owner, asset manager and senior corporate management oversights may be oblivious to the immediate and future consequences of the fallout from terminating the sales director. Given the current cost-cutting, face saving, do whatever is necessary to save the management contract, etc., good people are fired without enough careful thought given to the immediate and longer-term consequences.
These are the times when those in positions to make those decisions must be reminded that - - despite the past decade transition from being “in” the hotel business to being “in” the business of hotels - - we still remain a business that’s all about relationships. We can ill-afford to ever forget that.
© Copyright 2009
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