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Sales Leadership Tips for Hotel Managers

By Daniel Edward Craig, April 6, 2010 

In the battle for market share, hotel managers with a background in sales have a distinct advantage. For managers who worked their way up through other departments, keeping the sales team productive and motivated can be a daunting task. Here are a few tips for ensuring your property is sales driven from the top down. 

Be an advocate. Years ago, when I transferred to sales from the front desk, I became “one of them”: prancing around in designer suits and swilling cocktails with “clients” in the hotel lounge. If I wasn’t harassing my long-suffering colleagues on the front desk for last-minute showrooms, I was tossing around upgrades like confetti at an Italian wedding. 

If only the job were that glamorous. As hotel manager, you need to support the sales team by educating other departments on the unique challenges of securing business. Sales people are demanding and exacting because their clients are, not because they get a thrill out of seeing operations staff sweat.

Celebrate success. The pressures of revenue targets, activity quotas, and frequent rejection can make sales people a tad needier than their hardened colleagues in operations. And chattier too. Don’t hide from them. A good hotel manager engages sales staff, understands their ups and downs, and acknowledges wins big and small. Drop by the department regularly, attend sales meetings, and covet your big producers.

Prospect or perish. Sales managers will find any excuse not to make cold calls—reorganizing files, springing for office lattes, chatting up the ladies at the front desk. Days and weeks drift by, and suddenly your hotel has lost market share. Don’t let this happen. Prospecting is like saving money: most people pay expenses first and save what’s left over: nothing. Save first by making prospecting the number one priority every day. Rest assured, the other duties will get done.
Praise rewards, but money motivates. An incentive plan is like a silent supervisor: it keeps staff focused and motivated even when you’re not around. A well-crafted plan is simple to understand and easy to track, with individual and group components, tiered quarterly and year-end payments, and activity quotas. Foster a sales-driven team environment by including support staff in the plan and implementing upsell and suite sales incentives for reservations and the front desk. And don’t be stingy.

Create structure. Sales people can be hard to track; they’re notorious for long lunches and unexplained absences. But they’re not above the rules. If they’re not making their numbers, there’s simply no excuse for dashing out the door at the strike of five. Above all, they must be there for the client, whether it’s a late evening, an early morning, or a sunny Sunday afternoon. The more self-disciplined they are, the fewer rules you’ll have to enforce.

Back to the basics. Sales is about building relationships, and that means lots of sales calls, entertaining, and networking events. Tradeshows have diminished in effectiveness; a sales trip crammed with targeted one-on-one meetings will produce far better results. Good salespeople are resourceful and highly competitive; they scour the news for business opportunities, survey competitor reader boards, and blitz local businesses. If a sales manager prefers to hide behind her computer, she might be more comfortable in accounting.

Think like a client. Salespeople must be instantly likeable, and even more likeable over time. If not, they’ll have a hard time getting face time with clients. They should also instill confidence, be immaculately groomed, and be a great listener. If you’re not getting this vibe in an interview, your clients won’t either—move on. When making an offer, leave room for negotiation; it’ll be a good indication of how well they’ll negotiate with clients. 

Don’t interfere. Support the sales team by meeting and entertaining clients and, when appropriate, picking up the phone to thank (or ask) them for the business. But don’t impose unless you’re adding value; the sales manager has worked hard to build the relationship, and an awkward meeting or clumsy remark might blow the deal. When groups are on property, make your presence known. Follow protocol by addressing VIP welcome cards from you, not from Susie the sales coordinator.

Comments or more tips to share? Post them at or email me at

Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager turned consultant and the author of the hotel-based Five-Star Mystery series. His articles and blog are considered essential reading for hoteliers, travelers and students alike. Visit or email


Daniel Edward Craig

Also See: Tips for Managing Online Hotel Reviews: An Interview With TripAdvisor / Daniel Craig / March 2010
Social Media for Hotels: Taming the Beast / Daniel Craig / March 2010
Who is the Voice of Social Media in Your Hotel? / Daniel Edward Craig / December 2009
Does Social Media Make Your Head Hurt? Here Are a Few Helpful Resources for Hotels / Daniel Craig / January 2010

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