News for the Hospitality Executive
Technology's Impact on Hospitality Sales
By Amy Pack
Area Director of Sales
The Hamister Group, Inc.
March 16, 2012
Throughout my sales career, I have always supported personalized, face-to-face relationship-building with clients. In my opinion, as salespeople, we should take a natural, personalized approach when obtaining and maintaining a strong client relationship because we cannot appropriately serve our clients if we do not know what they want and what fills their needs. If we do not tune in and really listen to them to find out what we can do to enhance their stay or how we can solve their problems, we cannot expect them to be loyal to us. Each day we must battle for the business we find, maintain, steal, grow and lose by creating personal relationships. Once these relationships are formed, our clients will inform us of the best way to contact them, whether it is by phone, email, text message, Skype, etc. I strongly believe we must defer to what our clients want: it makes the way they do business work best for them.
However, once we find our business and are in a position where business appears to be set and producing well, we become confident and turn to technology to maintain these relationships for us. We all strive for and deeply appreciate sell-out nights, great account production, and optimal performance to meet and surpass the numbers we are asked to achieve. But this type of success might be the worst thing to happen to a salesperson - when you have a fortunate market, you run the risk of your salespeople becoming comfortable, and comfortable salespeople are not ready to battle for business. When corporate accounts do so well, we can forget what we are fighting for – our relationship with our clients. Emails might be sent or a Skype call made once in a while, but a comfortable salesperson can easily stop maintaining face-to-face encounters.
Currently, Cranberry, PA is a fortunate market for hospitality. We have international headquarters of major companies such as Westinghouse and Mitsubishi located near us, and we make the occupancies and rates we need from these companies on our weekdays. We do need more leisure and weekend business, and we continue to strive for higher occupancies in these markets. Last year, we experienced a new competitor in our area, and although we prepared for a storm to come, we did not encounter any negative effects: we kept our clients and did not lose business. But this year, two more competitors are coming, and I think it is safe to say that the whole competitive set is on alert. Circumstance is reminding us to be at the “top of our game,” and our strategy is to return to the basics and recall how we gained our success in the first place – through a human connection. Although our hotels have great products, a major part of our success has been our focus on customer service and the relationships we have maintained with our clients. We know them personally because we interact with them face-to-face, and we gain their trust by handling their business the right way during every interaction. They know they can call us any time and for any reason. We must continually remember that we are here to build and sell the value of our product to them, not to be comfortable with their continued bookings. We are here for (and because of) our customer – our job is to serve their travel needs!
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down face-to-face with one of our clients whose company booked 1,300 room nights with us in 2011. Because he selects the hotels that his travelers use, he decided to personally inspect hotels all over the country and spend time in lobbies observing hotel staff for service, friendliness, security, etc. He shared with me that overall, the majority of the hotels he observed could greatly improve upon their friendliness as well as the service they extend to their guests. In his opinion, a few minor changes in personal interaction can make a world of difference in choosing which hotels to book with. He noted that in our region, the service and friendliness provided in hotels was consistent, but in most cases, he observed that the staff was more mechanical than friendly. He gave me simple but valuable advice on how to improve our personal connection with guests. Not only was I given tips on how to improve customer service from customer and client perspectives, my relationship with that client was strengthened immensely. Because we met in person, he knew that I cared about what he had to say, and we were able to get to know each other so much more as people.
Sales, as with every business, has evolved over the years as changes in technology and new media have emerged. We are extremely connected to the people we work with now because there are multiple ways to contact people and communicate with them. Although communication using technology is fine for quick correspondence with clients, we should never let it replace face-to-face interactions. We need to make a personal connection with our clients whenever possible because in order to maintain our relationships, we must maintain a human connection. There are many reasons why we should meet our clients in person, and personal visits do work to maintain relationships. We must not become lazy with our ability to obtain quick answers or send promotional messages to our clients. The hospitality business is still the business of serving people, and we cannot forget how we created our relationships with clients in the first place. I fully embrace what technology can do for us –the efficiency is endless –but in an age where none of our competitors are leaving their desks, we must force ourselves to meet with our clients face-to-face and allow them to know us again.
About the Author
Amy Pack is the Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania Area Director of Sales of The Hamister Group, Inc., a nationally-expanding hotel and healthcare management company based in Williamsville, NY. The company’s hotel portfolio includes Holiday Inn Express Cranberry PA, Hampton Inn Cranberry PA, Residence Inn Cranberry PA, Hampton Inn Pittsburgh Airport PA, Hampton Inn Pittsburgh Greentree PA, MainStay Suites Knoxville TN, Fairfield Inn & Suites Smyrna TN, Sleep Inn & Suites Smyrna TN, Sleep Inn & Suites Lebanon TN, and Sleep Inn & Suites Louisville KY. Feedback can be sent to Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on The Hamister Group, Inc., please visit the organization's website at www.hamistergroup.com
Area Director of Sales
The Hamister Group, Inc.