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Hotel Sales: It's Easy To Stand Out From The Competition These Days

By Doug Kennedy
March 20, 2013

One really interesting thing about being a hotel trainer is that you get to peek behind the scenes at so many different types of hotel and lodging companies.   Regardless of the location, property classification, or brand, right now it seems that most hotel salespeople are having similar challenges.

One such “challenge,” ironically, is that most salespeople are overwhelmed with inquiries.  On the surface this would seem to be a good “problem” to have.   Yet too many sales offices have not re-organized their processes to meet this challenge.

The “problem” of too many leads is caused by the increasing use of meetings management technology systems and other electronic channels by both professional meeting planners and those planning social and other SMERF-type meetings and events.   Many professional meeting planners have migrated to using various networking services to send out their RFP’s, often keeping the name of the group anonymous.  Those planning social and other SMERF meetings and functions also seem to prefer to send their initial inquiries via email. 

As a result, in today’s world planners are inquiring at far more properties than they did not so long ago when inquiring meant placing a phone call to the hotel sales office.   Whereas a few years back a planner might phone three to five properties, now at the click of the keyboard they can instantly inquire at a dozen or more hotels.  Consequently, hotel sales staff finds themselves overwhelmed with inquiries.

Many hotel salespeople seem to be handling the challenge of too many leads coming in electronically by trying to respond to them all with equal attention.   When leads bottle-neck during periods of peak demand, the end result is slower response times and generic proposals.  This levels the “playing field” for all the hotels contacted and does not allow any particular hotel to stand out from its competitors. 

Instead, hotel sales directors need to take a step back and re-evaluate the processes in place at their sales offices to make sure they have re-organized to keep up with these emerging trends. 

For those just starting this process, the first step is to train your sales team to sort and prioritize electronic inquiries, especially on days when they are overwhelmed with the volume of inquiries.  I call this “reading the lead,” just as an experience waiter “reads the table.”
  • What is the source of the lead?  Is it a direct inquiry?   If not, which third party did it come from?  Was it through a listing service? A convention & visitors bureau or tourism office?
  • Are their requested dates during periods of moderate to low demand?  Do they indicate flexibility?
  • What special requests or comments have they mentioned?  Many of those who email their inquiries to the address include in-depth details about their plans that can be used to personalize the response. 
Of course it is also important to evaluate the overall revenue opportunity of the meeting or event.
Having sorted and prioritized the inquiries, hotel sales staff can then spend more time responding to those that are truly the best fit and hottest leads for their hotel.   If necessary, others can get a more generic, template response or be delegated to a sales administrative assistant for basic follow-up.

Here are some additional training tips to help your hotel stand out from its competition.
  • Respond promptly to all inquiries, even those for which you have no inventory or otherwise cannot meet their specifications.   Plans change as meeting details are finalized, and many planners are involved with multiple meetings and thus could be a future prospect.
  • Pick up the phone!   Never respond to a RFP with only an electronic form of communication.  Even if you only get through to voicemail, an energetic, friendly and engaging voicemail message will start to make your proposal rise up in the stack.  For those specifically indicating they do not want to be called, send a personalized letter or card by standard mail.
  • Speaking of the phone, always call to verify that the recipient received the email proposal or contract.  With so many of us business travelers reading email on various devices, it is easy for something to get deleted or overlooked.
  • Send a personal hand-written note.  Rather than just sending emails that say “Just checking to see if you reached a decision,” stand out by using the good old fashioned postal service.  A handwritten note really means something these days.  When was the last time you received one?
  • Sending a link to property information pages on a website is not relationship selling and does not show you know your product.  Nor does it provide any sense of pride and ownership of what you are representing.  Instead, provide personalized details along with the link.
  • Sending a link to an online concierge service does not demonstrate your knowledge of the area and is not relationship selling.  Instead, assist with needs-based suggestions and recommendations. 
  • Use “high tech” resources to go “old school.”   Rather than just sending an email, use your webcam to record a short video message saying how much you want their business.  Or create a fun flash movie using iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. 
  • Use your sales lead tracking system diligently.  With so many RFP’s coming at us these days, it is impossible to organize tasks using folders in your email server.  Always systematically enter the next follow-up action step into your tracking system so that it appears on your daily task list.
  • Research the organization online prior to responding so that you can personalize the response.  

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry.  Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades.  Visit KTN at:   Read his travel blog at ontheroad.kennedytrainingnetwork
or email him directly: 

Doug Kennedy
Kennedy Training Network, Inc.
1926 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 203
Hollywood, FL  33020
Office: 954.981.7689
Mobile: 954.558.4777


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Also See: Hotels Should Not Hide Their Phone Numbers And Email Addresses on Websites / Doug Kennedy / February 2013

Properly Structured Incentives Motivate Transient Sales Staff / Doug Kennedy / January 2013

Time To Move On From 1990’s Era Reservations Scripting / Doug Kennedy / December 2012

When Deployed Correctly, Courtesy Holds Can Help Upscale Hotels & Resorts Close More Inquiries / Doug Kennedy / November 2012

Urgent Memo To Hotel Sales Directors: It’s Time To Return To Relationship Selling / Doug Kennedy / October 2012

Is Your Hotel Team Ready For Guests Experiencing 'Cyber-Fatigue'? / Doug Kennedy / September 2012

No Directions and NO KETCHUP! - It's The People That Make The Difference / Doug Kennedy / August 2012

Ask For The Sale To Increase Bookings By 440% / Doug Kennedy / August 2012

Have You Listened To What Your Hotel Team Is Saying To Real Callers? / Doug Kennedy / July 2012

How To Convince Callers Who Are Looking Online To Book Directly / Doug Kennedy / June 2012

Train Your Hotel Team To Use The Language Of Hospitality: Part Two / Doug Kennedy / May 2012

Train Your Hotel Team To Use The Language Of Hospitality: Part One / Doug Kennedy / March 2012

What Is The Difference Between Hospitality Excellence and Mediocrity? / Doug Kennedy / January 2012

Front Desk Upsell Training Can Increase RevPAR / Doug Kennedy / October 2011

Hotel Training Budget Reflects Belief Systems / Doug Kennedy / September 2011

Hotel Voice Reservations: The Forgotten Channel / Doug Kennedy / August 2011

It's Time For Today's Technology-Focused Hotel Salespeople To "Go Old School" / Doug Kennedy / July 2011

Don’t Let A Culture Of Profitable Mediocrity Infiltrate Your Hotel / Doug Kennedy / June 2011

Hospitality Examples Observed From TSA Airline Security Staff / Doug Kennedy / May 2011

The Hotel Front Desk Is a Distribution Channel / Doug Kennedy / April 2011

Train Your Sales Agents To Execute Your Hotel’s Rate Strategies / Doug Kennedy / March 2011

Savvy Hoteliers Still Make Voice Channels A Priority / Doug Kennedy / February 2011

True Hotel Sales Superstars Love “Clueless” Callers! / Doug Kennedy / January 2011

What If A Hotel Brand Could Ask The Same Question Southwest Airlines Asks In Their New Ad? / Doug Kennedy / December 2010

Hoteliers Should Utilize New Tools For Measuring Hospitality and Guest Service Efficiency / Doug Kennedy / November 2010

Training Your Team To Master “Channel Conversion” Techniques / Doug Kennedy / November 2010

Upselling Strategies For Your Front Desk and Reservation Teams / Doug Kennedy / September 2010

Training Is Key To Turning “Desk Clerks” Into Front Desk Salespersons / March 2007

It’s Time To Give Hotel Guests What They REALLY Need and Want Daily! Key Basics Some Hotels Still Fall Short On / Doug Kennedy / September 2006

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