Carol Verret Consulting 
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Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results
Carol Verret / May 2000
The current employment climate in the hotel industry has put severe limitations on the ability of hotels to recruit and retain sales people with sales experience and/or a background in hotels.  In many cases, we are promoting from within, usually the front desk, or relying on intuition that untried recruits are trainable.  This situation is even more apparent in the limited to moderate service sectors, that is, non-convention hotels reliant on their local markets to generate the majority of their demand.

Compounding the situation in the limited and moderate service sectors are decreasing occupancies in both the limited service and all suite sectors for 1999 (source:  PKF, Revenue Growth,, May 2000).  This makes an effective sales effort more critical at a time when flat revenues limit the resources a property or management company has to retain qualified sales and marketing professionals. 

In the current climate, we are dealing with sales people often with no experience, whose longevity with the property is relatively brief, often only nine to eighteen months.  With little training and a steep learning curve, it becomes the ‘deep end of the pool’ training.  That is, we throw them into the deep end of the pool and wait on the side.  If they float, we figure they will make it. The other side of the coin is that with such a short average duration on the job, many companies are reluctant to spend the dollars sending them to training.  Is it any wonder that we burn them out or lose them to another property with better salaries and benefits having given them so few tools to work with? 

With a high degree of turnover and a shortage of recruits, sales positions, both at the property and corporate levels are left open for long periods of time.  Any sales momentum is lost and clients have difficulty being serviced. 

In addition, many ‘experienced’ sales people were never taught the basic steps of the sales process or how to completely penetrate their markets.  Those whose experience has been in the years between 1992-98, the ‘boom’ years, were primarily managing the yield from increased demand prior to the entry of new hotel product into their respective markets and may have little experience in generating demand from market penetration and additional revenue from existing accounts. 

Understanding what new sales people are looking for from an employment situation is crucial to maximizing both longevity and training.  Studies show that they are not there for the money alone, and we all know that the salaries in the hotel sales field have not kept pace with the rest of the marketplace.  On the one hand, they want to feel part of a team, that their input and opinions are solicited and valued but on the other, they want to know what’s in it for them, in terms of rewards for performance and career potential. (Source:  Generations at Work, American Management Association)  When an inexperienced recruit is left untrained, they become frustrated and are easy prey for the competition or other industries. 

As well, clients have become fickle and, with overbuilding in this sector, will switch to a new hotel for a few dollars less in rate or a newer hotel product with additional amenities such as a two room suite for the price of a room at a traditional property.  They have also become cynical about building relationships with sales people due to the turnover factor.  The days are also gone when most companies can drive all of their business to one hotel.  Their employees are demanding more flexibility based on their preferences and frequent guest programs, when location and rate are relatively similar.  The traditional ‘booker’ now exerts influence but can not always guarantee the choices that an employee will make.

It is now more important than ever to ‘spread the risk’ of losing revenue from several key accounts to a total market penetration strategy that includes smaller companies which, if the company’s fortunes change, will not take the hotel’s revenue base down with it.  One need look no further than the Seattle area when Boeing was downsizing and restructuring to see an example of an entire market’s dependency on one key account.  Those hotels that had built a broad customer base fared better than those that didn’t.

An examination of a hotel’s source of business report usually reveals that while a few accounts can be identified that produce a large number of rooms, it is usually no more than 15 to 20% of a hotel’s occupied rooms, the majority of the rest being frequent guest programs or unidentified ‘corporate’ and ‘discount’.   The old 80/20 rule does not necessarily apply anymore.  In a corporate market, up to 80% of your business now comes from ‘independents’, employees of larger companies that when location is equal will stay where their frequent guest points are and contractors and consultants who will make their own decisions based on the same factors.  The ‘independent’ client is difficult to identify and woo but not impossible. 

Reducing the learning curve and enabling sales people to generate revenue for the hotel in the shortest period of time is the goal of effective training and should be conducted as soon as possible following the recruitment of a new sales person.  Whether training occurs in a seminar setting or one-on-one, results should be tangible in terms of a sales person’s immediate effectiveness and quantifiable in terms of additional revenue generation within 60 days after it is completed.  It should include on-going reinforcement through the Internet (this is the generation) or, if unavailable, more traditional methods such as conference calls and availability to counsel via e-mail or telephone.  A newsletter with concrete sales ‘tools’ that sales people can implement keeps the basic concepts fresh in their minds. 

Those hotels and management companies that take training seriously can reduce turnover and retain staff longer than the average.  Recruitment and retention will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future, which is why training needs to be ongoing and constantly reinforced.  The General Managers need to be included in the process as often they are the only ones on property to sell and have the responsibility of overseeing the sales effort every day.  Incentives for sales and GMs based on property revenue keeps everyone focused on the goal.

Carol Verret and Associates, Consulting and Training specializes in results training for sales, front desk and customer service and consulting for the hospitality industry. 
© 2000 all rights reserved 

Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
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