By Ken Shanley
As business analysts dissect the latest numbers regarding the ongoing labor shortage – commonly known as “The Great Resignation” – they’re uncovering some startling trends that suggest the problem is far from over; according to a Goldman Sachs survey referenced in a recent Forbes article, of the 40% of the workers who say they plan to quit their current job in the near future, two-thirds of them are actually retiring, and they say they’re not coming back.
So, hotels need to get ready for a new way of doing business because a new generation of buyers is entering the marketplace – and your sales team better be ready!
You may be thinking: “Why would I need to change my sales strategies and processes to suit these new buyers? I’ve been using these strategies for years and they’ve always worked!”
Here’s why… today, nothing is the same as it was two years ago, full stop. The new generation of group accommodation buyers – corporate planners, government/association agencies, travel managers, meeting/event planners, third-party sourcing agents, etc. – are younger, tech savvy and expect on-demand answers, so hoteliers need to align their sales strategy to match the way that this new generation wants to conduct business. Making these updates to your sales strategy now is the best way for you to stand out from your competition, earn more bookings and increase revenues from the new generation of buyers.
Convinced yet? I thought so. Now the important question is this: what changes do you actually need to make?
1 – The New Standard for Service
The new generation of group accommodations buyers expects a different standard of service; because the way that they live their lives is much different – much faster – than their predecessors and they expect their business interactions to reflect those differences.
So, what does that mean, practically speaking, for your sales strategy?
Forget the “schmooz!” Today’s buyers don’t need slow, high-touch service, delivered an overly obsequious tone; they love facts and straight-talking salespeople. To build customer loyalty among the new generation of buyers, hotels must be able to deliver solutions quickly (I’m talking “yesterday”!).
Today’s buyer prefers to do business online, whenever possible – from selecting destinations, to putting together an RFP and inviting hotels to submit a bid, to negotiation and finalization of the contract – without having to interact with multiple members of your sales and service team, IRL (in real life). Smart hoteliers empower everyone on their teams to react, respond and commit, enabling them to book more business every day, all day.
With the normalization of WFH (work from home) and preference for doing business online, the new generation of buyer likes to work on their own terms, on their own schedule, in an online environment that allows them to remain incognito and as efficient as possible – which brings me to Tip #2…
2 – High-Speed is No Longer Just for Car Chases
Being used to the instantaneous nature of doing everything, online, 24/7, the new generation of buyers expect business transactions to move equally quickly; turnaround times must be shorter on RFPs, with priority being given to hotels who respond quickly, with a complete and competitive bid.
Beyond RFPs, communication in general is expected to be quicker and your sales team will need to be available, both by phone and text/WhatsApp/iMessage/online chat, to provide information immediately when a request comes in – even outside of traditional business hours.
As COVID has made it possible for many people to work remotely, there has been a huge uptick of workers making the move to become digital nomads, working from their laptops as they travel the world. So, even if you are in the US and receiving an RFP from an American company, the buyer may be physically located in Bali, or Australia, or France, or Spain, meaning that your business needs to be ready to respond in a very timely manner, no matter the time zone.
3 – Flexibility=Financial Rewards
As you can see from Tip #1 and #2, the new generation of buyers is all about flexibility in the way that they want to do business with your property – and, their need for flexibility doesn’t end there. They will also expect increased flexibility in contract terms and will not respond well to rigidity in any aspect of their business interactions. Contracts with overly restrictive terms and conditions won’t win bookings from buyers when the pandemic has already created so much uncertainty around travel, in general. With new variants popping up regularly, hotels that respond to pent-up demand with flexible terms will fare better than their competition.
In turn, hotels and other suppliers need technology that can help them manage their business more efficiently and with less staff. As the travel industry has been so deeply impacted by the pandemic, updating your hotel’s sales strategy will help you prosper in these difficult times and position you for continued success with this new generation of buyers.
The good news is, if you can deliver service and information in the way in which these new buyers prefer to work, they are incredibly loyal; in this scenario, fast doesn’t equate to fickle – and investment in updates to infrastructure and strategies will be rewarded with repeat customers.
Think of 2022 as a whole new world, a whole new marketplace, and create a whole new set of sales strategies to ensure that your property is able to survive – and more importantly, THRIVE – no matter how the pandemic affects the travel industry.