By Daniel Melnyk
The traditional approach of rapidly processing a high volume of leads is inefficient, so how can hotels use technology and service to drive more bookings?
Hotel group sales in the digital era have undergone permanent changes, particularly in the way relationships are built through digital means. The traditional approach of rapidly processing a high volume of leads is inefficient, with up to 90 percent of leads failing to convert. Add to that the immense pressure that sales teams today are under to produce countless generic proposals daily, resorting to impersonal emails instead of engaging with clients through meaningful conversations.
According to Skift, the hotel industry is experiencing a significant shift in group sales, with hotel groups rebalancing their portfolios to shift upmarket for pricing power. This shift is part of a larger trend of U.S. hotels experiencing average daily rate growth of about 55 basis points above inflation annually between 1988 and 2023. But hoteliers will need to be agile and innovative to stay ahead of the competition.
Hotel sales managers can take several steps to take advantage of these exciting possibilities ahead as the groups and events business continues to grow. Here are some strategies to close more sales and build long-term relationships with clients.
One aspect of the sales process remains steadfast amidst the digital era transformation: the art of listening. Regardless of whether interactions occur face-to-face, online, or over the phone, active listening remains crucial. Active listening surpasses the effectiveness of mere email correspondence, as clients often use barriers to filter out impersonal communication. Earning the trust and confidence of buyers becomes a game-changer, effectively filtering out venues and hotels lacking the necessary skills.
Planner and Hotel Partnerships
Venues and planners must adopt a fresh perspective on the sales process moving forward. Mindlessly sending the same lead to multiple hotels or venues due to technological ease is counterproductive. Such practices waste the time of numerous sales teams, resulting in longer turnaround times and increased costs. Sales teams will operate on a skeletal basis for a considerable period.
Moreover, buyers often forward identical leads to multiple hotels or venues, necessitating the completion of multiple business proposals. To rectify this, a shift is required in the mindset of salespeople within the industry. They should view themselves as partners rather than mere suppliers, as that is the type of relationship buyers seek. This change in perspective not only proves more lucrative but also eliminates the need for price discounts to secure business.
Personalize the Decision Process
Creating a welcoming environment for planners in a changed landscape requires aligning the sales process with the decision-makers buying process. Three key factors contribute to this alignment: adopting a proactive sales culture, building trust by understanding clients’ businesses and priorities, and prioritizing personalization. By utilizing personalization as a filter, sales teams can allocate more time to leads they aim to win. To achieve this, they must delve deeper into understanding clients and uncover their buying motivations early in the sales process.
The digital era has highlighted the need to engage with clients earlier in their decision-making process. Clients often formed assumptions about venues based on their own online research before involving the venue itself. If the client fails to see how booking one venue over another would be a better fit, the decision would likely be based solely on rates.
The Role of Automation and Technology
Today, most hotels are also looking to streamline unnecessary processes and empower their sales teams instead of burdening them with excessive manual tasks, instead relying on technology and tools. According to Skift Meetings, 78 percent of planners are using more technology, so that means hotels have to adapt to meet them where they are.
To stay ahead of the competition, it is crucial to invest in tools and systems to streamline the booking process and provide a seamless experience for clients. This can include online booking systems, mobile apps, and virtual tours. Utilizing specialized tools that optimize workflows and simplify processes empowers hotel sales teams to handle leads effectively, engage with planners, and successfully secure more business deals.
Utilizing demand-gen marketing automation can also be instrumental in driving more hotel group sales. Automating lead generation, segmentation, email campaigns, and event promotions helps make the most of resources and enhances the overall effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts, ultimately leading to increased revenue and growth.
The digital era presents an ideal opportunity to reevaluate sales processes, adopting customer-centric models based on trust and communication. While technological advances have facilitated personalized marketing, understanding clients’ hot buttons and their specific buying needs remains crucial. The key is to engage clients beyond discussing dates, rates, and available space. Understanding clients’ business goals, meeting challenges, and envisioning how a venue, technology, and service can contribute to their success will empower hotels to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape.