By Doug Kennedy

Now that we are beyond six months into this pandemic era, most hotel salespeople and their leaders have come to accept that it is going to be a long, slow ride to a full recovery. For those of us who have experienced loss, the emotions may have felt similar to moving through what grief counselors call the “Five Stages of Grief.”

Although losing a loved one or going through a divorce is of course much worse than suffering a career disruption, the salespeople I speak with about this analogy seem to agree that their emotions have followed similar patterns. First, denial and waiting for something miraculous to happen to restore normalcy; feeling angry and to trying to bargain with Destiny; acknowledging feeling depressed; and finally acceptance.

So now here we are looking ahead to 2021, hopefully having accepted that it is going to be a long and slow ride to a full recovery, asking the question “What can we do about it?” The good news is that unlike personal loss, there is a lot we can do to recover lost business.

Ironically, early this year I had just discovered my favorite new word, which is Habitudes. At first I thought I had made up this new word when designing my newest hotel sales training course, but a quick check on Google showed that it was already defined by Merriam-Webster: A habitual disposition or mode of behavior or procedure.

To me, it is a perfect word because it combines the concepts of “attitude” and “habit,” and the interplay of those traits will light the path of this long ride.

First, successful hotel salespeople, like all sales personnel really, must maintain a positive and optimistic attitude about the future. Start your day by pausing to be grateful, which to me seems easy to do these days when of so much suffering and economic hardship. Focus on what you can control, as a sense of control creates optimism, which is jet fuel for action. A positive attitude will power you onward and upward.

Whereas depression saps our energy, an optimistic attitude allows us to give a 110% effort. It was easy to stay late and come in early when hitting 110% of the annual sales goal by Q4 each year, but despite a tough 2020, dig deeper now and you will blow away the sales goals for 2021 and 2022.

Over time, maintaining the attitude of optimism itself becomes a habit, yet ironically formulating positive sales habits makes it is easier to maintain optimism because habits give us a sense of control and predictability.

By embracing the following sales habits now, hotel salespeople will not only power their long ride to a slow recovery but will also be best prepared to succeed when the tidal wave of pent-up demand eventually gushes over the industry.

  • Embrace your sales CRM. Based on the sales process assessments I have conducted in recent years, where I look at each person’s actual “flow” of lead management, most in this industry greatly underutilize whatever sales CRM they have in place. Now is a great time to take those tutorials, clean-up your task list, and master all available integrations. Give up the paper trail, post-it notes, and your attempts to use email “flags” or calendar notes as a CRM. Obsess on entering all sales activity, attaching correspondence, and re-tracing leads on your task list.
  • Clean-up and re-trace previous bookings and lost business. Although meetings and events that were previously held annually didn’t happen this year, they are sure to come back in the future. Go back through the contacts, check on LinkedIn to see if the names have changed and hunt down the new contacts now, touch base now, and retrace for the future. Likewise, retrace lost business that booked elsewhere.
  • Master remote selling skills. As we have rolled-out our webcam training and coaching in recent months, it has become evident that most hotel salespeople need to upskill right now at selling via online meetings platforms (Zoom, Teams, Hangouts, GoToMeeting). Prepare agendas, organize images to share, practice being on webcam, and be sure to keep it interactive. With most hotel sales conversations having migrated to email or in-app exchanges in recent years, many have gotten out of practice at using the sales essentials such as investigative questioning and storytelling selling, so brush up on the basics too.
  • Innovate your use of “tech for touch” sales tools. The hotel industry’s march towards automation continues, and an ever-increasing number of meetings and events can be easily booked online in a “self-service” format. Find ways to keep “people” in your sales process,” and use “tech” for “touch,” such as embracing personalized video email as a sales tool. Although the procession of hotel sales has been extremely slow to adopt video email, other segments such as SAS sales and real estate have found huge upsides. KTN offers coaching and training on this and other remote selling skills, or just read my previously published articles for free insights.
  • Research more about how to research! The flood of inbound RFP’s has slowed to a trickle, so it is time to move from a “sales fishing” to a “sales hunting” mentality. The good news is there are more and better resources every day. If you subscribe to Knowland, check out how they have advanced their search attributes. ZoomInfo and LinkedIn continue to evolve. I’m still shocked at how many hotel salespeople do not know how to do a Boolean Search on Google; if you don’t know just google that term.
  • The most important habit of all is to carve out time every day for sales hunting, which is known traditionally as prospecting. By utilizing the above habits, your prospecting efforts will pay generously.

By formulating new sales habitudes, you can go beyond surviving and find your career actually thriving.

Yes, it’s going to be a long ride to a slow recovery, but by embracing an optimistic attitude and formulating habits like these, you will fill-up your tank and be ready for the journey.