By Doug Kennedy
In the course of a few months the hotel group, conference, event and BT sales landscape has transitioned from a period of historically high demand to near zero. After the tidal wave of cancellations and postponements in March, followed by an eerily quiet April and May when many were furloughed, hotel salespeople are now returning to an entirely new sales habitat.
Is your sales team ready? The last 10+ years of growth have allowed hotel sales to be more about “fishing” for new leads. Most salespeople could simply wait for a meeting or event planning “fish” swim by and bite on digital “bait” such as a hotel website or meeting planning platform, then reel it into the net. For the foreseeable future, the schools of hungry fish have been dispersed and few are even nibbling at the digital bait.
Now is the time for hotel salespeople to put on their bright orange vests and go out to hunt down new business. Yet to continue with the analogy, the skills and equipment needed for hunting are significantly different from what is needed for fishing.
The lack of “sales hunting” skills is by no means any fault of today’s hotel salespeople nor due to a lack of effort. With leads flooding inboxes for years now, salespeople were misguided by a number of longstanding facilities, especially these two:
- Responding first is priority number one. (Not true; according to my source at CVENT, those who take longer to respond, so they can be more thorough, convert more leads.)
- Meeting planners don’t want to talk anymore, so just reply digitally. (Again, not true! Planners welcome conversations from informed salespeople who are asking intelligent questions to clarify RFP details.)
As salespeople return from furlough, or for some salespeople, return from covering shifts at their front desk, they are finding an entirely new environment, requiring new sales processes. Conceivably, those who have worked in sales for as long as 11 years have never experienced a recessionary market, while “seasoned veterans” are out of practice.
Additionally, many sales leaders themselves are unsure what to do. Instead, many are directing their sales staff to use outdated methods that no longer work. For example, many are assigning salespeople to simply meet standards for “cold calling,” such as to place X number of calls or send Y number of emails each day, without regard to quality of effort. This may have worked after 9/11, but today this results in planners receiving annoying voicemails (because the won’t pick-up unknown numbers) or spammy-looking emails such as “We have implemented new cleaning standards, so keep us in mind if you have any meetings in our city.”
So what is the solution? At KTN our mantra, which is also the name of our new sales training program, is called Create New Sales Habitudes for a New Sales Habitat! I just love the word “habitude,” as it combines “habits” with “attitudes,” both of which are essential at moment. Here are a few sales training tips from our KTN private webcam training and coaching packages and from our newest on-site training workshops.
Get Salespeople to Believe! It’s hard to get motivated to sell if you think the situation is hopeless. Encourage open discussions where salespeople can honestly share their fears and hesitations. Leaders, reach out to others in your network, such as your brand, management company, CVB/DMO, and area competitors and solicit examples of sales hunters who even today are successfully bagging live game!
Organize Your Sales Lead “Flow.” When I conduct sales process audits, I find that few salespeople fully utilize their sales CRM/lead tracking tool. Instead, they use a mixed bag of flagged emails, handwritten notes on printed RFP’s, post-its, to-do lists, and Excel/Sheets doc’s. A well-organized “flow” will allow you to hunt for leads with tenacity and to follow-up relentlessly without seeming too pushy.
Prospecting Skills – Part One: Hunters first must know where to go to find the game they are pursuing. Some hotel sales staff have previously been using the many invaluable tools available these days, but when I conduct our KTN sales audits, I find that few have been using them consistently. These include Linkedin premium versions, ZoomInfo, Knowland, and of course the smart use of Boolean Search in Google. Right now, especially with so much displacement of BT business and the general climate of disruption, it’s also great time to use an old-school method of looking closely at in-house guests, company names, etc…
Prospecting Skills – Part Two: Having identified who sales prospects are, many sales “fishers” need some help with stalking their game in the wilderness. Many need to re-learn sales fundamentals such as what to say during a phone solicitation. Here’s one very basic example. If you reach a live person, do not start by saying “Is this Mr. Kennedy? How are you today? Is this a good time to talk?” as people will think you are that robocaller from the IRS, Social Security Office. Instead, immediately state your name, hotel name, and very briefly your reason for calling, then ask if they have a moment to talk or if you could at least send them introductory info.
Prospecting Skills – Part Three: It’s time to embrace new “tech for touch” methods, especially video email, narrated screen sharing, online meetings, and even texting camera phone images. I’ve covered these so many times in other articles, and it’s a bit much to rehash here, but if any new readers want copies of previous train-the-trainer articles just email me or visit our website www.KennedyTrainingNetwork.com
Polish-Up Your Negotiating Skills. Be assured that savvy planners, as well as travelers in general, are all going to be in “deal-seeking” mode. It’s almost as if those who are being hunted can smell blood oozing from the wounds of hunters! With daily media reports on hotels having historically low occupancy, even those who can well afford higher rates are asking for discounts and concessions.
In summary, many hotel salespeople will wake up every day, feel victimized by the current habitat, and wish things were back to being the way they were in January of 2020. Others will jump out of bed a bit earlier than normal, don their bright orange vest, grab their cross-bow, and head out to the woods to explore a new habitat. Which type of sales team are you leading?