By Greg Johnson

We are all dealing with a crisis that is unprecedented, causing us to rethink the way we tackle our everyday jobs and how people are traveling. This is causing our hotels to run with a skeleton crew, all sharing in the responsibilities of the various tasks needing to be done.

Hotel sales leaders have, in general, been protected from jumping into the daily operations of the hotel so that they can devote most of their energies towards keeping the future funnel of business coming into the hotel. That is not our current reality, though.

With our past designated job descriptions being discarded in an effort to continue to run at minimal levels, there are some that say, “Now is not the time to sell; there is no one out there to sell to.” This is a dangerous mindset because it is absolutely the most crucial time to continue selling.

We have to work harder now in sales to stay in touch with clients, meeting planners, brand representatives and community leaders. There are already events and groups looking to postpone and book later in the year when things calm down or those who are looking to rebook for future dates. If we aren’t already in touch with our main contacts, we will be left behind in capturing this revenue down the road. If we aren’t pushing our salespersons to keep calling, emailing and digging for information, we will be wondering why our third and fourth quarters are not as strong as our competitive set.

To be clear, I am not talking about having our sales teams isolated in their offices cold calling until the start of summer. They need to be every bit as involved in running the hotel as everyone else is. Rather, it is time to be creative in balancing what needs to be done in the moment and not losing sight of staying in contact with their top national and local clients.

Right now, it isn’t as much about ‘selling’ as it is about checking in, building and maintaining our relationships, so we are top of mind when business resumes. I have already seen examples of hotels picking up some business because of the strong relationships they have with their customers and clients.

Selling tactics change with seasons and situations, but strong relationships endure time and trials.

Reach out with an email with the appropriate message and sincerity of the situation we are all in. Send a message through text, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or even arrange for a Skype or Zoom chat. Show compassion, understanding and hope. Here are some other examples of how to interact with your clients in meaningful ways.

1. Go Old School. Telephone sales calls are incredibly meaningful and comprise a large majority of our connections. No text will ever convey the same emotional depth as a voice on the other end of the line.

2. Lobby Lizard. Spend time in your lobby talking to your clients who are traveling to gather information on other teammates who may need accommodations.

3. Facetime Reimagined. Consider engaging with customers via webinar and turn on your webcams. This is the best compromise for a lack of in-person meetings.

4. Be Trusted. As a business partner for your clients, find authentic touchpoints wherever possible as you never know when this common ground will relate to a sales conversation.

5. Know Your Competitors. Continue to drive parking lots. What business are they capturing? What are other hotels doing to stay float?

6. Show Gratitude. Write some notes to your best clients and let them know how much you appreciate them. They are likely under similarly stressful circumstances just as you are and they will remember your kind note.

Being proactive and contacting our clients appropriately right now is the absolute right move. Don’t be predatory or oblivious to the situation we are all in, but still be committed to responding first to all incoming leads and groups that are rescheduling while keeping the relationships strong.

To conclude with a quote from Conrad Hilton, “It has been, and continues to be, our responsibility to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.” This is exactly what people need right now, and it is your responsibility to now reach out and share your light and warmth. That’s what will get you the sales, maybe not now but for summer, fall, 2021 and beyond.