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"Sales and operations will never get along?"  Has the author been living and working on Mars?

I had to double-check the date of Steve DiGioia's article "Why sales and operations will never get along" posted last week on Hotel-Online.  I thought Steve was writing about sales and operation issues back in the '70s and '80s, but certainly not today.

To be sure, there was always that disconnect between sales and accounting, sales and the front desk, and yes, sales and catering/F&B during my career in hotel sales that spanned the late '60s through the early '80s.  And I must admit a mindset did exist in sales back then that putting business on the books was all that mattered.  

Sure, there was business booked by sales managers at far too discounted room rates.  And yes, business booked for two to three years or more down the road was booked by some who knew they would not be around when the hotel realized that booking was either bogus or actualized room nights were far less than expected.

And it is true also that many sales managers did not give much thought nor much consideration to those departments that serviced groups once they were sold.

Had I not experienced first-hand working in housekeeping for six weeks - - under the watchful eye of GM Harry Mullikin - - I never would have understood the potential problems inherent in committing group early arrivals and late checkouts.

"Sales managers booking events where the cost of servicing is greater than the revenue generated."  I take great issue with the author here because of the better job being done in managing today's hotel sales operations; specifically, holding sales managers ever so responsible for all bookings, large and small.

DiGioia asks, "What good is booking a small event when the cost of servicing the event is more than the revenue generated from it?"

Here's a question for DiGioia: have you met any revenue managers lately?  The emergence of revenue managers and/or revenue optimizers in our industry has created a powerful tool and process for management to evaluate - - and yes, possibly reject - - each piece of business (group, catering, business travel, government or simply a single room rate to be quoted) before either accepting or giving the sales team the green light to pursue.  Pieces of business must meet definite measurement standards today before being allowed.

That's our industry's new "checks and balances" system that is working so well today.  In most successful hotels the revenue manager has the power to reject a group booking - - no matter how passionate a case might be made by a sales associate - - if that piece might deny the hotel of booking something more profitable over the same dates.  And there are times indeed when a large catering event, a small but higher rated tour group, or even an anticipated high business travel or leisure room demand over those same dates works better for the hotel. 

"Sales staffs all have one thing in mind, to book as much business as possible."  Not true, especially with those successful properties where sales teams are held accountable for everything they book, and where sales directors, GMs and revenue managers hold the veto power before any new business in placed on the books.

"Then there are the situations where 'sales' will discount the price of the event in order to make the sale."  Is the author unfamiliar with the common practice of "selective selling"?  There are certain periods of time, certain situations where discounting is allowed and supported by operations, GMs and even owners.  Sometimes it is necessary to book a piece of business with discounted room rates over forecasted low occupancy periods, typically hard-to-sell dates, holes in a week, or especially when a late group cancellation has occurred.

And let us not forget that popular practice of "making up" for discounted room rates by enhancement of a group's total spend.  Professional sales managers today know how to use the common restaurant practice of "check building".  If you know cold the highest yielding revenue products and services a hotel offers, you can work on selling that discounted, flat or not-high-enough room rate groups other items: e.g., higher-yielding F&B items at meal events, spa treatments, room amenities and other hotel merchandise, to name just a few.

Smart sales associates know how to use conditions during the discounted room rate negotiating process.  One common practice is to agree to the discounts under the condition that the group commit to booking a series of smaller local, regional and/or national events over (your) preferred dates that year or next.

I know for certain from a career as a hospitality sales and marketing advisor these past three decades that there has been a sales department maturation process put in place, one in which all sales associates take a more professional approach to selling, are held more responsible for not just what they attempt to place on the books, but also on the overall quality of the business they spend time pursuing.

About David M. Brudney

David M. Brudney (David@DavidBrudney.com, 760-476-0830) has become a charter member of Laguna Strategic Advisors (lagunastrategicadvisors.com) and was a founding member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ishc.com). Brudney is a veteran sales-and-marketing professional concluding his fifth decade of service to the hospitality industry. Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators about hotel sales and marketing best practices and standards of care, and conducts reviews of sales-and-marketing operations throughout the world. Brudney is a professional speaker, teacher, mentor and sales trainer. Previously, Brudney held sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.

Contact: David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal

David@DavidBrudney.com / 760-476-0830

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steve@stevedigioia.com

January 15, 2014 1:22am

steve@stevedigioia.com says:

David,

Thank you much for your thoughtful, and well documented, rebuttal to my original article.  My feet have been firmly planted here on Earth and in the operational trenches of very busy Banquet Departments so of course have a different take on things versus your experience on the sales side of our business.  We are nothing more than a sum of our experiences and from that I wrote my article.

I have had the opportunity to work with many seasoned RevMax Directors at my years at Hilton, Crowne Plaza & Westin Hotels to understand the process of evaluating the potential “piece of business” that we hope to book.

And I have dealt with the frustrations that come after the decision is made to not book a series of events over dates held for a potential large block of sleeping rooms.  That is part of the business but unfortunately not all properties work under those conditions.  The ones that don’t are then left to the whims of the Sales staff to decide what is best for the property.

It does take a distinct effort on the part of senior management to educate all sides of the customer experience so that what is sold can be executed in the manner desired by the guest. But with a more focused desire to generate top-line revenue over what can be “taken to the bank” these issues will persist.

I do wish that my account of the issue was left in the 70‘s & 80’s, as you say, but sadly that is not always the case at the thousands of large and small hotels across our land.  For those unlucky enough to still have a disconnect between these two departments, my article still stands.

But I do prefer your version of this story over mine though.

Sincerely,
Steve DiGioia

P.S. Thanks for taking the time to write about my article.