By Doug Kennedy
Based on the conversations I’m having with KTN sales training clients, it seems that demand for groups and events is coming back quicker than expected, so sales revenue targets for 2023 have been raised accordingly. With all the continued uncertainty in the economy and with Covid 19 still refusing to go away, it’s going to take more than a reactive sales culture to achieve those goals. Therefore, this is a wonderful time to establish new sales habits.
As my frequent readers know, I have often written about what I call “sales slippage,” whereby too many salespeople have grown content to live off inbound demand. Too many still do little more than to reply by way of the same digital “channel” in which the lead comes in. In other words, if the lead comes in via CVENT or Lanyon, salespeople simply reply with a bid. If the lead comes in via direct email or was forwarded on from the brand’s National Sales office, too many salespeople simply reply with a generic PDF brochure or “e” proposal. Too few make any effort to “connect with the customer” and to personalize their proposals and correspondence. What’s more, I often heard from meeting planners that some hotel salespeople are prone to miss key details included in RFP’s.
Chances are that the “lead stream” at most hotels is once again starting to flow steadily, but that is not necessarily because there is more business. It may just be that today’s digital platforms make it easier to send an RFP to a multitude of properties, so everyone is chasing more leads with a steadily decreasing chance of closing them. Or it may also be that planners and buyers are looking for deals as revenue managers are trying to push rate. Therefore, now is a good time for sales leaders to help their direct reports create and maintain new sales habits such as these:
- When leads come in, reach out for a personal connection. Pick up the phone, briefly introduce yourself, and say “I just had a few quick questions so that I could send a more personalized proposal…” Most planners and buyers will respect well-thought-out questions that show you did your homework. Do not annoy them with “textbook questions” such as “Can you walk me through your ideal, dream event?” or “What are you looking for in a hotel?”
- If you get voicemail, make sure your voice conveys enthusiasm and that the message is succinct. If they do not phone you back very soon, then send an email listing your well-thought-out questions.
- If they still do not respond, proceed with sending a proposal over based on what you know so far.
- It is fine to use generic proposal templates but use the first paragraph or two to paraphrase and restate what you know so far about the meeting, group, or event.
- Quickly skim your PDF format proposal or “e” proposal template and delete anything that is not relevant. For example, do not mention amenities and services which they will not have time to use due to their agenda or calendar dates.
- Likewise, delete any images that do not fit their profile.
- If you reply via email, always ask the recipient to confirm receipt. I usually say, “May I ask that you please confirm receipt to ensure that the email does not accidentally get sent to spam?”
- If you reply “in-app” (such as at CVENT or in platforms provided by your local CVB or DMO), always send an external email to confirm receipt (and to stand out from the others).
- End all correspondence by expressing interest in securing their business such as “Let me know what else I can do on our end to win the opportunity to host your group.” Do NOT sound generic and say “Let me know if you have any questions.”
- Always leave the “next step” on your “to-do” list. Even when the prospect replies by email (or tells you in a conversation) something like, “Okay, well I will go over this with my boss on Tuesday and then give you a call you…” always say “That sounds terrific! And I will reach out again too to see what else we can do to secure your business.”
- Besides replying to the inquiry, follow-up at least 2 additional times. Vary the follow-up “medium,” for example a phone call and then a few days later an email.
- Use a “tech for touch” approach to put people and personalities back into hotel sales. As frequent readers know, I am a huge advocate for using personalized video email messages. This is a wonderful way to “put a face with a name.”
- Use an online scheduling app to make it easier to connect for real conversations and not just email exchanges. Calendly is a great option and it has a free basic account.
- Once you schedule real conversations, take it to Zoom or Teams when possible. One good thing that the pandemic did is make people generally more comfortable being on video calls, so use this medium to go “old school” and make it personal.
- Although this post refers to going after inbound leads, it is also important to set a designated time each week (or time of day) for proactive prospecting. Once you use effective lead research as we have covered in previous articles here, then most of the above sales habits will apply pretty much as is.