To prepare for the tsunami of demand that will likely flood the market, sales teams must prepare now to capture much more than their hotel’s market share.
As we enter year two of the pandemic, with cases still surging after the holidays and the vaccine rollout still in its early stages, the majority of hotels have yet to see the rebound in demand they had been hoping would happen in the first quarter of 2021.
While there has been some rebound in small meetings and events, and a trickle of corporate travel, the bulk of sales activity at most hotels is centered around either rebooking displaced business that is pushing back yet again, or fielding inquiries from clients who are planning 2022 and beyond.
Yet based on the many professional meeting planners I speak with, and in looking at the overall economic picture for the medium term, it seems highly likely that there is going to be a tsunami of demand that floods the market.
Therefore, smart hotel management companies have either retained their top salespeople or are bringing more and more of them back from furlough, so they are not snatched up by the competition or lost to other industries.
Certainly, the salespeople I know are plenty busy. At smaller properties, many are covering shifts. At larger hotels, sales teams have been reduced in numbers and may be working without key players such as conference services and administrative staff.
Surely, it is easy to fill one’s calendar for the day with operational tasks, but the smartest hotel salespeople will use this lull in inbound demand for action steps that will prepare them to capture much more than their hotel’s market share when the waves of pent-up demand come rolling in.
Here are four action steps that make it worthwhile to come in just a bit early, hurry back from lunch, or to stay a few minutes later during each workday.
Clean up your sales CRM process
Too many hotel salespeople still use some sort of hybrid system for tracking leads. This might include any number of methods including in-platform tracking, flagged emails, calendar tasks, and yes, even here in 2021, many hotel salespeople ultimately rely on handwritten notes scribbled on printouts of the original inquiries. Now is the time to make sure all current and incoming leads are properly entered into your CRM; that all email exchanges, notes from telephone conversations are documented in the CRM; and most importantly, that the next action step is always on your daily to-do list for a future date.
Most salespeople seem to find fault with their current CRM and miss whatever “old” one they had previously. Having seen virtual sales CRMs being used well, I think the problem is that few salespeople take the time to work through all the online tutorials and to get fully comfortable with their CRM. Use this downtime to master your system so that when leads do flood in one day soon, you will be able to follow up in a way that is a) tenacious and b) personalized, not generic.
Research your hotel’s history and retrace lost and previously booked business
This is an arduous process under normal conditions, and even more so now because with all the likely turnover on the buyer side, it is important to verify the names of the previous contacts.
Upskill at the ‘research’ step of effective sales prospecting
Efforts to simply churn out random, generic prospecting emails, LinkedIn inbox messages or voicemail messages are going to generate zero results and may even turn off prospective buyers. Researching before you reach out helps salespeople to pursue qualified “suspects” and to personalize prospecting messaging.
If you subscribe to resources like Knowland, ZoomInfo and LinkedIn, make sure you have used all of their learning resources so that you can use them properly. While many leaders seem to feel it is a given that all hotel salespeople know how to research, in our KTN workshops I find that most do not even know how to do a Boolean search on Google.
Master remote selling skills
Although most hotel salespeople have by now participated in online meetings, such as on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting or Hangouts, few have mastered the skills needed to use this medium effectively. Talking over a screen share of a generic “pitch deck” is not compelling for prospective buyers. Engage in training that offers one-on-one sales coaching, allowing salespeople to learn how to prepare agendas, organize images to share, practice being on webcam, and to learn advanced skills like selling via personalized video emails.
By using whatever downtime one can carve out during however many more months of this pandemic we have to endure, your hotel sales team will be prepared to win market share from its competitors who are still stuck in their “twenty-teens” sales culture of sales order-taking.
Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. Contact him at email@example.com.
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