Winning with the Web: Return to the Basics

By Mike Paton Senior Vice President, Signature Worldwide | June 15, 2010

"That's nothing," he'll say after Tiger stripes a drive 380 yards down the middle while protecting a six-stroke lead at the Masters. "Put that titanium rocket launcher in Arnold Palmer's hands 45 years ago, and he'd never have lost a tournament!"

Since my father-in-law hasn't lost an argument since 1953, I'm always quick to agree that advancements in technology have certainly helped "raise the bar" on performance in many sports. But every athlete has access to golf balls that fly farther or space-age tennis rackets. As a result, we agreed that today's champions excel by distinguishing themselves the same way they always have - through talent and hard work.

The idea that champions don't rely on technology alone is something we need to keep in mind in the hospitality industry. With so much business being conducted "online" today, you may be tempted to let technology do all the heavy lifting for your hotel. After all, you probably get plenty of transient reservations via brand websites or TPAs, and perhaps your sales staff can barely keep up with all of the electronic RFPs you receive.

Certainly, you and your sales team have had to change the way you work to accommodate the increased role technology plays in business today. But, like champion athletes, you must make sure not to rely too heavily on automation and just "go through the motions." And you shouldn't drastically change the way you work just because you're more frequently connecting with people online. Technology just creates additional ways to link buyers and sellers -- it's not meant to replace basic sales skills and old-fashioned hard work.

While this concept may seem simplistic, audits we've conducted with numerous customers have proven that implementing this idea at your hotel is much more difficult than you might think. We've found the vast majority of sales professionals respond ineffectively to inbound opportunities received electronically - via e-mail or web-based RFPs. Even sellers who normally excel at establishing relationships with prospects and building value in their hotel seem to behave more as passive "order-takers" when communicating with someone online.

Why? Perhaps because online communication seems to put the buyer in a position of authority, making all but the most talented sellers believe their job is to simply respond to the request. Maybe the average seller believes some purchasing manager interested in nothing but price and location is going to make the buying decision associated with every RFP. As a result, every question is carefully answered, and all documentation is attached, but there's no dialog. The sales manager prices the business aggressively, believing it's the only chance to win the bid. And then the RFP response is dutifully shipped off - almost always just before the deadline.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.