Selling Your Hotel - Is It Really ALL About The Relationship?
By Deborah Borak Director of Global Accounts, ConferenceDirect | September 13, 2015
I am always perplexed when a hotel sales person that has just called and introduced themselves to me tells me that their boss requires them to call everyone that sends a lead to their hotel so they can ask questions and have a relationship. To me a relationship is something that is built over time and doesn't just occur because of one exchange, interaction or sale. Is this what hotel sales has really become? Make a phone call and say you have a relationship and the deal is done?
I have never been in hotel sales or even worked in a hotel, so I was intrigued that a sales manager would think that by calling me we had a "relationship". So, one day I looked up the word relationship to see how it was defined. Miriam Webster dictionary defines relationship as "the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other". I am wrong? Perhaps relationship does define the sales process. It got me thinking about different hotel chains and how they sell. What training is provided to sales staff? What are they tasked with accomplishing on a daily basis as part of their sales goals? Is it a certain number of phone calls? A defined number of e-mails? Or must it be a phone call to actually have a relationship?
The world of sales has changed and not just hotel sales. Dictionaries define selling as "persuading or inducing someone to buy". However, does selling hotel rooms and space really involve persuading or inducing someone to buy? I have always felt that selling rooms and space is more about providing information on what is available and letting the customer decide if the rates, space and concessions work for them and their company, and isn't much of a persuasive transaction. I guess sometimes it depends on the type of meeting and size of the event. For instance, if the hotel does not have the exact amount of meeting space needed, such as a separate room for lunch, then they might have to persuade the planner to re-use the meeting room for their meals. But, I would venture to say is not as much of a common occurrence that it defines the entire selling process. So what really has changed in the sales process?
Think about how your sales department sells to customers and prospects. Is there a formal training process in place or does your management depend on the relationships the sales manager has already built in their previous sales position? Do you have a list of previous clients that you have your sales team reach out to on an annual basis? Do you rely on the leads you receive daily to be the only way you build your database and establish relationships? Or is it a variety of sales tactics?
When I started in the hospitality industry, there were no electronic RFP tools. In fact, just 10 years ago, there were no RFP tools. I depended on my NSO or GSO to get me an answer from a hotel or I waited for the sales manager from the property to fax me a hand-written to typed response form that I then had to re-key into my response grid that I forwarded to my client. Sometimes I would still get a call from a sales manager asking me questions about the program or finding out what next steps in the process were. And, more often than not, a few days later I would receive a bulky sales kits mailed to me with menus and an AV list. I didn't think about the relationship then, because everything was more about information and not as much talk during the actual selection process. I think that sales managers were so busy typing or hand writing forms that they didn't have as much time to call and talk to the planners and depended on tradeshows.
Tradeshows were always important as this was quite possibly the only time we interacted with the sales team and learned all of the details about their property including number of sleeping rooms, square footage of meeting space, high and low season and need dates. Tradeshows are still extremely important and are certainly a great way to start developing a relationship, by meeting and talking to someone face to face. And, the relationship continues to build for those sales managers that actually follow up planners they met at the show.