The Importance of Engagement During the Selling Process

By Del Robinette Vice President Sales & Marketing, Hospitality Management Corporation | September 17, 2017

Engagement and commitment are at the core of our professional lives in a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week operation. No matter the size or complexity of the box, engagement and our commitments should be a core fundamental that not only surfaces in our every interaction, but guides and directs our proactive decision making and our strategies and executions. Hospitality 101 teaches us as hospitality professionals, to engage with our guests, to make eye contact at 10 feet, to speak within 5, to escort when possible and to use our guests name in conversation. We are taught to answer the phone in just a few rings, to professionally engage our customers and clients at every interaction and be the key stakeholders of their happiness during their time with us. Commitment to our client's and guest's comfort and happiness, successful planning and meetings should live at the core of our hospitality spirit. Far too often forgotten is engagement within our sales discipline. How, as executive level leadership are we asking our sales people to be engaged and how are we committing ourselves to their success? Are we hiring committed, passionate, truly professional sales people that come to work every day to do exactly what we hired them to do? Sell.

Sales Engagement – A Few Instances Where it Deserves a Deeper Dive

Several years ago, I had an incredibly dynamic, engaged and committed sales person working for me. She was polished, involved with her clients and colleagues and everyone really admired this young manager. She was in early and out late, she was committed. She was the top sales person in our brand, year in and year out, won incentive trips and best of the best awards. I was shocked when she resigned to go work outside of our industry and outside of the sales discipline. When I asked her why, she very candidly said, I'm not that great of a sales person, in fact I hate sales. The reason she was first in the office and typically locking the door at the end of each day, was because she was anxious about her sales days. I immediately reacted with "You are the top catering sales manager in the entire company, by some pretty gross margins…by my account, you are an amazing sales person!" Her response "I just follow the sales funnel you gave us. I don't miss a step, I go from A to Z and I do every letter in between and they buy." "Stop it! Seriously? You were so engaged with the sales process and so committed to execution of this sales funnel, so much so that you just won the business?" She replied "Yes." Of course, I replied, "Ok, what will it take to change your mind?" There was no changing her mind.

Professional sales people, engage the sales funnel. They take every opportunity to build rapport, in fact they build rapport first! This is the "A" in the "A to Z" They are committed to finding common ground with their client and developing a relationship, before considering selling. As professional sales people, we talk about building rapport incessantly. After all, as the old saying goes, people buy from people they know, like and trust. Professional engaged sales people, get engaged prior to selling.

As professional sales people we close, we ask for the business, we talk about it constantly. Engaged sales people ask for the business! This is "Z" in the "A to Z" and no matter your method, we typically ask for the business in one form or another.

But what about the "B through Y"? We build rapport well, we do the A, we ask for the business, and we come up short. Why? The B through Y. The most crucial piece of the B to Y is how we qualify! I believe, as professional hotel sales people, we have completely forgotten to qualify or we have devalued the qualification process. I mean, isn't it so much easier to go from A right to Z? We are friends, they like me, I have told them a bit about our hotel, I have a pretty good idea or understanding of how many rooms they need, what their food and beverage needs look like, we have a shuttle and I am sure they need one of those, so I told them about it. I also told the client we have an amazing complimentary hot full breakfast buffet, so I have every right to ask for the business. Wrong! Did you know their guests typically leave so early that they don't even have time to eat breakfast at the hotel and their company provides them transportation? Probably not, because we made a ton of assumptions and never got around to qualifying the business. We never truly understood the client's direct needs nor uncovered their implied needs. We were so excited this person loved us and focused on the prospect of their potential business, that we forgot to marry their specific needs to our fabulous product.

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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.