The New Role of Today's Hotel Salesperson

By Holly Zoba Senior VP of Sales - Hospitality, Signature Worldwide | February 18, 2018

We know the phones seem to ring less and we seem to get more RFP requests, that it's a little harder to get a response from cold calls and some people seem to spend a lot more time on LinkedIn, but fundamentally, what has changed and should it really matter to hotel salespeople?

Sometime in the 90's, if you were working in the DC hotel market, you knew that one person controlled about 30,000 room nights for the World Bank and one other person controlled about 20,000 room nights coming into the same market for Boeing. If you got to know those two individuals, meeting your sales quotas would get a lot easier. The key back then was to somehow develop a great relationship with the key decision makers and the room nights would follow.

Today, not so much. In fact, for a typical corporate purchase, there are now on average 6.8 people involved with the purchasing decision. Often the purchase may be as small as $25,000, and there are still almost seven people with some say in the matter. That's a big change.

Even in the early 2000's, when someone was charged with planning a meeting their first response was to pick up a phone and call a hotel salesperson. They had no choice, where else could they find out information?

Today, again, not so much. Now buyers do not involve salespeople until between 65-80% of the decision-making process is complete. They are doing their research without us! They can collect information, and plenty of it, without a single bit of advice from a salesperson.

It seems obvious that we need to figure out a way to insert ourselves into the process earlier – because if we don't, chances are good they may never invite us in. They may be bringing in your competitor for that last stretch.

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.