Industry Update
Opinion Article23 July 2019

Group Sales Mystery Shopping No Longer Best Way To Measure Sales Effectiveness

For decades, hotel management companies and brands have relied on telephone mystery shopping as a primary tool to measure the sales effectiveness of sales and catering sales colleagues. Here’s what to do instead.

By Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network

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For decades, hotel management companies have contracted with outside mystery shopping firms to place telephone inquiry calls posing as prospects for groups, events, and corporate accounts, then report back the results. This is typically done once per quarter, and the results are then used as one of the primary benchmark "KPI's" to evaluate sales colleagues. Many companies even factor performance on mystery shopping into sales incentives and bonuses.

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In the spirit of full disclosure, my own company (Kennedy Training Network, Inc.) provides this service, as do many other fine suppliers. We all do our best to avoid detection, and I'm pretty confident KTN does as good a job at anyone by rotating caller "voices" and group, company and/or function names.

Yet as hard as vendors like us try, the underlying challenge with traditional hotel telephone sales mystery shopping cannot be overcome. The fact for most hotels, the vast majority of leads are now coming in via electronic channels, not phone calls. Rather than calling, real-world planners are using tools such as CVENT, or similar electronic RFP platforms provided by CVBs and visitors bureaus. When leads do arrive directly to the hotel, they most often come in through website RFP's routed by MeetingsBroker or other systems.

To mirror the real-world, companies such as us at KTN have moved to providing group / event mystery shopping that starts with such electronic inquires. Yet from what I'm hearing, most hotel sales staff are still measured by a once-per-quarter "voice" sales shop.

There is a better way and it is very simple to implement. This idea originated from our KTN on-site "Sales Process Assessments," during which I look at the flow of a lead from origin to final decision, but this can be done in-house anyone such as a Hotel GM, Director of Sales, or even a Regional Director.

First, identify the method that the hotel sales team is using to receive leads and where those leads are stored. For larger teams, leads might flow into a centralized point, such as to a sales administrator who logs each lead and then pushes them out to the appropriate salesperson covering that market segment or territory. In other sales offices, a Director of Sales might receive and route all leads personally.

For hotels with fewer sales staff, leads might be routed directly to the salesperson covering that segment. These are not typically logged, although they should be. However, a "log" of sorts is created because salespeople receive email notifications. For example, app notifications are sent via email directly from systems like CVENT, MeetingsBroker, etc... Most salespeople store these email notifications in email folders.

Once you know how leads are received, set an appointment with each salesperson, ideally for an in-person meeting, but this can also be done remotely by using any screen sharing app.

Start the meeting by reviewing the list of leads that came in anywhere from 60 to 90 days back. If incoming leads are routinely logged by a sales admin or DOS, simply present the list and then randomly point to leads one at a time from the targeted date range. Alternatively, if leads go straight to the salesperson, ask them to display the notifications stored in their "email lead folders," and again just randomly point to leads one at a time.

Then ask the salesperson to show you documentation of each "touch point" which they initiated in response to that lead.

  • Did they send follow-up emails? Have them search their sent messages for the email address or company name indicated in the original lead and show you documentation.
  • Did they make phone calls? If so ask them to show you documentation of the dates / times of those conversations and any notes they have on what was discussed. Salespeople should be documenting the notes from calls in their sales CRM, but many still scribble notes on hard copies of the leads.
  • Even if they have no notes, they should at least have sent emails that can serve as evidence the call was made.

As you meet with each salesperson, review their documentation, get the hard-copy or PDF copies, and take notes on their "touch points." Then afterwards it is easy to write up a sales assessment that indicates:

  • Did the salesperson respond promptly? Ideally, by sending the requested proposal right away, but if more time was needed, to at least provide an initial response.
  • Was the correspondence personalized? Did they paraphrase and restate key details from the conversation or original inquiry?
  • Was the proposal collateral customized? Typically, salespeople are sending proposals in PDF format or using online tools such as eProposal. If so, did they use a standard template "as is," or did they delete irrelevant text and images?
  • Did they insert the client's logo?

Did they follow-up tenaciously? Look at the dates and methods of follow-ups. Typically, they should:

  • Verify receipt of the proposal or contract within 1 business day.
  • Check back with the client in approximately 3 business days.
  • Follow-up again at an appropriate time, as indicated by the client's timeline for making a decision.
  • If the lead was lost, did they trace it in their sales CRM to try to win it next time? (Assuming it was an annual or regularly held meeting or event.)

Surely the above assessment will take much more time than looking at the score of a single quarterly telephone mystery shopping report. Yet the above evaluation can be done in a meeting of about 30-45 minutes, plus about 15 more minutes to put on a scorecard and add commentary, so about one hour per salesperson per quarter. This is very doable for most sales leaders or if your company is big enough you can train an administrative person to do this regularly.

In the end, this type of assessment provides a much closer look at sales tenacity and personalization than does a 10 page narrative report on a phone conversation between a shopper and a salesperson who probably had a pretty good idea they were being mystery shopped.

Doug Kennedy

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades.

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