Industry Update
Opinion Article19 November 2019

How to Nurture and Retain Group Sales Hunters

By Kristi White, VP, Product Management at the Knowland Group

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In a recent article "The Hunter Group Salesperson: Endangered Species or Already Extinct? " we identified three types of salespeople, the Hunter, Order-Taker and Farmer. We then took that concept a bit further to identify the DNA of the Hunter salesperson and offered ways to help you recognize the Hunter. In the final installation, we will unpack how to nurture and retain the Hunter salesperson.

Hunters are a different breed from Order-Takers. In reality, they are a different breed than most sales people. The typical things you might do to nurture other employees most likely won't work with Hunters. Good managers recognize this and learn how to nurture their Hunters differently. To do this, you need to understand the universal truths about Hunters and then manage to those truths.

Truth: Hunters are motivated.
Management Technique: The Hunter won't need to be motivated with praise. Their motivation is in the actual act of hunting and then the compensation that follows. They work hard and booking the sale is one form of accomplishment for them. The second is how they are compensated. Hotels that want to retain their Hunters should be prepared to pay their star sales people more. This might be through more aggressive bonus plans vs. higher salaries. Understanding what works for one person might not cover all of your superstars. Being open to different compensation plans for individuals will be challenging but if it keeps your top-producers happy and at your hotels, it's worth the effort.

Truth: Hunters are persistent.
Management Technique: The Hunter is skilled at finding the right person or decision-maker. They aren't afraid to knock on the same door, dial the same number, email the same address again and again and again. They are also not afraid to ask for a referral or another name to hunt. It's this consistent and systematic persistence that ultimately gets the attention of the right people and leads to their success. They will find unique ways to approach their targets, but always from a place of intelligence, using data on the planner as their guide.

Truth: Hunters need an infrastructure to support their hunting.
Management Technique: The Hunter needs support to underpin their efforts. Solid marketing efforts that create awareness for your brand will help this process. Tools to help them source new leads allow them to do what they do best: uncover new business. Traditionally this looks like pounding the phones and sending emails all day long as they build their web of information. But don't be surprised if your Hunters spend time at your front desk talking to guests, in the restaurant pouring coffee, or even in your bar chatting up guests. All of these activities are their way of hunting. They will parse through your internal and external databases looking for leads as adroitly as they strike up conversations with guests. All of it will be in pursuit of new business. Allow for both types of prospecting and they will reward you with business you never knew existed.

Truth: Hunters love competition.
Management Technique: The Hunter wants to know they are the best. Not only at your hotel but in your hotel. You need to have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure sales performance. And, you need to think beyond just room nights, ADR, and revenue. Look at close ratio, pipeline value, new business won relative to repeat business, as a few examples.

All of these should be measured internally but if you are part of a larger organization, against the whole as well. Acknowledging, ranking, and rewarding their success will drive them to do more and more. Now that you understand the key truths of Hunters and how you can manage those, what do you do next? It's time to look at your internal structures and understand if you have a process in place to retain Hunters.

  1. Compensation - Do you have a compensation package designed to support your best salespeople? Over the years, most hotels have taken a more homogenous approach to sales compensation. Perhaps it is time to look at this again and shake it up. A couple of things to consider:
    • Higher bonuses on new business – This will need to be tightly managed to make sure it's truly new and not just tracked that way.
    • Kicker bonuses for achieving higher close rates – Again, this will need to be managed to ensure accurate reporting.
    • Incentives for achieving higher revenue goals - Hunters must be encouraged to sell value vs. price.
    • Higher bonuses on business during need periods – Anyone can close deals during peak demand periods. Being able to shift business to need periods takes a gifted salesperson.
  2. Process - Have you instituted an inflexible process just for conformity? Templates for proposals, RFPs, etc. save time and and maintain brand integrity. However, they can also stifle creativity. Giving your team the permission to creatively solve the planners problems in their proposals can lead to higher rewards. This same strategy applies in your third-party leads. Having a strict adherence to replying to ALL leads in a fairly short period of time does a great disservice to your sales team. Analyze all of your processes and gain a clear understanding if they are doing good or creating a tyranny of mediocrity within your organization.
  3. Tools - Do you have a tight process on how you manage the integrity of what goes into your Sales & Catering system? It is one of your best tools, however, it's a circular tool and is only as good as what's put into it. Additionally, do you have outside tools to help augment your internal systems? A good tool, used wisely, will enrich your internal systems and ensure your team always has a fresh source of leads to prospect. Keep in mind, RFPs dropped into your lap are not true "leads." You need to have more than the magical inbox as part of your arsenal.
  4. Competition - Are you fostering a competitive environment? Competition is not a bad word. You need to have real KPIs to measure your team. These need to go beyond the standard trope of room nights, rate, and revenue. Once they are in place, everyone needs to have a goal (and yes, those goals might be different by person). Then they need to tracked, reported, and celebrated.

It's a new world we are entering as a decade of positive growth has created an environment where we've, perhaps, forgotten how to sell. As we look into the future and try to understand what happens next, we also need to prepare ourselves for what will come.

Having a couple of Hunters on your team will serve you well no matter what comes next. During boon times, they will find you better business and as they inherently sell on value, they will drive rates higher than you anticipate. During lean times, they will be better equipped to find business and make sure they get the most they can in revenue. However, if you don't have the proper structure in place to nurture your Hunters, you won't retain them. There's no day like today to make the changes in your organization necessary to recognize, nurture, and retain your Hunters. If you don't, someone else will poach them.

To learn more on this topic, download our on-demand Webcast, "How to Create a Hunter Sales Team and Hit Your 2020 Group Targets.


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Kristi White

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    About Knowland

    Knowland is the leader in AI-powered group business data for hotels, convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs), conference centers and other meeting venues. With the industry's largest historical database of actualized events, thousands of customers trust Knowland to sell group smarter and maximize their revenue. Visit or call 202-312-5880.

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