Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 February 2021

Hotel Sales For Today’s Remote Buyers Requires More Than “Funnels,” “Wow,” and FAB Phrases

By Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network

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Although the pace of change has accelerated during the pandemic era, the hotel sales habitat has been evolving rapidly for years. Yet when our KTN team conducts group sales shops and our sales "lead flow" audits, we find that most - but not all - hotel salespeople are stuck in the early 2010s. This is not surprising, given that too many hotel sales training programs are still focused on outdated models such as sales funnels, feature-advantage-benefit (FAB) phrases, and "wowing your prospects."

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In the pre-pandemic years, too many hotel companies put ongoing training on the back burner altogether. Those who did stay in the game kept flying their salespeople to 3-day workshops which, while fun and temporarily motivating, did little to change sales habits back in the office. Still other companies bought into the concept of self-paced, online, passive sales training,

What are the end results? Despite the historically low demand lately, we are finding that sales habits that have steadily devolved from "order-making" to "order-taking, and that too many salespeople still have a "sales fishing" mentality. They wait for their digital "bait," (the website, brand.com, or CVENT presence), to lure prospects to "bite" by sending an inbound RFP, then they respond exclusively back through the same digital channels from which the inquiry came in and:

  • Send an email or respond with an in-app message in which they recap the rates, dates, terms.
  • Attach (or upload) every single menu, even if the only meal is a group lunch.
  • Attach a floor plan for the meeting room discussed (or all of the meeting rooms.)
  • Include the price sheet for AV.
  • End with a sentence that says "If you have any additional questions or are interested in booking, please let me know. I look forward to hearing back!"

When it comes to follow-up, too many salespeople - even now - are not follow-up at all. The majority of those who do follow-up simply send another email or in-app message in CVENT or other platforms.

As I always say, "If you wanna get the same business as everyone else gets, then do the same things that everyone else does." The above "sales fishing" methods will surely win a hotel its fair share of the market, which was fine in the 10+ years of growth in demand, but right now a RevPar Index of 100 may not even pay all the bills.

Instead, hotel salespeople need to slip on their orange vests and adopt a sales hunter mentality. But this is not just a change of mindset, culture, or philosophy.

Salespeople need training on specific, tactical sales skills that focus on both "people" and "process." The word we use in our KTN hotel sales training programs is "habitudes," which addresses a change in both habits and attitudes. These new habitudes will not only help hotels generate more revenue during the remainder of this pandemic but also when demand returns. The salespeople who embrace these changes will also see their careers soar over the long run as hotel sales becomes increasingly automated.

Now, before I finish up with my usual training article format of listing training concepts and tactics, I do want to point out that in my estimation about 15% - 20% of hotel salespeople are truly embracing most of these concepts, so there are plenty of success stories within every large sales team.

Here are some topic areas from our KTN workshops, webcam training and sales coaching programs:

  • Salespeople should embrace their sales CRM to track all leads for pro-active follow-up. Manual processes such as flagging emails, entering Outlook calendar tasks, and using post-it notes on a calendar, are too time-consuming to use consistently.
  • Leaders need to train salespeople on the best habits for the "cadence" of follow-up touches.
  • Leave the next step on your to-do list. Most buyers will end a voice conversation or digital exchange with "Okay, I'm all set, thanks so much." Rather than "Okay, we hope to hear from you," always end with "Perfect. I'll reach out again soon to see what else we can do on our end to win the opportunity to host you."
  • Provide supportive training for prospecting. Too many leaders are still looking at quantity vs. quality such as "25 prospecting calls per week." The end result is that salespeople are flinging out generic emails and LinkedIn InMail to random people who are not even suspects yet alone prospects. Train them on how to use tools like Boolean searches in Google, how to drill-down to a company or association's "people" on LinkedIn, how to win over gatekeepers, how to cross-penetrate existing clients for additional referrals. Tactics again are important here, such as how to leave a succinct, enticing voicemail, because the odds of anyone picking-up a call from an unknown number is just about zero.
  • Get everyone in the habit of using online scheduling apps to facilitate having more conversations and not just digital message exchanges. We really like Calendly which offers a free basic version.
  • Train salespeople how to use online meeting platforms. When we conduct our sales coaching on this, we find that most know how to flip on a webcam, but few have mastered the finer points of this fantastic "tech for touch" tool.
  • Train people to use video email apps that allow them to record and send short, personalized video messages that put a face with a name in an email signature. Send me an email and I'll reply with a sample. [email protected]
  • Managers should periodically audit sales "follow." Meet with each sales manager, ask them to show you their record of leads that came in 14 to 21 days ago. These might be inbound email RFP's or notifications from apps such as CVENT. Then randomly pick a few leads and ask them to show you documentation of their follow-ups such as by searching their sent messages and the notes in their sales CRM or manual tracking system. Was it tenacious and timely? Personalized or generic? Similarly, audit prospecting activity.

Surely, by providing training for your sales team in the above topic areas, you will help them generate revenue that will bridge the gap over the remaining months of the pandemic. More importantly, creating the right sales habitudes now will help ensure that your hotel will exceed market share when the tidal wave of pent-up demand surges forward.

Doug Kennedy

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