GM’s and Corporate Leaders: Let’s Keep Hotel Salespeople Focused On Selling! — Photo by Kennedy Training Network (KTN)

As I make the rounds with my contacts on the buyer’s side of the hotel sales equation, I’m once again starting to hear comments starting to surface about their biggest frustrations with hotel salespeople, especially these three:

  • Slow response times – and non-responses to RFP’s.
  • Receipt back of generic proposals that miss key details mentioned in the RFP’s.
  • Being spammed by generic prospecting messaging received from hotel salespeople from hotels that have no reason to think they would even be a prospect.

Now, on the surface, it’s so easy to blame today’s hotel salespeople for these issues. Indeed, some of them may be remiss in focusing on sales essentials that eliminate these frustrations for buyers.

Yet when I hear from the supplier side of the industry, hotel salespeople have their own frustrations, which to me seem quite valid as well. For as long as I can remember, hotel salespeople have always expressed frustrations with unnecessary distractions and disruptions to their sales time. Too many have reported issues such as these:

  • Being required to attend too many meetings, which are poorly organized and unnecessarily time-consuming.
  • Having to serve on internal committees and head up special projects that have nothing to do with generating revenue.
  • Not having support from operational colleagues so they can hand off booked business and then go back out and hunt down more sales.
  • Excessive conference calls (now Zoom meetings) with corporate leaders, plus owners and their representatives asking redundant questions.

During the height of the pandemic, it was understandable that hotel sales staff who were kept on the payroll had to help cover operations, as just about everyone who stayed on had to work out of position. And it is somewhat understandable that with hotels subsequently faced with extreme labor shortages as demand rebounded faster than expected, some hotel salespeople still had to help out here in 2021.

However, now as we turn our sites to 2022, and considering that every hotel team I’ve heard from has been tasked with meeting aggressive budget numbers for the coming year, it is time to get salespeople back to selling; back to prospecting and sales activities that will generate the revenue needed to hit those budgets.

Salespeople, if there is to be a change, it is probably going to have to start with you standing up for yourself; engaging in some courageous debates with top-level managers, owners and their representatives, about priorities.

First, chances are you are going to have to help them understand just how you spend your workday and just how much time sales tasks take. Far too many leaders are way out of touch with the time required for sales activity these days. Either they do not have hotel sales experience, or their experience came during an era when leads came in by phone and when each planner contacted only maybe 3 hotels before deciding.

Now, at the click of an icon on a screen located on a meeting planner app or website, a planner or corporate/BT buyer can initiate an RFP to literally dozens of hotels, who then have to scramble to a) respond promptly and b) respond accurately, and c) personalize the responses if they want to do it right.

In essence, there are a LOT more leads floating in every day, so therefore the closing ratios are almost certain to drop due – even for the best salespeople – due to the sheer numbers of hotels receiving the same RFPs.

On top of that, prospecting takes more time these days as well, and it’s going to take a LOT of prospecting to meet those 2022 goals!

Some old-school GM’s are simply picking a random number of prospecting activities such as “Give me 50 cold calls every week – that’s only 10 a day…” and then settling for a list of 10 random people to whom generic sales emails were lobbed or for whom generic voice messages were left. GM’s, it’s way better to have your team focus on quality, not quantity. Get them trained on how to properly prospect, starting with how to research, and how to use the latest of hotel sales tech to personalize the prospecting messaging. (Such as online scheduling tools and video email, as we have explored in other sales training columns I’ve run here in this publication.) Hey, I can recommend a great training company for you, Kennedy Training Network! (Not that I’m biased or anything!)

Hotel salespeople, since the change will have to start with you, let’s look at some ideas for “managing upward” so we can help our executive and c-suite leaders better understand what we do and how long it takes for us to do it. Here are some training tips:

  • Start keeping a schedule of how you spend your week, broken down into two-hour blocks. Total it up at the end of each week and share with your GM and leaders to show how many hours you are required to spend on activities not related to your most important “core” sales tasks. Compare with how much time you have left for responding to new leads, following up on old leads, closing sales, and prospecting.
  • Do some workflow study projects. Start by taking 10 leads, one at a time, and set a timer to see how long it takes to read, research, respond, and follow up. Then calculate an average time required per lead, based on your study. Then track how many leads you get each week and it will be easy to calculate and thus document how much time you need just for inbound leads.
  • Likewise, do a quick study on how long it takes for you to make 10 well-planned and executed prospecting reach-outs, including research time and assuming you’ll have to reach out at least 3 times to get a response.

Salespeople, once you are coming into these discussions with “numbers” in hand, you are a lot more likely to get leaders to see your perspective. But I’ll bet their memories will be short and soon they will fall back into old habits of distracting you. That is why you should continue to track your sales (and non-sales) activities as a “best habit.” Then, when someone assigns you a task or project that is a major disruptor, try a “managing your boss” technique that I learned years ago. Simply say “Okay I can definitely do that task (or take on that project or whatever…), however, I’m going to have to put off doing these other tasks this week. Which one do you suggest I push back?”