When it comes to relationship between a Sales Team in a Hotel and the General Manager/Executive Leadership team, there is and always has been a Disconnect at some level. If you think your Hotel Organization, of whatever size, does not have disconnect between these two parties, you are in denial.
What am I talking about here? In short, I am referring to the fact that the two sides are not on the same page. In fact, they are often working against each other. This is not a simple problem that can be identified and fixed quickly. Instead, it has to be a gradual discussion, admittance, and understanding by all parties in order to gain positive momentum which will lead to increased revenue’s and profit. That is the end goal right? Let’s face it; that is what we all want for each property we oversee.
Let me quickly add that I truly believe that this disconnection element I am referring to are not malicious or intentional. Instead, it is something that has just evolved over time in our industry and has probably innocently manifested itself to some level in your organization.
Back to my point about the two divisions not being on the same page: I will focus on the top 2 that I have experienced and witnessed. These just happen to be the ones that I also tried to correct or improve upon in my tenure in various roles as a hospitality professional who has worked in both Sales and Operations on a multi-unit level:
Let’s dig deeper into each one of these 2 topics.
Goals. This can be an array of items ranging from how many prospect calls or maintenance calls to make in a week, how many tentative contracts are established; the number of deals that are closed with signed contracts and so forth. Too often times, these goals are not established in the beginning and there are not clear expectations set for the Sales Manager. Other times, these goals may not be achievable. I.e. setting the bar too high on how many prospecting calls to make. The other area that becomes grey is the definition of each goal. Say for instance, what constitutes a prospect call? Is it an email, leaving a voice message for a prospect, or physically speaking to a prospect via phone or in person? If clear definitions and expectations are not set up or communicated properly, frustration on both sides builds up and sets in. The end result often leads to poor production and results. What areas of goal setting within your organization need improvement? Draw up a list and start with at least one item to discuss this week. This is a work in progress. For long term goal alignment and understanding between Sales and Operations, there must be culture of open communication.
Defining profitable Revenue. There are so many different philosophies in our industry when it comes to defining profitable revenue. The big problem is that within each hotel organization, there are also several differences of opinions when it comes to this topic. Whether we are talking about room revenue and the balance between ADR and Occupancy; revenue in the Food & Beverage Department; or meeting room rental, beliefs vary. Here again, too often there are not clear expectations set from the beginning and repeatedly I have witnessed internal philosophies that change frequently. I call it the “Flavor of the Month.” One month Executive Leadership is pushing ADR. The next month they are pushing Occupancy.
Granted, sometimes external variables such as new incoming supply will lead to redirection as to how to achieve RevPar goals. Overall, however, the playbook for defining Profitable Revenue must start at the top and trickle down to the sales team. Expectations should be in writing and clearly spelled out. They should also remain as consistent as possible and not change like the “Flavor of the Month.” This way, there is no finger pointing if and fact the revenue numbers fall short of expectations for any given time period. What is your company’s definition of profitable business? Does your sales team have a clear understanding of what he/she can book? Does your sales team have clear parameters as to what is expected of them when it comes to quoting rates/prices to a prospective client?
With just a brief article as this, I am simply touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to setting clear goals and expectations with your sales team. Keep in mind that your parameters and expectations can change with your permission, but at that time, your sales team must be updated as to your new rules. The bottom line is this: If your sales team doesn’t have clear goals, expectations and open lines of communication with upper management, they will become frustrated. This frustration leads to lower productivity or bookings and eventually turnover.
Our industry has high turnover and the Sales Department in our field is not exempt from this statistic. Your clients or prospective clients don’t like it when you turn over a sales person. Clients want consistency and like it or not, they often choose your hotel because of the trust and rapport built with your Sales Person. Simply put, clients don’t understand turnover and quite frankly, they don’t care to understand. They want service and results from your hotel and your sales team.
The old saying goes that people don’t leave a job, they leave a boss. I am going to take this a step further with my own quote: “Hotel Sales People don’t leave a career, they leave a job and they leave that job due to a boss.” Ask yourself, how many of your former sales team members went on to totally different career? I would venture to say, this is a very low percentage. They probably secured another position in the Hotel business. This tells me that Sales Professionals in our field are choosing to stay in our industry, but continually search for a workplace in which clear goals and consistent expectations are mapped out ahead of time and more importantly, communicated as things change.
I will repeat myself in that I truly believe that this “disconnect” epidemic that I refer to is not intentional or malicious. You, as a leader, must break this pattern and take a different approach to how expectations are laid out in your organization.
Albert Einstein Said it best: “The Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.”
In closing, please note that there are many other reasons why somebody leaves a job, whether that be voluntary or involuntary. I am not that naïve to believe that this widespread turnover in our field is
Strictly due to the “disconnect” theme’s mentioned in this article. My experience, however, leads me to believe that these themes are the leading causes.
A final note: If you are a Hotel Owner and you are constantly changing your expectation/message to your GM and the Sales Team, then Shame on you. Stop this practice today and see your revenue’s skyrocket! For more information on how Jay Hartz can help you improve your sales results and help you retain great sales people at your hotel, contact him at email@example.com or visit his website www.nextgenrevpar.com
Too often, your local General Manager, FOM, Guest Service Staff or Sales Manager is not paying attention to learning more about your inhouse guests.
Who are they? Why are they traveling through or to your city? What is the name of their company? What project are they working on?
And the big kahuna? Are there other folks traveling for those same reasons (who are working for that same company or participating in that same project) but maybe staying at your competition?
WOW. This seems complicated! The fact of the matter, it is one of the simplest processes to implement at your hotel: A very basic Sales Lead Program.
Let’s back up to an organization’s travel policy. Some companies book the travel for their employees, basically telling them where they will be staying. Others, give a per diem and let the employee stay at the hotel of their choice. In the later example, an employee will typically go to the hotel in which they have interest in a loyalty program.
In my sales lead program, which I developed over 10 years ago, my theme is a “Fishing One.” One concept that I drive home is that Fish tend to swim in schools, as do hotel guests. In other words, very rarely does an organization send just one employee to work in a city or on a project.
When implemented correctly, your front-line staff can be trained and incentivized to uncover these “school of fish” and turn the lead over to a management level person for follow up and conversion.
Front-line staff might be your front guest service agent, breakfast attendant, housekeeper or maintenance personnel. Anybody and everybody in your property should be trained and incentivized on how to capture a sales lead.
Your guest may be more comfortable opening up and answering questions to your front-line staff, thinking that it is simply just innocent conversation versus a sale inquiry.
Once a lead is turned over to your management team, then that is where the creativity steps in. Finding a way to get in front of the organization and or the other travelers who are on per diem and convincing them to move over to your hotel. That is a totally different topic.
Want to learn more about implementing a sales lead program? Visit my website at www.nextgenrevpar.com Until then: Happy Fishing!!!
Our fabulous Hotel Pattee is for sale and we are getting closer to securing a deal. With that said, I am excited to move onto the next chapter in my life!
Back in 2013, my wife and I reopened & rejuvenated the Historic Hotel Pattee (www.hotelpattee.com), For those of you who haven't followed our story, we basically took a closed & previously failing Historic Hotel and turned it into a thriving business.
Over the last 4 years, I have also been building the platform for my consulting and business coaching venture. It is time for me to put all of my years of experience to work for others, and I am more than excited!
I realize some of the challenges facing our industry with regards to revenue growth, however, I would love to ask you for some input. I have put together a survey of 4 basic questions.
Thank you for taking a few moments to share your thoughts.
Remember 20+ years ago, when guests could only book your hotel via phone, your brand’s 1-800 number, the brand website and your own website?
Ahhhh…The good old days when you got to keep 100% of the rate. (Except when a Travel Agent booked for the guest and then you simply had to a pay a bargain 10% commission.)
Then, the OTA’s came into the picture around 1996-97 claiming anywhere from 15-30% commissions.
Allow me to run through the brief history of how the marriage or shall I say dysfunctional marriage between hoteliers and OTA’s has transpired. At the time of this writing, I am 50 years old. I have personally observed this landscape change and continually transform.
In the beginning, I remember being a Front Office Manager and being fined by my brand franchisor for violations of lowest rate guarantee. It was a learning curve as us Hoteliers were trying to navigate around this new technology of its time.
Rate Parity Policies and its related processes have certainly become more streamlined. Online Travel Agencies have come and gone, yet most have been merged to form a few powerhouses.
There is really no need to look back on additional historic points as to how we arrived on the scene today; both OTA’s and Hotels are here to stay. The real question is how we can co-exist and how can we as hotelier’s drive more guests to book direct which is our most profitable booking channel.
The OTA’s of the world are becoming ever so much more cleaver at grabbing the attention of the guests we eventually host. OTA Loyalty programs are just one example. Another would be the Millions of Dollars spent on advertising to lure our potential guests into using their services.
One strategy that absolutely confuses consumers is Google AdWords Campaigns that populate an OTA over a Branded Website. Here is one example: A guest googles “Brand X in City Y” and a listing pulls up in the #1 spot. They proceed to call the 1-800 attached, or book direct online thinking they are working directly with the property when in fact they are booking through an OTA.
At the Hotel that I own and Manage, I see this happening several times each week. Guests will swear to me that they called my hotel direct and booked their room. Why can’t they cancel with me directly? Why did they not get the specific room type they thought they would get?
There are three specific strategies that I think us as Hoteliers should implement in order to pull our guests back offline and back to booking with us direct:
The relationship that we as Hoteliers and OTA’s have isn’t the perfect marriage made in heaven, but we can make the best of it by taking even a small percentage of our guests back Offline and back to booking with us direct. It is time that us hoteliers put more money back into our own pockets!
Jay Hartz, CHA is the Owner of the Hotel Pattee as well as the Owner of Next Generation Revenue Per Available Room, LLC which is a Training and Consulting Firm. Both are based out of Central Iowa. Jay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.nextgenrevpar.com to learn more about his Training Programs.
One of the benefits of being a franchisee is ongoing training and support. Employee development might take place at the annual conference, webinars, online training, or onsite visits from your Area Manager These touch points of guidance are often educating your team on the “Brand Initiatives,” along with brand technology, support, and using the Brand Portal. This training is vital to your success, as it helps you leverage the value of your Brand and maximize your ROI.
A New Approach to Selling
In my experience, the sales training provided by most brands, on the other hand, is often outdated and simply repetitive from year to year, or even decade to decade. There are many reasons why one should consider a new way of selling in today’s market. These reasons include:
How else can I say it? It is time for a change with the sales process in our industry. Everything else has and continues to change in our world, yet, we as operators tend to be content with our Brand’s Sales Training. You see, most Brand training doesn’t teach our sales team the most important rule of selling: Owning a Selling Model.
A Selling Model is focused not on your brand, but on your team’s ability to close more deals and increase revenues. This model provides an organized and consistetent systematic selling structure that puts your Sales Manager in control of the selling process. The end result? Consistently closing more deals and constantly improving your team’s selling skill set to ensure this happens more often!
A Major League Sales Team
Let’s take a moment to compare your sales team to that of a Major League Baseball player who is paid millions of dollars each season to play on a particular team. As a general rule, even the best and highest paid players don’t bat above 350. What does that mean? In short, he has a successful hit 35% of the time. Do you think he tries a new batting technique each time he comes up to bat or do you think he continues to fine tune his batting strategy to improve his results?
The baseball profession has batting coaches who are constantly working with each player to improve their batting average. The baseball players don’t go to a “Batting Conference” once a year and expect to make it all season long. These Major League ball players have been batting since they were toddlers, yet they still require daily coaching.
The same approach should be taken for your Professional Hotel Sales People. Attending an industry training session or annual conference is great, but who is their coach when they get back home? Are they really learning a proven model for improving their “batting average” in the hotel sales world?
Differentiate Your Team
In order to stand above in today’s overbuilt and overcrowded industry, there is a way that your sales team can differentiate themselves, your property, and increase revenues. The solution is two-fold: First is it learning and embracing a new selling approach and unlearning the selling methodologies of your past. The second step is to master your new selling model and continually work that system to ensure a long-term professional career. It is worth repeating from above: A Selling Model should be an organized and consistetent systematic selling structure.
That, my friend, is where the fork is in the road. As a 30+ year veteran in the hospitality field, too often I have seen owners/executives view training costs as an expense and not an investment. I have also observed those companies who invest in their sales team rise to the top.
My recommendation to you: Invest in your sales team with training that is conducted outside of the 4 walls of your Brand. The return on your investment will be worth it!
Jay Hartz, CHA is the Owner of Next Generation Revenue Per Available Room, LLC and can be reached at email@example.com Visit his website at www.nextgenrevpar.com too learn more about the Hartz Selling Model and to receive his Free 14 page White Paper on this subject.