Written by Carol Verret Wednesday, 13 October 2010 14:50
Those hotels that are waiting for the recovery to make phones ring with inquiries will not be the market leaders in this economic recovery. Those that are aggressively using new processes to stimulate sales will be the winners.
Steve Rushmore, President and Founder of HVS predicts that “Revenue per available room in the United States is expected to end 2010 up 4.3%, with jumps of 7.1% and 8.1%, respectively, during 2011 and 2012, Rushmore said. These increases follow a RevPAR drop of 16.8% during 2009,” (HotelNewsNow, 9/28/10).
Best practices have changed in terms of not only hotel sales offices but sales processes in general. “The Internet has changed prospecting forever. Information is abundant and everywhere.” (Anthony Iannorino, the Sales Blog, 10/04/10). Cold calling from lists is dead, it was before the recession but here are still sales offices that make it part of their processes.
Social media was not prominently on the sales office radar pre recession but the sales department that ignores it does so at their peril. While “Customers are connecting with companies through sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn, … relatively few sales leads have been received through the sites.” (HotelMarketer.com, 9/29/10) Perhaps the expectations of using social sites were misguided.
Distribution channels have multiplied exponentially and the choice of which ones are most effective requires a measurement and referral process that was relatively simple before. Not all of the new channels are appropriate for every property – but making the decisions takes time.
What is the current client acquisition cost to the hotel? What is the contact to closing ratio? There is one lead source within the department that can lower acquisition costs and increase contact to closing rations – the sales CRM database. Many hotels use it for the traditional function of keeping traces and routine accounts of sales activity with the account but those that use it for prospecting are ahead of the curve.
The key is to integrate them into the sales office processes not simply add them on top of existing practices in these areas.
Internet Prospecting: The key here is to be very specific about the kind of prospect that is being located. Having a definite DNA of what good business prospects look like in all market sectors is imperative. The best hotel sales offices I know have someone that is dedicated to locating prospects and contacts on the internet. If each sales manager is to do it, it is important to set a time limit and goals of number of prospects per week.
Social Networks: The expectation of new prospects rushing to the hotel profile on social networks was misguided. From a sales process perspective, social networks are about qualifying new prospects and building relationships. LinkedIn is formidable tool for locating contacts and gathering information about a company and the contact. An amazing 72% of meeting planners indicated on an I-Meet webinar that social networks were important in venue selection. Pushing out Meeting Packages and Hot Dates on social networks stimulates your potential customers’ engagement – this process should be delegated to the newly created position of Social Media Manager.
Distribution Channels for Sales: These are all about being where prospects can find you when they are looking for a venue – think of these as shopping malls for potential customers. They may not generate the lead through the channel but will use it to source potential venues. The customer- in- control wants to access information prior to the buying decision – being at the top of their mind when they are ready to buy is key. There are distribution channels for every market segment. Selecting the ones appropriate for an individual hotel is about asking for case studies from the channel in question and asking other similar properties what has worked for them.
Database Prospecting: The easiest business to get is that that can be generated from existing accounts. There is more business in the database than most hotel sales offices ever access. Most accounts are not fully mapped to ensure that every prospect within an organization is identified and approached. The new database CRMs have the functionality of making the process of cross marketing between segments easier and faster. There are new ways and platforms to systematize requesting referrals such as uRefer. The mining of the database should be a part of every sales manager’s sales process. The cost of customer acquisition from the database is less than from any other source!
The processes of the sales office of 2011 and forward are not the sales office processes pre-recession.
Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry. Visit http://www.hotelsalesblog.com.