The Best Hotel Sales Director I Ever Met
By Neil Salerno ~ the Hotel Marketing Coach
Monday, 14th November 2005
What do the good ones have in common? I was overwhelmed by the many emails I received from my article describing "The Best General Manager I Ever Met". Thank you all; it appears that many people recognized the same traits. It seems natural to follow-up with the supremely important position of sales director. Everything begins with a sale, as they say; what can be more important than that?

Hotels delegate a wide variety of duties and responsibilities to the position of sales director. Most hotels include catering, if they offer it; some include marketing responsibilities such as advertising and public relations; many include revenue management, and still others include reservations, etc. The basic talent and experience of the sales director generally determines the scope of responsibilities, which are entrusted to them. For purposes of this article, we will address sales responsibilities; most important and common to all.

For those smaller hotels, without a budget for a sales person, the general manager assumes the sales responsibility. No matter who is wearing the sales hat, the goal is the same; drive new business.

The Best Sales Director I ever met, first and foremost, has an insatiable curiosity.

At first blush, this may seem like a rather insignificant trait; but people, blessed with curiosity, will excel in their job through the process of satisfying their need to learn. Curious people crave new information; consistently seeking answers to solve sales challenges.

In recent years sales challenges have taken many twists and turns; without an innate curiosity for this business, one can quickly become obsolete in techniques and efficiency.  

Curious people go through life and their careers seeking new techniques, refining those techniques, to solve the constant challenges of their job. Others plateau too early; doing just enough to get through their daily tasks with ever diminishing success.

The best sales director I ever met is constantly evolving, learning, and improving.

The Best Sales Director I ever met stays current with new technology.

The best sales director has already discovered the many ways the Internet can benefit the sales effort. From researching the competition's rates and sales data to finding new prospects, the Internet has changed the way we sell hotel rooms.

The best sales director knows that no hotel operates in a vacuum and that we can learn to dominate our competition by collecting data and acting upon it.

The best sales director I've ever met uses third-party web sites to promote the hotel, knowing that these partner tools are a short-cut to producing needed room business. The best sales director has learned to expand the hotel's sales reach by creating a good link strategy on the hotel's web site and consistently checks its effectiveness.

The Best Sales Director I ever met seeks to involve the general manager and others in the sales process.

The process of selling is definitely not a one person show. Recently, while talking to a client, he revealed to me that he is an engineer by education and training. For many years, he provided technical support to his company's sales division. It wasn't long before I realized how great his company's sales director must have been.

The pride he expressed in the sales successes of the company demonstrated that he and his department were personally involved in the sales process. We talked about how his engineering division interacted with sales to produce the best marketable products. This kind of teamwork only comes from invitation and cooperation.

It amazes me how many hotel companies actually promote a separation of operations and sales. It usually happens in subtle ways; meetings with the sales team, excluding the general manager; the common references to sales without any mention of the fact that sales is everyone's job.

The best sales director invites involvement in the sales process. How often have we all heard general managers and others pleaded that they could have made more profit if only the sales people could produce more sales; a distinct separation of responsibilities.

The front desk can be the sales director's best sales team or its worse detractor. The best sales director cultivates a positive relationship with all hotel departments.

The best sales director I ever met shares sales successes with the entire hotel team and understand that they need everyone to contribute to the sales process.

The Best Sales Director I ever met knows that hotel sales is a numbers game.

Making contact with as many people as possible is an important part of being successful in hotel sales. I have heard so much rubbish about "quality versus quantity" in sales contacts; it's difficult not to explode when I hear arguments from "quality" proponents.

When it comes to contacts, anyone can become a quality prospect, but that takes probing. As the old saying goes, ‘you got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince". People who short-cut the process by only seeking a prince who looks and acts like a prince, are going to waste a lot of potential selling time.

Quality selling techniques enter the picture only after a potential client is identified; until then the best sales director I ever met talks to and probe everyone possible. This sales director gets a lot of phone calls and emails; it takes activity to produce activity.

I enjoy taking a seat in the sales office to see how often the telephone rings. When the phone rings off the hook, it's usually a result of having made aggressive sales contacts.

The Best Sales Director I ever met knows that clients, not policy, determine our services.

I don't know how many times I've heard sales people say "we can't do that" or worse, "our policy is" because they don't want to take the time to find a way to fulfill a client's request. As long as one can make the task profitable for the hotel, anything can be done.

Careful probing, planning, and execution could make almost any request beneficial to the hotel. Clients don't care about our "policies" and procedures; they want answers. If a sales director has involved the hotel team in the sales process, it's amazing what can be accomplished.

It may be a radical example, but years ago a client asked to have a beach party in our lounge. Close the bar for a private beach party? The client was informed about the major additional cost involved. The general manager offered that the company was planning to renovate the lounge. After everyone's agreement, we actually filled the lounge with two tons of sand to enhance the party. In addition to paying all the costs involved, we also benefited from over 1200 room nights from the group, at a time we needed it most.

The Best Sales Director I ever met cares.

We all enjoy success; meeting or surpassing budgeted sales is what we are paid to do, but everyone experiences set-backs. The best sales director I ever met cares enough to learn from set-backs and develops tactics and strategies to offset them.

The best sales director feels the pain of minor failures but doesn't cave-in nor ignore them. Some people measure effectiveness from activity, but the best measure effectiveness comes from accomplishments. This takes caring and pride.

The best sales director channels the pain of failure into positive action and great successes into examples for the future. Caring is sometimes an elusive trait; it can't be learned. If someone on your team has it, you are fortunate indeed.

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach


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