ITB 2023 Special Reporting
Effective Down-Selling Maximizes During Peak Demand.
By Doug Kennedy
Friday, 2nd June 2006
Many of today's best-run lodging facilities have invested heavily in helping their reservations and sales agents improve their skills at "upselling" to higher-rated accommodations, which has no-doubt had a positive financial impact.  Yet the reality for many lodging accommodations is that higher-rated rooms and/or suites often are the most popular, especially during periods of peak demand.

For full-service hotels, it might be that suites sell-out first during conferences, or for luxury hotels, that concierge floor accommodations are the first to go.  At resorts, it is often the case that rooms offering balconies or views basically sell themselves, while the "island" view options are a bit tougher to sell.  Even mid-scale and limited services experience this phenomenon.  For example, popular brands like Courtyard, Hampton Inn, and Comfort Inn frequently have both Whirlpool Suites and Executive Suites featuring a small meeting area, features which sell themselves during certain days/dates. 

So if you want to take your sales training to the next level, then maybe it's time to add the subject of Down-selling to the agenda for your next sales meeting.  Depending on your actual market segment, some or all of the following strategies and tactics for Down-selling will give your sales agents the tools they really need to be successful when call volume peaks:
Offer Alternative Dates:  When callers specifically request higher-rated accommodations for dates which are not available, the first step is to inquire whether their dates might be flexible or simply ask them if they'd like you to look at alternative dates.  This shows the caller that we are first and foremost looking to fulfill their first choice. 

    • "Unfortunately the executive suite is not available for that date sir, may I check alternative dates if your plans are flexible at all?
Position Remaining Inventory As Still Being Desirable:  When callers respond that their dates are not flexible, the next step is to make the accommodations that are still available sound desirable.  Unfortunately many sales people inadvertently position remaining rooms as "leftovers" with statements like:  "Unfortunately my suites are all gone. All I have left are deluxe rooms."  Instead, focus on the positives and create a sense of urgency:
    • "Oh good, I still have a couple of options for you on those dates.  We still have our superior rooms available, and also our suites…."
Reiterate Benefits Of Remaining Accommodations:  Rather than talking about what the lower-tiered rooms don't have in relation to the accommodation originally requested, instead focus on the positive aspects of each option. 
    • "These rooms still feature all of the same amenities and services, and of course you'll still be able to enjoy our (property features).
    • "The good thing about our Island View rooms is that at night you can look out your window and see the lights of…." 
Point-out Any Major Inconveniences Or Deficiencies:  After reiterating benefits as indicated above, it is sometimes necessary to point-out any significant shortcomings of the remaining accommodations to help manage the guest's expectations upon arrival.  After first pointing-out deficiencies in a succinct and honest tone, bring the focus back to the positives.

    • "Just to let you know, the traditional rooms are located a little further away from the meeting area, but because of that they are actually quieter and more private."
    • "Since you'd be getting the two connecting rooms instead of a suite with the sofa-bed, the good thing is that would entitle you to an extra complimentary parking pass for the other couple's car." 
Establish Good Price/Value Relationship Of Options Still Available;  Agents should use the one advantage that Down-selling can provide in this era where callers are more value-conscious than ever before, which is that remaining accommodations will cost less than expected.  While it might seem like it should be obvious to them, today's multi-tasking callers could use a firm reminder that they are saving cold hard cash without having to compromise on quality. 

    • "And of course it goes without saying Mrs. Cook that these rooms do save you about $42 per night, especially when you factor-in the 11.5% state/local taxes on top of that."
Finally, when updating your hotel's standards and training to address "Downselling" when availability requires it, be sure to review your sales incentive program(s).  Make sure incentives are not limited to transaction-based "commissions," such as giving $5 for every suite sold etc… so that you are not "dis-incentivizing" your agents from trying to sell-out your last inventory while fielding calls for near sell-out dates.  

Instead, factor-in other metrics (as appropriate for your property or call center reservations operations) such as "Total Revenue Sold vs. Goal," "Average Revenue Per Booking," and raw "call conversion ratio" if you are able to accurately measure it.  A multi-layered incentive which will ensure your agents do their best to maximize revenue opportunities during each and every call, whether they are attempting to Up-sell during low-to-moderate demand, or down-sell during peak periods.   

Originally published at hotelmotel.com

Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000 conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized, on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every segment of the lodging industry.  

His articles have also appeared worldwide in more than 17 prominent international publications including the HSMAI Marketing Review, ehotelier, 4Hoteliers, Hotel News Resource, Hotel Online, Human Assets - Dubai and Hong Kong, Hsyndicate worldwide, BAHA Times – U.K., Hospitality – Maldives, and the Hotel Expert Magazine Hong Kong. Since 1996 Doug has been a regular contributor to the lodging industry's number one rated publication, hotelmotel.com, where he has been a regular monthly columnist since 2001.  Visit www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com for details or e-mail him at:
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