80/20 Rule Should not Apply to Training Efforts.
By Doug Kennedy
Wednesday, 15th August 2007
The truth of the old axiom of "invest 80 percent of your sales efforts in the 20 percent of the top-producing accounts" is a belief that many people in the lodging industry follow.

However, a converse version of this principle is all too often applied to the deployment of training resources within the hospitality industry.

Many organizations, be they hotels, management companies or even centralized sales/reservations call centers, spend 80 percent of their training talents and treasures on the 20 percent or so of their poorest-performing properties, departments and/or sales associates, thinking that they are capitalizing on an opportunity to have the biggest impact on profits.

Let's take the example of hotel management companies that set up centralized training sessions and/or mystery shopping assessments. Especially in this down market, people in the sales training development business reportedly are hearing operations executives say, "We want to cut the training and mystery shopping for all of our properties that are doing well, but we'll keep it in place for the underperformers in those tough markets."

The basic story is the same on property, although the conversation is more along the lines of, "Too bad with these budget cuts we can only afford to send one person to the regional sales seminar next week. I think we should send Janie, since her numbers are so low the last three months."

Or just ask the supervisory and quality-assurance staffers at your regional sales offices and reservations call centers which salespeople they spend the most time coaching and training. "Oh, we do lot's of training and coaching here," they'd likely say. "Any agent who scores below 50 percent on their shopping/monitoring program gets coached one-on-one, right after they are written-up and put on 30 days probation."

When times are tough economically, it is harder than ever to justify the less tangible investments, sometimes misreferred to as "nonessential services," such as sales training and development. So the more that sales training can produce results, the better the return on investment will be across the board (see Tough Times Are Good Times To Check ROI On Sales Training)

But even if cutting the costs of training is a harsh reality, why not spend the remaining training dollars on the "middle of the packers" or maybe even the top performers rather than investing in the bottom-feeders?

Just imagine if you were coach of a basketball team and word just came out that you would be allowed to give steroids (or some other magic pill—it's only an analogy!) to your team, but that only five players out of your 13 could take it. Would you give the pill to the reserve practice squad players at the far end of your bench? Or would you want to hand it out to your five starters you can count on to come through for you?

We all know that sales training is not a magic pill by any means, but it is indeed a value resource for securing top-line dollars in an economic market that probably is not going to grow much for most hotels out there right now. When this resource is limited, we need to give serious consideration to how it is best deployed. To use it solely as a last-ditch attempt to turn-around poor performing properties or associates is not the way to go.

If there simply isn't enough to go around for all stakeholders, doesn't it make sense to instead invest in the properties and associates who we know are going to be around to utilize it to its fullest extent? Doesn't it make sense to try to spur those "starters" on your team to reach a higher level? Isn't it possible, that with just a little extra training to motivate and direct them, that these superstar performers would excel that much more? Doesn't it seem like a bad idea to invest all of our precious training resources in properties and associates who are probably going to drag down the organization or just depart altogether?

If you really believe your training is going to have a significant impact on the productivity levels of your sales team, make you sure you distribute the resources evenly so that everyone's sales productivity is impacted in a positive way. Here are some strategies:

  • When planning training sessions, conduct a training needs assessment to determine what associates at all levels really need.
  • Utilize training sure modules are in a multilevel format, thus allowing for continuous, ongoing development.
  • Remember that sales development is like riding a bicycle. No matter how far you've traveled so far, if you ever stop pedaling, you are going to fall over on your side.
  • Keep a detailed history of participation in training activities, so that when planning the next round you can incorporate both refreshers and new advanced content.
  • Direct mystery shopping assessments and other measurement programs to all properties, departments and sales associates as possible. Avoid focusing just on the poorest performers.
  • Push your top-performers to go to an even higher level. You just might be surprised to see how far they can go given a little extra motivation and tools
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 seminars, and on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every segment of the lodging industry. Visit www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com for details or e-mail him at: doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com.
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