In a Recession Hotel Sales Basics Still Works.
By Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach
Tuesday, 3rd February 2009
We live in a highly technical world; the Internet, blogs, webinars, PDA's ,and email; holy smokes, we sure are getting sophisticated.

But, in the process, are we leaving the tried and true sales basics farther and further behind us? In a recession, we don't need to re-direct our sales and marketing efforts; we need to get back to the basics that have worked and succeeded for many years.

Big news flash; the basics still work. For those of you who feel that you are way beyond using the basics, I'm sorry if this all seems too elemental for you. It's just that there are certain fundamentals which work for everyone.

One of the most basic, of all basics, is that "you gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince". For years, hoteliers have debated whether quality or quantity sales contacts are most beneficial. For my money, it's quantity that counts. It's simple, the more people you talk to, the more business you will book. Now, I am not an advocate for the old-fashioned cold sales call, but it's time to get back to get into the field and "press some flesh" (shake hands) with more prospective clients.

The Internet certainly exposes your hotel to millions of prospective guests. It's, no doubt, the best marketing tool ever devised by mankind, but be careful not to make it your only marketing tool. Nothing closes sales better than the two ears and mouth of a hard-working sales person. It's time to step up that sales activity. In a recession, all hotels are on a more level playing field; the lines between upper-scale and lower-scale properties begin to blend together. But, remember, people enjoy doing business with people they know and trust.

We're in a deep recession, but that is no excuse for not doubling or tripling efforts to drive sales. You don't need to spend more money; just spend it wisely. I personally dislike the expression "you have to spend money to make money" because it is so often misunderstood. If you want to get ahead of the curve, re-evaluate all your marketing expenses. You might find that putting your marketing expenditures in priority-order could increase your sales effectiveness without spending more money.

Sales Training Produces Results

During a recession, sales training for your general manager, yes, I said general manager, and sales people can be a good investment with a potentially quick payback. But, a few cautions here; find a trainer who has a good grasp of hotel sales basics; a trainer with a program which allows the trainer to "own" the results by measuring success in terms of incremental sales after training; a trainer who uses a follow-up program, after training, to be sure the new techniques are properly learned and applied.

Be sure that follow-up habits are formed; follow-up is the key to successful sales programs. Follow-up closes sales.

Revenue Management Works in Many Ways

If you haven't already done so, commit your hotel operation to using revenue management to stimulate RevPar growth. Yes, even in a poor economy, a good revenue management program will uncover opportunities to boost occupancy and rates. Committing to revenue management produces a stronger awareness of your hotel's marketplace and stimulates management creativity.

Don't even think about just reducing rates; that has never stimulated sales demand. Reducing rates only devalues your product and services. Creating more value-added programs is the way to go. Spending, especially during a recession, is focused on getting the best deal for dollars spent. As always happens, there will be demand opportunities to capture. A good revenue management program will help you find those opportunities.

Some Really Simple Basics

Sometimes, some of the most obvious, most simple, tactics can have a strong impact on sales.

1. How fast are your sales people or general manager running out of business cards? The faster, the better. Business cards are still a great sales tool.
2. Do all your people have an email signature? After all it is an electronic business card.
3. Are all your front desk people skilled at selling upgrades at check-in?
4. Are you publishing guest comments on your hotel website?
5. Do you have at least two packages for hotel stays? Are you promoting them on your website?
6. If your site is more than six months old, have you had a professional analyze your site to improve its effectiveness?
7. Have you recognized that every hotel associate is a sales person?

Most important, don't buy the excuse that sales will be down because we are in a recession. You'll just have to work harder in '09.
Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach


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