Message to GM's on Creating Succesful Sales Management for 2010
By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
Thursday, 24th September 2009
In the past six weeks, we have heard government reports of economic optimism and we all hope we have hit the bottom; headlines from The Business Insider on September 18, 2009, reported a concern that  'despite a few green shoots in the economy and a rocketing stock market, many large companies are still  struggling to avoid bankruptcy.' 'And a new report by Audit Integrity identifies some high-profile names that have the highest probability of declaring bankruptcy among publicly traded firms.'

These 10 major international companies include a wide range of businesses, including technology, auto rental, jet engines, communication, marketing, retailing, broadcasting and a major Nevada casino.  

We have learned from the US auto and other business examples that a company can successfully reorganize using the bankruptcy laws, but there are consequences and challenges with that approach.

This is not a pessimistic column implying negative sentiments – it is actually just the opposite!

Most hoteliers are likely finalizing their marketing plans and budgets for 2010 this month for ownership and/or Management Company review and approvals.   In my career, I recall this exercise provided a sense of accomplishment with the annual planning and realistically assessed our goals and potential. This autumn timing was I chose mid- September to facilitate a 90-minute teleconference/webinar on Effective Sales Management for Lorman Education Services

The full title of the program was a bit longer, as it addressed short and long-term planning, forecasting, and budgeting.    In my last column, I covered most of the questions that were reviewed at the end of the session, but there was one key question I deferred to this column because it so essential to ongoing success.

The question is:
Should people in sales ask for assistance from management, or is that considered a weakness?

I find this question is really at the heart of every hotel, be it a bed & breakfast or a major convention facility.

I frequently use quotes in my writings to support my positions and I located an exceptional one this question from Bob Durbin, former Executive Vice President for Sheraton Hotels.

"The General Manager is the #1 salesperson.

S/he must take part in:

  • guidance and direction of the staff
  • personal involvement with guests and personnel
  • meeting clients in the hotel
  • calling on at least one potential client daily" 
Durbin's point is that the General Manager as the hotel CEO should be the "cheerleader" and the most effective point of impressing a client.

In my career, I have been affiliated in various ways with a wide range of hotel types, brands and sizes.  I have seen some general managers who have chosen to work the front desk many days each week to save payroll and then wondered why their sales declined. I recall many owners of smaller properties (with or without a full time sales staff) effectively splitting their time between operations and sales.

In larger hotels, I have seen general managers pouring coffee in banquets and greeting people in the lobby at evening receptions or breakfast.  I have seen general managers participating in early morning DAILY sales team meetings to show support in challenging economies.

Finally, I would like to share something I observed a number of years ago at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Opryland had to earn its reputation as a premier major convention hotel and Jack Vaughn was the opening general manager and remained in that position for more than 20 years by his choice.  He earned the reputation as an industry icon in many ways, but the one I will share is about his perspective as the GM as sales asset.

Jack would accompany association executives and the hotel sales manager on property tours, chatting with them about a range of topics.  What impressed me incredibly a time I observed was when he introduced a housekeeping associate who was cleaning plants in one of the lobbies.  He used both the association executive's and the housekeeper's names, as he advised the executive that this associate was one of the hundreds of people who would be taking excellent care of their annual meeting in two years.   Jack may or may not have known the associate's name without looking at the name-tag, (they had more 1,000 staff at the time) but he made a clear and positive impression on both of those people.

Sales includes a number of steps:

  • Finding clients – this can be from a cold call, a phone inquiry, a walk in, a repeat client, a referral, an online response and more
  • Qualifying the prospect or potential sale – asking questions to see how and if your hotel's service and product is a fit with the client's needs and preferences.
  • Creating a sales plan – this includes the "how, what, when, why, where, how much"
  • Executing the sales plan – timing varies with the clients' needs; a major convention with name entertainment, extensive food and beverage and an offsite event are involved projects that require coordination and time while  renting a meeting room or arranging a block of ten rooms for an overnight is very basic
  • Handling potential objections from the prospect/client – this involves time and knowledge of what your facility is capable of providing and at what price and terms
  • Closing  the "deal", which means active listening, responding to final questions and then asking for the sale
The most important "step" in successful sales is managing the customer relationship to build long term, repeat customers. This is a critical task for everyone in sales– for repeat business or referrals to others.

Neither Bob Durbin or Jack Vaughn meant that general managers should do the work of the sales team, but they understood the value of the input and occasional presence of the senior executive in sales.
What are you doing at your hotel ?

Please contact me if I can be of service, feel free to share an idea at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from www.smartbizzonline.com, THE ROOMS CHRONICLE  www.roomschronicle.com , and other industry sources.

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

John Hogan, a career hotelier and educator, is frequently invited to participate at franchise meetings, management company and hospitality association events.  He is a successful senior executive with a record of accomplishment in leading hospitality industry organizations at multiple levels, with demonstrated competencies as a strong leader, relationship builder, problem solver and mentor.

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