HSMAI Insights – Innovation in Hotel Sales Brought About by the Pandemic – By Ed Skapinok

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HSMAI Insights – Innovation in Hotel Sales Brought About by the Pandemic

The pandemic may have brought a lot of difficulties over the past 18 months, but because of those struggles, it has also brought a lot of innovation. Recently members of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) discussed what they are doing differently and how they are staying innovative to stay at the top of their game. Here are a few key takeaways from their discussion:

SUPPORTING TALENT

SAB members agreed that, before anything else, in order to create an environment that allows innovation to flourish, talents need to be supported and given the resources that they need to do their jobs well and manage their time effectively. “At the end of the day, you have to figure out how to get your salespeople out of the weeds of doing things besides selling,” one SAB member said. “Isn’t it time to give salespeople more authority and autonomy that has been lost? With the rise of revenue management, our salespeople don’t make the same decisions that they used to make.”

Another member added, “I think our salespeople have really learned to sell harder. If nothing else, COVID has made the world realize how much is involved in doing many of the things hotels do. So, where before a hotel may have thrown something in [during negotiations], now our salespeople specifically bring those items to light upfront and charge heftily.”

SAB members also remarked that it’s important for leadership to understand the needs of salespeople, which can be difficult if leaders haven’t been in the trenches lately. “After coming back into direct sales, I was surprised at how much process our salespeople were doing,” one member said. “We realized that we need to be able to coach more and take some of the process off of them, so that we can coach them into making the right decisions on their own.”

STREAMLINING TEAMS

Several SAB members said that they have changed the structure of their sales teams, working more off-property to streamline the process. “We have one person who is off-property and takes care of all the leads,” one member said. “The leads don’t even go to the property until the lead catcher follows up and something comes to fruition; then they turn it over to the property sales manager. This is helpful to our hotels because it takes a layer off of them.”

Another SAB member said they were doing something similar and having the property level only handle local leads. “It’s far more effective to have an enterprise sales team off-property that receives leads from three to five hotels,” the member said.

One member said that their organization is currently figuring out how to streamline work by being more consistent between teams on property and above property and ensuring they are making the best use of their time. “We’ve made some moves to streamline platforms and have more consistent systems and platforms, both at property and above property,” the member said. “We’re also having a lot of discussions about contracting, which takes our salespeople both at property and above enormous amounts of time and can be quite an inefficient process. We’re struggling with making that a more seamless process and getting the best ROI on our salespeople.”

“Everything seems to have gotten very compressed,” another member said. “There isn’t anything specifically innovative we can come up with, other than just being really good at time management. You have to be dramatically better and faster than you’ve been over the past few years, because that’s one of the things that you can control.”

UTILIZING TECHNOLOGY

Technology continues to advance, not just in the field of sales but across the hospitality industry and beyond. “We’re dealing with a customer that is so much more digitally savvy than they were when we went into the pandemic,” one SAB member said. “We can’t sell with the same tools and think that we’d be effective. Make sure your teams embrace changing technology and are comfortable in that space.”

One member said that she was surprised recently when she tried to exchange physical business cards with a contact, and instead, he used an app to automatically download his information into her phone. “It’s so simple and so effective,” the member said. “It’s so much more convenient for customers, and it is very easy technology for sellers and customers to use.”

Another SAB member said that they have been utilizing video technology to send with proposals. “We’ve gotten really creative with sending those thank-you videos,” the member said. “We even recognize the creativity in our quarterly award ceremony. We’re also testing doing video site tours, which is more professional than just sending pictures or directing customers to our website.”

Other technology solutions that members said they have found helpful include Sprinkler and Sprout Social, through which agencies create social media posts, freeing up time for sales managers, and Social Tables, which allows users to create a room diagram and send it to the customer to customize. “There’s so much innovation in technology today that allows you to find the best solutions to make your teams even more efficient,” one member said. “But you’ve got to get the basics down first and understand what it is you need, so that you aren’t wasting money.”

Ed Skapinok is the Chief Marketing Officer for Makr Hospitality, and immediate past chair of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board.

About HSMAI
The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners and is the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals and their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue through programs such as the Adrian Awards, HSMAI ROC, Marketing Strategy Conference, and Sales Leader Forum. Founded in 1927, HSMAI is a membership organization comprising more than 5,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at hsmai.org, HSMAI Facebook, HSMAI Twitter, and HSMAI YouTube.