Cold calls, for better or worse, are an important part of the sales process for almost all hotel sales teams. There are many articles and experts claiming that cold calls are dead, but the data says otherwise.
So why are experts announcing the death of the cold call? It’s because the vast majority of sales teams are using ineffective or outdated techniques, and not getting the results they seek. The answer isn’t fewer calls, but more effective strategies.
Today, we’re going to give you all the tools you need to unlock the potential of your sales team and start making cold calls work for you, with these actionable cold-calling tips for hotels.
Discover 12 must-know cold-calling tips for hotels:
1. Pre-qualify your planner leads before you call.
If you’re calling everyone on your prospecting list, you’re doing it wrong. Part of your prospecting strategy should include pre-qualifying your leads and determining which ones are the highest potential. For group sales, this will include factors such as the event planner’s company size, industry they plan for, event type, audience segment, behaviors on your website, past relationship, and more.
With the right prospecting and lead generation techniques, you should end up with a strong list of prospects to reach out to directly. Cutting the list from the beginning saves time for both you and prospects, and will cut down dramatically on the amount of times you're rejected at the beginning of a call.
2. Go beyond basic prospect research.
You should have some understanding of your prospect’s role, the type of events they plan, recent events they’ve held, and strategic initiatives they’ve identified. But you should also be diving in to learn more about your planners as individuals. Are they new to their role? Have they switched from a competitor company? Have they said anything online about their priorities for the year or what they look for in a hotel venue? All of this information will help you to better tailor your conversation to the prospect’s needs.
Your CRM can also give you a wealth of information about past interactions with the planning company and prospect. Make sure to look for the prospect by name as well as looking at the company’s entry, in case the prospect had interactions with your property in a prior role. Also note any strategic initiatives, challenges, or objections that planners and group organizers from the company have brought up in the past.
LinkedIn can give you foundational information about your prospect’s team including how many people are on it, which companies they're similar to, and whether they're planning internal or outsourced events. But LinkedIn’s biggest advantage for cold calls is actually in your prospect’s profile page.
By reading the planner’s description on LinkedIn, you can learn firsthand about the prospect’s role, past events, and what they care about in their own words. For instance, if you’re reaching out to an event planner who describes herself as, “a creative and passionate planner designing sustainable events” you can highlight unconventional uses of your event space, creative decor trends, or your brand’s sustainability efforts.
3. Know the best time to reach your audience.
When should you call your prospects? Although there are some best practices, the true answer is you should call when you think they’ll pick up. Start by trying on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon and see how you do. If you don’t seem to be getting answers, try first thing in the morning before things have gotten busy. If your prospects always seem to be in meetings, try the few minutes before and after each hour when they’re likely to be switching between meetings.
Event planners are constantly on the go, and rarely sitting down in an office, so you may have to try a few different time slots before you reach them. Make note of your call times in your CRM to see if there are any trends for the different customer segments you're calling, and keep at it until you get them on the phone!
4. Start by building rapport.
Your conversation should start strong, but don’t launch into your questions or value proposition right away. Start by asking how the prospect is, stating your full name and company clearly, and making a bit of small talk. Sales reps often overthink this part of the conversation, but most prospects won’t notice a “good” or “bad” opening that much. Just start off with a bit of conversation with your fellow human, keep things positive, and move on to some open-ended questions or value-added information when it feels right.
5. Plan your questions in advance.
Experts disagree on whether you should have a sales script, mainly because reps reading scripts often sound like robots. So instead of a script, prepare for your calls with an outline and a few phrases or facts you would like to include. Make notes about events you’ve held or groups you’ve hosted that may be similar to what this planner is organizing. Use this outline as a guide and a reminder, not a script to read out. Think of your outline like a cheat sheet, and look at it only to remind yourself of “milestones” in the conversation as you go.
One part of your outline that you will want to plan out in detail for each prospect is your question list. Using the information you’ve learned up to this point, craft compelling questions about the prospect’s pain points, priorities, and what they’re looking for when booking a hotel. Make sure the questions are open-ended, but don’t try to get too much into discovery on your first call. Instead, use this first conversation as an opening statement on the value you can provide. Show that you’re thinking about the prospect’s challenges and want to help. Once you’ve shown you can be helpful, switch to convincing the prospect that another meeting is worth their time.
6. Establish credibility with data and social proof.
Since the person you’re speaking with doesn’t yet know much about you, you need to take a bit of time to establish yourself as a trustworthy, informed, helpful representative of your company. Some prospects will appreciate references to past clients in a similar industry or who have planned similar events, especially if you can talk about the positive outcomes that working with you brought to their businesses. Others will want statistics and data related to ROI, larger industry trends, or attendance at events. If you’ve used emerging technology or a new trend to create an impressive group experience or event, this can also be used for social proof.
Look to your prospect research from your CRM, LinkedIn, and social media to see if there are clues about what types of testimony or proof will be most helpful for the event planner or group organizer you’re speaking with. They may leave hints in the articles they share, the things they speak about, pictures of past events, or even their educational background.
7. Master a positive and confident tone.
Beginning sales reps often believe they need to mirror the tone, speed, and phrasing of their prospects in order to build rapport. But increasingly, the data shows that the opposite is true. Sales reps who become leaders on the call, speaking confidently and positively despite the prospect’s mood, actually bring the prospect’s tone closer to theirs through the length of the call. So a prospect who starts out hurried, negative, or dismissive becomes more open and positive with your help. The key is to keep your tone confident and friendly, without being pushy or aggressive. Even if things don’t seem to be going your way, keep emphasizing the positive and leading the conversation, and prospects will change their tone to meet you in the middle.
8. Provide immediate value.
Even if your prospect doesn’t buy from you, they should value their relationship with you and think of you as a trusted resource. So try to provide an immediate benefit in the form of helpful information. Your prospect may be an expert in their industry, or in planning events and organizing group travel, but it doesn’t mean they are an expert in hospitality and hotels.
You can provide valuable help in identifying venue trends, navigating hotel operations, thinking through event logistics, and using meeting spaces in creative ways. You could even provide a checklist for planning an event at your venue, or a video highlighting some of your most impressive events to give them inspiration. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and consider what questions they may have that you can answer. If you can provide this information early on in the call, you’ll prove that the conversation is worth their time and that they may learn something useful.
9. Don’t fight objections. Understand them.
Too many sales reps panic when a prospect raises an objection, increasing their talking speed and launching into a monologue that they have pre-prepared for that specific scenario. Instead of treating your prospects like inputs to a flow chart, slow down and remember that this is a two-way conversation. If you were speaking to a friend and they said they didn’t want to go out for coffee with you, you wouldn’t jump down their throat with 10 reasons why they should go. You would probably say something like, “Sure, no problem. May I ask why?”. And only then would you find out that your friend has given up caffeine for a month.
Similarly, if you treat your prospects like the real people they are, you're far more likely to understand them and find out the information that you need to move forward. For instance, if they say there’s no budget, you need to know if that means there’s no budget right now, no budget for this year, it’s not a big enough priority for the budget, or they aren’t the decision-maker who can commit that amount of budget. Only by asking the right questions will you find out this level of detail. So instead of “objection-handling” take a moment to pause, and then ask probing questions to get to the bottom of the objection.
10. Don’t try to sell on the first call.
Your goal for the call isn’t selling rooms, space, or amenities. Your only aim should be securing a second conversation with the prospect, whether that’s an in-person meeting, a site visit, or a longer discovery call. Speaking about pricing, logistics, or all of the benefits your unique venue can provide will feel jarring for planners who have never spoken with you, and may have never heard of you. So save the details for a second meeting and focus on one or two points of value in the first conversation. All you need to do on this call is convince a prospect that you can provide enough value to make that second meeting worthwhile.
11. Write down actions, promises, and next steps.
It can be difficult in the flurry of a first conversation to remember all of the things you promise, but it’s important that you do. If you commit to sending additional information, a helpful resource, or a link, make sure to make a note of it so you remember to follow up. There will be thousands of small details to confirm before a large event hosted at your hotel, and the planner needs to know that your hotel can keep up. You’re setting up the foundation for this relationship, and forgetting something as simple as an email can immediately discount you and your business in the eyes of a prospect.
It’s really helpful to review all of the next steps and actions that both of you have committed to at the end of the call. That way, the prospect knows what to expect and will remember to do any of the action items that they have committed to as well.
12. Record your calls to listen again later.
Just like an athlete reviewing tape of their performance, you will improve tremendously by listening to your past calls. Take a few notes on what went well, where you seemed to lose the attention of your prospect, and what benefits you could have described more clearly. Keep track over time and you’ll see your performance grow by leaps and bounds!
Use these cold-calling tips to improve your hotel sales!
Take the time to learn and use each of these top strategies for effective cold calls, and you’ll see an increase in second meetings and a boost in group sales in no time.
Up next, learn about other strategies for speeding up your sales cycle with these 6 proven techniques.