February 25, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

In times of economic uncertainty, diminishing travel budgets, or cyclical low seasons, it can be difficult for hotel sales staff to source quality leads, close new business, and meet their sales goals. But some salespeople show time and again that it can be done. And overwhelmingly, top salespeople say that it’s the structure of their sales habits that matters far more than any one secret strategy. So today we’ll look at the critical hotel sales habits that most successful teams practice. By adding these behaviors to your routine, you’ll be set up to close more business and bring in more revenue than ever before.

Explore 7 hotel sales habits to set yourself up for success:

1. Listen for specific details that will enhance the planner relationship.

It seems obvious, but top hotel sales professionals always rank their listening skills among their most important traits. Remember that the most important person in any sales conversation is the customer. Every conversation should start with you listening: listening to updates, needs, problems, or requirements. Then, and only then, should you ask the event planner appropriate qualifying questions based on what you’ve heard. 

Your listening skills will also give you the flexibility and information you need to adjust and personalize your pitch. Just because one pitch worked for one planner doesn’t mean that it will work for your next. Every potential client's situation is unique and should be treated as such. And because there's more of an emphasis on personalized events than ever before, it's critical you customize your proposal. Event planners and group organizers will notice and appreciate you listening to their needs and crafting a solution that is appropriate for them.

Top tips to improve your listening:

  • Start every relationship by asking how the planner found you.

  • Note major personal or company milestones in your CRM to reference later.

  • Reiterate and paraphrase major points about the event back to your prospect so they can see that you are paying attention and understand their views.

  • Slow the conversation down and include pauses for questions and clarification.

  • Forget about a script. Let the conversation flow naturally and don’t try to steer to much towards a specific point or question.

2. Create relationships based on shared vision and values.

Once you’ve honed your listening skills, you'll be ready to personalize your approach and create lasting relationships with your clients. Top hotel salespeople know that a prospect is rarely “one and done” - with the right nurturing they can become a repeat client, trusted referral source, or decision-maker for another group later on. Putting a personal touch on your communications with your customers, your proposals, and your site visits will give you an edge over the competition and shows customers you care about them.

The best sales relationships are based on a shared vision for success, as well as shared core values. This goes beyond the basics of event type, group size, or the purpose of the stay. Instead, focus on groups that will identify with your hotel’s brand, mission, and vision. Does your property promote sustainability? Cost efficiency without compromising standards? The latest innovations and technologies? Whatever it is that makes your brand stand out, try to connect with prospects that are actively searching for these qualities. This gives you far more to talk about with prospects, and a reason for them to create a long-term relationship with your hotel.

This personalization and customer service mindset can also extend beyond the sale. By working with front desk staff, guest services, and other hotel departments you can ensure that event VIPs are impressed, group organizers are taken care of, and event planners leave happy.

Top tips to personalize your approach:

  • Create a “vision board” as the title slide for each sales presentation -- include images that show the values and branding that your customer is aiming for.

  • Pay attention to news and social media that your prospect shares, and incorporate it into your conversation. For instance, congratulate them on the launch of their new product and discuss how they can highlight it during their event.

  • Offer to collaborate with other departments to bring their vision to life -- instead of just talking with the group organizer, liaise with marketing, local staff, and others to create one unified concept for the event.

  • Work with guest services and your front desk staff to offer personalized perks and rewards that will really wow prospective groups.

Use these hotel sales habits and grow your business

3. Find common ground between your hotel’s strengths and your planner’s vision.

Beginning sales professionals are usually pretty easy to spot: they’re the ones agreeing with everything a potential customer says, promising things they can’t deliver, and claiming that your property is great for “everyone.” These tactics seem great at first, but trying to appeal to all audiences at once will leave your hotel with a confused and lackluster brand. Seasoned employees know the core pieces of your hotel’s value proposition, and can communicate it clearly to prospects. 

Instead of claiming to be the best at everything, expert sales professionals come armed with the knowledge of what your hotel offers as well as what the competition offers. They know your hotel’s strengths, and can answer questions about weak areas. They aren’t afraid to point out when your property won’t be a good fit for a client’s needs. Instead, they focus on the clients and the business where your hotel can really shine. 

Top tips for standing out from the competition:

  • Stay informed about competitor properties, so that you know where your property can outperform. Conduct site visits of major competitors at least twice a year, and after any major changes or renovations.

  • Create a “cheat sheet” of your top competitors and how you stack up in various areas -- event spaces offered, square footage, price, distance from points of interest. Keep track of any points that you might need to reference quickly on a call.

  • Every time a prospect decides to use a competitor, ask for a quick feedback call to find out why. Make detailed notes about what your competitor offered so that you can improve future pitches.

  • Find a few competitors you respect and would send business to, and create relationships with their sales reps. You won’t always have availability for groups that want to stay, and the same will be true for them.

4. Score group leads and automate key tasks to optimize your time.

The harsh reality of hotel sales is that you don’t have the time or the resources to focus on every lead. Time is of the essence, as over 75% of proposals are won by one of the first five properties to respond to an RFP. Great salespeople have to be brutal about which sales opportunities they spend their time on, or they won’t have the time to personalize their approach and still get in a quick response.

Top salespeople are great at qualifying and prioritizing which opportunities deserve attention. This is done by constantly checking your sales pipeline and closely evaluating each opportunity. With effective RFP management and use of your sales and catering CRM, you can focus on the customers that fill a gap in your hotel’s event schedule, will bring in the most revenue, or offer strategic opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.

Top tips for prioritizing and managing your time:

  • Ensure only the best leads are passed to sales by creating a set standards that marketing and sales can agree on -- this usually combines an interest score (how interested they are in you) and a fit score (how interested you are in them).

  • Incorporate your standards into an automated lead scoring system to free up your team's time, and use that extra time to ask great qualifying questions. This will further focus your list to the top prospects.

  • Know the difference between interest and intent. Looking at event photography and videos on your website may show a lot of interest in your property, but activity on the pricing or event diagram pages will be a better measure of an intent to book.

5. Incorporate specific customer stories in your training and preparation.

To truly shine, you need to come prepared. Top salespeople are well prepared for every big customer meeting, and have been through the necessary training to overcome any challenge. It’s not your skills at "talking on the fly" that make you succeed, it’s putting in the work ahead of time to anticipate every question, objection, and selling point. You should have a clear goal for each meeting, as well as follow-up actions and new things you would like to find out about your customer.

Sales team training should focus on specific, concrete examples from the past instead of vague situations that may or may not come up in the future. This allows the team to dig in on the details and think through a scenario in-depth. Similarly, when preparing for an upcoming meeting, team members should consult with each other and with management to identify a similar situation from the past to learn from.

Top tips for hotel sales team training and preparation:

  • Have your team play a game of “detective." Assign a key prospect to each small group, and then see how much they can find out about the prospect in 15 minutes of research. Teams should win more points for information that they can really use in a sale, like core values, current needs, or recent company news.

  • Use a specific customer story (good or bad) in every team meeting. Evaluate where things went well and where there was opportunity for improvement, so that everyone is ready for the next situation like it.

  • Gather regional teams together once per year to collaborate and provide peer feedback. Choose one rep from each property to teach lunch sessions on a new technology, prospecting technique, or closing strategy, and then bring in an expert for the rest of the sessions.

  • Try roleplaying upcoming customer conversations in your team meetings. This gives you a chance to anticipate and handle the objections that you will face, as well as to work on how you talk about the value your property provides. 

6. Leverage guest information from your CRM to close sales.

The best sales professionals know when and how to use technology to their advantage. Most hotels say that of all the departments in their organizations, group sales leverage guest information the least. With a wealth of customer information available via the CRM, this gap is a huge missed opportunity for monitoring behaviors and finding new sales. 

Creative ways to use your CRM in group sales:

  • Analyze prospective customer behavior vs. current customers (or even vs. your most loyal customers). This will give you an idea of what behaviors matter, and improve your lead scoring and qualifying efforts.

  • Reward customer loyalty in personalized ways. You can set customer milestones and rewards within your CRM, so that a customer is automatically rewarded for their 3rd stay, 2nd group booking, etc.

  • Offer customized upgrades and other up-selling opportunities automatically through targeted email campaigns. These can be segmented based on your audience, as well as varying by demand, time of year, group size, and event type.

  • Use your CRM as a source of unified knowledge for your whole team - that way if a prospect speaks to someone else on your team, they can display as much care and knowledge about your prospect as you do

Once it becomes a part of your routine, your sales and catering CRM can be a trusted partner in the sales process. By keeping track of past conversations, customer needs, objections, and all the team’s contact information, you will always be on top of the situation and ready to respond appropriately. 

7. Don’t give up.

Ultimately, all of your routines and habits won’t add up to much if you can’t accomplish your main sales goal: getting to yes. Through all of the prospecting, relationship building, follow up, and responding to planner needs, there is one key trait that will determine your success more than any other: resilience. Every yes happens after a series of challenges, obstacles, objections, and rejections. The best salespeople know that if they can stick it out long enough, they have a good chance of eventually reaching their goal. So stick with it, build these daily habits into your routine, and happy hunting!

Start using these hotel sales habits ASAP

Top salespeople aren’t born with all the skills and behaviors necessary to close a sale - they get there through hard work, training, and building their skillset. By adding these habits into your sales routine, you'll be in a better position to close sales, meet your goals, and become a top performer at your hotel. 

Ready to take your sales training even further? Take a look at the sales closing techniques that really work.

Grow faster with the right hotel sales solutions 

Laura Fredericks author headshot

Laura Fredericks

Laura brings a decade of insight to improving marketing, as she has worked in technology since 2010. She has experience starting and scaling a business, driving customer marketing, and speaking at live events, including WeDC Fest 2018. She founded Describli and Paradigm Labs, and currently works with companies to improve their customer relationship management and content strategy.

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