February 20, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

Turnover among hotel staff is notoriously high, with some hotels reporting yearly rates of almost 74%. But there are no magic solutions to instantly lower turnover and keep your hotel staff happy. Instead, hotels need to take a hard look at their foundations, examining the culture, processes, and employment environments they're creating. One area ripe for improvement in most hotels is the sales management training they offer -- specifically the onboarding process for managers.

You likely have some training in place for new hires, and a few resources they can look at to learn more about your company. But does the onboarding experience integrate new hires seamlessly into your hotel’s culture? Do new employees feel like valued members of the team, ready to take on any challenge that the world of hotel sales throws at them? Do new sales managers join and feel supported as they try to steer the team towards their goals? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Most hotels struggle to create an onboarding experience that fosters employee engagement and decreases the ramp-up time needed for full sales performance.

We’re drawing back the curtain on how top hotel sales teams onboard new hires and create sales superstars. Read on for the eight secrets to a great onboarding program that quickly gets sales managers up to speed and creates a welcoming and engaging environment at your hotel.

8 ways to create top-notch sales management training:

1. Take a look at your current onboarding training process.

What is the experience like currently for sales managers joining your team? Take a look at your last three hires and make notes about the steps in their onboarding journey.

  • What was the handoff process between the hiring team and the employee’s new colleagues? How was everyone introduced?

  • What communication happened with the new employee before their first day? What questions did they have?

  • What was the structure of the first day?

  • How was the employee trained? What training materials were used?

  • Was the new employee given a mentor to guide them?

  • What follow-up activities occurred after the employee’s first few days/weeks?

Once you have a general outline of your current process, it’s time to talk to the employees themselves. Have conversations with recent hires to determine what went well in their onboarding, and what areas could have improved. What areas did they struggle with? Did they feel supported? How could they have learned the ropes better? You’ll be surprised how many suggestions you get.

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2. Standardize the sales management onboarding experience.

Employees are 69% more likely to stay with an organization for three years if they experience great onboarding. The only way to ensure this happens for every team member is to standardize the experience. If you have multiple properties, sales teams, and HR professionals working with your new employees, this can become very challenging.

If possible, get all of the team members involved in your onboarding process in one room to plan a standard onboarding experience. What does the communication look like before the new hire’s first day? What pieces of information need to be conveyed? What should the employee’s first week look like? How will ongoing training be provided? What other support will you offer in the first 6 months? All of these questions will guide your process and ensure that it works well for every new hire.

Top Tip: Create a structured checklist that HR, operations, and management can use to schedule typical onboarding activities before an employee’s first day, so that nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Create engaging training materials that sales managers can refer back to.

No one remembers 100% of what they hear, especially in their first few days at a new job. But you can help your new team members learn the ropes and remember the details with engaging, creative training materials. These materials serve as a valuable reference point for routine questions and standard processes. New hires may be more comfortable and confident if they don’t need to constantly turn to their colleagues and managers for help in the first few days and weeks. Common materials for new sales managers include:

  • Company, brand, mission, and values information

  • HR handbook

  • Sales process information

  • Information about the property and product being sold

  • Buyer personas and customer segments

  • Common objections and responses

  • Current pricing guidelines

  • Phone scripts and email templates

Top Tip: Create a document filled with FAQs about your brand, the property, and the role, compiled using questions that previous employees and customers often ask. 

4. Set clear expectations and goals for the onboarding period.

Too often, new sales managers enter a team with only a vague sense of what is expected of them. They may even have been given different guidelines from different members of your team during the hiring process, leaving them confused and directionless. The onboarding process provides a perfect opportunity to sit down with your new hire and set some clear expectations.

Start with your company’s goals, vision, and mission. What are the corporate goals that the entire team is working towards, and how will your new hire help achieve them? The better they understand this, the better equipped they’ll be to make positive contributions quickly. For instance, perhaps your sales department is committed to increasing revenue by 15% this year. After doing the math, your team knows that it needs to close an average of 10 more deals every month. This is a tangible goal your new sales manager can help contribute to immediately.

After company goals, move to individual milestones you expect the employee to reach by specific dates. Creating 30, 60, and 90-day plans will keep new hires on track and ensure they don’t get overwhelmed by all the information being delivered to them. Be realistic and base your targets on the work that previous new hires have contributed. Adjust for the length of the sales cycle so that goals are reachable and you’ve set your employee up for success.

5. Focus on connection and culture, not compliance.

While onboarding is the time to share information related to company policies, legal requirements, and standard procedures, this should not be your main area of focus. In order to create truly engaged employees, you will need to use their first 90 days to foster a true sense of connection to the team, the company, and your brand vision. Take the time to tell stories about the organization’s history, values, people, and vision.

The onboarding process should also include lots of human connections - from connections with the new hire’s colleagues and direct reports, all the way up to conversations with executives and department heads. This helps employees feel like part of a larger network, and gives them an idea of the people who they will interact with and learn from at all levels of the organization.

Top Tip: Let technology take some of the burden off of compliance-related onboarding tasks so that you have time for human connections. For example, introduce employees to your benefits portal and give them a quick orientation, then let them dive in deeper on their own time.

employees sitting at desk with "culture" sign in between them

6. Use project-based training at all stages of the sales cycle.

Most people learn best by doing, and sales is no different. Try to create small, achievable projects for each stage of the sales cycle so that your sales managers and reps get a good look at how you handle key steps. For instance, assign your trainees a mock territory and then have them find 10 new planner prospects for that territory. Then walk them through qualifying, nurturing, and reaching out to those prospects. Make sure to include hands-on training time with your CRM, prospecting tools, email tools, and any other relevant technologies along the way.

By attempting to navigate a real project, your new hires will test their understanding of the training you have conducted, and can better identify gaps in their knowledge. Working on a real project has the added benefit of integrating the employee into the team dynamic and seeing the impact of their efforts. 

7. Understand how manager needs differ from sales reps.

Many onboarding programs are built only for line employees, leaving managers on their own to figure out how best to do their jobs. While managers should certainly go through the process your line employees do, there should also be additional resources and training specifically for them. 

Make sure to create a separate handbook that your sales managers will receive in addition to any sales playbooks or employee handbooks that you give out. This manager-focused resource should spell out expectations for those who direct line employees with emphasis on employment law, legal and liability issues, work rules, fiscal responsibilities, safety and security, as well as an in-depth discussion of counseling, conduct, discipline, and performance requirements.

Your sales management training should also include more strategic information related to company goals, milestones, and projections for the year. This gives sales managers a better idea of the direction the whole team should be heading in, and what initiatives they need to focus on with their direct reports.

8. Continually improve with new sales manager hire feedback.

As you implement your new onboarding process, you will begin to see which parts are working and where there are opportunities for improvement. As with any sales initiative, measuring your performance will help you determine what things to change. Keep track of sales goals for your new hires and how they perform against them, as well as the overall performance of the team in the time after a new employee joins. Note the time it takes to get your new employee up to full performance, and how they perform in their first 30, 60, and 90 days.

Don’t forget to ask your new employees for their feedback about the onboarding process. Keep track of any questions or suggestions they have so you can add them to your training materials. In this way, you can continuously improve the process and make your employees feel like valued members of the team from day one. 

Explore everything there is to know about sales managers:

What does a sales manager do for a hotel?

Hotel sales managers grow group, travel, and leisure business for their property. They set sales goals, complete proposals, train staff, and plan sales promotions. They work collaboratively across teams to delight guests and make the venue money.

How much do hotel sales managers make?

Hotel sales managers make $46,000 to $92,000 a year, according to Glassdoor in 2019. Some managers earn commission as a portion of their salary.

How much does a hotel director of sales make?

According to Salary.com, the base salary for a hotel director of sales ranges from $138,732 to $185,959 with the average base salary of $160,498.

What is hotel sales and marketing?

Hotel sales and marketing grows property revenue by increasing occupancy of guest rooms and meeting rooms. Sales and marketing managers run promotions, manage websites and paid advertising, grow sales teams, and drive customer relationship management.

Now improve your sales management training!

With these best practices, you will ensure you have engaged employees and a smooth onboarding process for your event sales managers.

Need some new material for those training resources? Take a look at our top tips for nurturing planner leads through email. Or check out seven sales strategies that impress event planners.

Power up sales management with our leading hotel sales software

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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