Death of a (hotel) salesman

Death of a (hotel) salesman

Is the hotel salesman or saleswoman a dying breed? Possibly.

There is one thing for sure. If your sales staff today is only knocking on doors like Willy Loman, they also will knock down your bottom line and likely will drive you out of business.

I’m not suggesting that all face-to-face meetings with current and potential clients have gone the way of the dinosaur. That relationship-building is critical with many customers, but think about our friends in the retail world — how do they get their customers? If in-person sales is the only way your staff is selling, then you are not reaching your full potential in both top- and bottom-line results.

We employ a significant number of hotel sales managers across our portfolio. For the past 12 months or so, we’ve been testing a number of “formulas” that use different combinations of personal and Internet selling techniques and social media engagement to determine which yield the best results.  

We have found by trial and error that the best salespeople spend about four hours a day ”connecting” on the Internet and the other four hours in face-to-face meetings. In fact, we baked that ratio into our sales plan for 2012, and as a result expect to see a minimum of 12% RevPAR growth across the portfolio.  

We have built a step-by-step plan with our sales team on how to best use the Internet. Some are having difficulty because it’s brand new to them, but those who “get it” and use it are about 27% more productive.

We currently use about 10 social media channels — ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Foursquare, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube — to build our business. We also use non-traditional “sales managers.”  

For example, our night auditors have become “Internet prospecting/lead generators.” Let’s face it: at most hotels, after the books are closed, there’s not much to do. We’ve found a way to better utilize that “down” time. I’ll share more about how to creatively use auditors and other staff in a future post.

One of the benefits of the Internet is that you can measure its success all the way through RevPAR growth. Last spring we implemented our new system and through a combination of hourly sales focus on SEO, social media channels and Internet prospecting we grew RevPAR 25%. Website visits have grown 110%, time on the site has grown 19% — up to four minutes 10 seconds — and bounce rate has fallen 21% to 26%. 

Equally important, we topped the previous record of transient room nights sold by 2,200. That’s 30% incremental growth in a 10-month period — not bad for a 100-room hotel experiencing significant construction disruption and a sluggish economy. 

To keep your salesmen and saleswomen — as well as your hotel — alive, take a look at how many hours a day your salespeople are online and how many knocking on doors. Experiment with what delivers the best results.

How do you use the Internet to keep your sales staff alive and your owners satisfied? Who has spare time at your hotel that you can harness to increase your hotel’s value?