Perhaps one of the finest hospitality sales professionals I know is David Brudney. In a career that spans 35-plus years, David has had the pleasure of assessing, training and/or mentoring hospitality sales associates from major hotel chains and independents throughout the world. I asked David to outline some of the critical fundamentals of successful hotel selling skills.
Know your product and the competition, and learn as much about the prospect as possible. Don’t go to bat without a plan. (What is your goal? Secure an appointment, entertainment, site inspection or perhaps a tentative or definite booking?)
David used a baseball metaphor to think about how you plan your sales call. A lot of fans think you just step up to the plate ready to bat. But good hitters have an exact plan coming to bat, such as bunting, moving a runner to second base or hitting a sacrifice fly. And don’t underestimate the requirements of preparation and research. You have to learn as much as you can in order to achieve a most productive call.
2. Personal checklist
Your appearance, voice and positive attitude are critical. Put all anxiety, self-imposed or boss-related pressures, frustrations and fatigue to the side before you enter the prospect’s office. A prospect will know if you are having a good day, and that feeling is contagious. So too are those less-than-positive feelings. Some days are better spent doing paperwork!
Handling rejection is often difficult for those selling who come from a generation where everyone on the team earned a trophy for something. Again, using baseball as a metaphor, remember Babe Ruth only batted .342 (lifetime); he struck out (1,330 times) a lot more often than he hit home runs (714 times), but we only remember the latter.
3. Active listening
This does not come naturally, and you must work at it. You need to listen with what David calls “three ears” — listen to what the prospect is saying, what the prospect is not saying and what the prospect wants to say but needs you to help draw out. Effective listening is a very powerful tool in professional selling. Stop talking and listen. Then follow up with focused, open-ended questions.
4. Gauging reactions
Think about the 30-second rule. Whenever selling features and benefits, pause every 30 seconds to gauge reaction, then ask, “Does what I am describing make sense?” or “So, what do you think?” Never continue with any sales pitch unless you receive confirmation from the prospect that he or she is following and, hopefully, in agreement.
It is amazing how many salespeople go on autopilot, running from their cheat sheets with a ceaseless spewing of facts and features. Your objective is to ensure the prospect remains engaged.
5. Asking for the business
If the prospect has stayed with you, responded positively to key points and has no further questions or concerns, then that is the moment you move to close. Remember, the answer is always “no” unless you ask. Think of a “no” as only an interim response.
Many hotel salespeople today will do anything to avoid asking for the business because, in part, they do not want to face rejection. You cannot let this slide. If the prospect is engaged and they have responded positively to additional suggestions, then confirm the deal. That’s what it’s all about!